Friday, December 9, 2016



Heart Thread by Robert Kelly
(Lunar Chandelier Collective, 2016)

Intellectu cordis audite. Hear with the understanding of the heart, as Thomas Vaughan quotes from Agrippa. Heart Thread, 323 sections: themselves discrete and continuous events of hearing, where the singular is exchanged for its place of understanding; the universal heart. Rather, the singular and universal heart. The metaphysics. The heart is altered by what it hears, empathizes, and its covering is re-characterized. Island metaphysics and “brooms for breakfast.”

“There was an analyst who worked for free/ and no one believed him.” Kelly speaks from beyond self (the self is distanced, ex-pressed by one’s own analysis), on the far side of religion, any, to whose providence belief belongs.

Belief is an act of living stuff, and the heart its dark religion. But the fact remains, and its changing expression belies the scrying stone of the world, or is here, importantly, the world itself.

Kelly shows himself here as the slippery master of Truth. His play with particulars is inseparable from the understanding that takes all to its highest value. “They lift the hill like heroes and go in.”

From the arrow that flyeth by day on the south wind
protect the cradle of the infant thought the blue trees
reach down to us to stifle unbelief
throw your fishing rods away your lariats
because everything but what you see is real
deep in the truth of the unthought
lila the uncontrived with whom we play
night more than day and the wind knows it all
broken clouds your mother on the phone in every wind
islands change their flags like underwear
we belong to nothing but the sea from which we come
religion is an ailment of the mainland only. 
Hydrangea Himalayan flower favorite blue
has blossomed early in Tara’s gentle hand
I saw her tossing them on the hillside south of Sonada
and here by the sea in Betty’s other garden
a few blue already the many on their way
always like that, profit and followers, udambara path
assigning meanings to each thing I go ahead
listening to what I stumble through leave the self out
have no favorite flower no mountains no name at all
the names are all asleep in you
that’s why you love us best
the colors you chose to smash over the world.

How do we understand a fugue? The perception, the line, the section, are by their continuance an expansion of consciousness– changing what’s past and present and following futurewards, nosing Bach-like through the edge of duration until it turns into space, each note flying off with the radical force of language that is the world. What returns is the real.

Not a religious poetry in the overt sense but a poetry of the religious impulse, as religion or language or art has served it at various times, allowing a process or a “Mysteries” of radically configurative clarities, which reveal to us the real, the very grounds for the creation of a reality.

I say religious because there is a level of meaning here akin to a “test.” The way fishing rods or having no favorite flower is a test to the spiritual traveler. Any thought or least particle is a test, and the richness of this fugue lies in part in Kelly’s ability to hear those thoughts– hear the fugue at its periphery and remain attentive, listening out along that cutting edge of the unknown, in its rigorous expansion.

I use several “spellings” of religion as I am taken by a renewed uncertainty at its exact workings and a renewed sureness in its meaning. Kelly has given us a vital text free of the irony and intellectual (not to mention ontological) chauvinism we are these days fed as a very limited “world.”


The ruin I find in Robert Duncan (Faust Foutou especially, A Letter to my Dentist) and at times in Jack Spicer haunts my reading of Heart Thread, as an encounter with that same gesture. Duncan’s lyrical and theatrical force echo’s that of a “world-soul” on a microcosmic level (anima mundi scienced by the personal anima, “What, indeed, then if my teeth go before my appetite?”), so the radical decay and super-human crumbling of the processes of “earth” expands into the realm of spirit in like proportion. Rudolf Steiner says in Ascension and Pentecost:

            During the Atlantean epoch the earth was, so to say, in the middle                         period of life; it teemed with inner life; it had upon it no such                    formations as the rocks and stones, which are gradually crumbling                       away. […] The crumbling of the rocks is evidence that the earth is                        already involved in a death-process.

Heart Thread is the next “phase,” is not an abnegation but acceptance paired to one’s own energies, an expansion of spirit as it is paired with the lingual landscape: where we change the real by recognizing more within it, opening the death-process of samsara. Opening the door.

It is indeed Pentecost, when the tongues of flame descend on the disciples not gifting them with all languages (as if there were such a thing), but as Steiner says,

            […]they feel their hearts borne far, far away, among the different                  peoples of the earth-sphere, and they feel as if something lives in               their hearts which is translatable into all languages, and which can                       be brought to the understanding of the hearts of all men.

RD, from The H.D. Book, Part 2; Chapter 4 (in Caterpillar 7):

            Form, Gestalt,” Pound notes: “Every spiritual form sets in                            movement the bodies in which (or among which) it finds itself.” So         Love starts from form seen and takes His place, as subject not                  object, as mover, in the idea of the possible.

Rectus & Inversus

Solve et coagula.

Gebura & Tiphareth.

Steiner, again:

            In the Baptism by John there stands before us the picture of the                 Spirit as the dove; now, however, another picture appears, the                  picture of the fiery tongues. It is in a single dove, a single form,                   that the Holy Spirit manifests itself in John’s Baptism: it is in many         single tongues that it manifests itself at the Pentecostal Festival.

Draw a picture of the Temple here
as you imagine it so it shall be
here is a photo of you building it
here is a rainbow to wear around your neck
keeps you safe in battle with the sky
who taught me to work this damned machine
all moving parts are still, only the electrons move
rich men keep getting richer as drunkards just stay drunk
there is no doorway to their castle
a house goes on forever like the old Winchester place
money has no natural frontier
the violin mourns the new-fallen king.

Thus, Kelly writes on the back cover:

Through the tumult of our names, months, seasons, runs the line of the heart. The cordial, the central, the nerve that springs us into thinking, moving, speaking. Body, Speech, Mind –– what else have we? The heart is the thread that links them together, the theme that runs through all the voices and variations of our fugue, our flight, our flight from Eden, from dependency, from servitude, towards freedom of mind and action. Towards being.

I learned the name of the poem slowly, after hearing at Bard a performance of Lou Harrison’s choral setting of the heart sutra, the radical Buddhist text that speaks to the primacy of mind. It made me think of the way Buddhists point to the heart to mean the mind. Sutra means thread, and that was my instruction, suddenly focused as I listened one afternoon to George Quasha’s Axial Music ensemble in Barrytown, and I knew the name of the thread that held me, that I held.


Tamas Panitz lives and writes in Hudson NY, where he edits The Doris magazine with poet Billie Chernicoff. He is the author of Blue Sun (Inpatient Press), and most recently Uncreated Mirror (Lunar Chandelier Collective) and The Way of the Tower (

1 comment:

  1. Another view is offered by Alana Siegel in GR #26 at