New Orleans is a decadent city; of this there is no doubt. But I’ve fallen in love with the Crescent City without worshipping at her altar of Dionysus. And to check myself, I follow what I call the Truman Capote rule, one that the greatest of writers didn’t follow towards the end of his life. The rule holds that one can’t write if he’s been drinking, the exception being a lone drink at the end of said activity, a poke of Dionysus. This rule applies to any activity that requires a sober amount of concentration. I almost followed that rule this past Saturday night whereby I started out at a party, ended up at a Catholic church, and was saved by a poet in the street. The event at the Catholic church was, I think, a benefit party, complete with pralines and champagne. I could feel the drumbeat of Dionysus in the church, pagan undulations that grind us into each other and back to nature --- sugar and wine, people and music.
So, I left, guided by a Gemini who was able to communicate to me the labyrinthine mystery of New Orleans streets, and in turn, the path back to my car. Dionysus rules New Orleans, but in the midst of the decadence in the bars and the streets, I found a poet, Mixson Lovejoy, crouched on the street offering his services, typewriter armed and ready. I began to recite to him, with a few drinks pulsing through my veins, some lines from an Emily Dickinson poem: The Soul Selects her Own Society, then – shuts the door; to her divine majority, present, no more. He asked me who that was, and I responded it was Emily Dickinson, and he told me jokingly nobody had heard of her. He then self-deprecatingly admitted that he wasn’t good at memorizing or reciting poems to which I replied, “it’s ok, Guttenberg has been around for some time.”
I only had a couple of bucks on me, but I asked him to write a poem about the waning moon’s crisis of consciousness, the last quarter of the lunar cycle where the moon wanes down to an invisible black moon, and one must shed old patterns and dead leaves to make way for what’s to come. He said it would take a few minutes to write the poem and that I might want to go into the bar to get a drink; I told him I’d like to stay with him. While he chipped away at his poem on his typewriter, I wrote one as well on my smartphone. When he was finished, he asked if I’d like him to read it to me to which I replied, “yes.” I asked if I could hold his hand while he read. We took each other’s hand, and he began to read. He miffed the first couple of lines, apologized, and asked to restart. I reassured him that it was ok, I loved feeling the connection to his creative impulse. And this is what he read:
I loved the poem; it was such a contrast to what I had just written. It was soft, dark, and resonant. Not driving, sadistic, and grandiose like what I had written alongside him:
The waning moon
Is a crisis of consciousness
Trumpets and horns blare
Destroying all the rest
The sounds of words
In the mind
Fight valiantly against
The Screams of the sands of time
What will the ears hear?
And allow into consciousness?
Time will tell, enslaving us
Under deep duress
The poet laughed at “deep duress” which I appreciated. I had found New Orleans and my philosophy, saturnian strokes on a Saturday evening, words that express the height of the mind and the senses, against the decadence of the night.
Dan Beck is a spiritual consultant, writer, and astrologer based in New Orleans. To explore themes like those expressed above, and more, in your own life, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 504-313-8706.