|Watch out, Fool!|
DEFINITION OF FOOL
--from At Length
(more Red King poems there)
What does it mean to be a fool?
Is it to reel about the world
Like stars made out of icicles,
Dangerous and breakable?
What does it mean to be a fool?
Is it to make the things no one
Can recognize or put to use?
For the beautiful, for hurt joy?
He spins around, wanting to learn.
The Fool is dreaming that he lies
With truth—across a grave like glass
He lies, the shaft shoaling with leaves.
What can he do with schooling dark?
Each minnowed leaf says leave-taking.
He shakes his rattle at the dark
And fills his antic hat with leaves.
In response to my question about the place of myth in your work, you wrote of the book of poems you first sent me in 2010 and that you're finishing now, The Book of the Red King: "Why do I feel so kindred to the Fool?" This struck me like a hammer. A fellow artist once brought me an astrology chart image of myself, based on the time, year, and date of my birth. It was the tarot image of the Fool looking back at the little dog playing at his heels as he steps off a cliff into thin air. I thought this was hilarious—and very true of me! But I didn't see the Fool as an image of the creative until I read your Red King poems. So, tell me, why do you "feel so kindred to the Fool"?
First, I will not lie, exactly, in answering this question, but I will not answer it as fully as I could do, if I wanted to do so. But I don't. Fair warning!
Second, all Fools are tricksters, wielders of stories and parables. I may have lied already, while wearing the mask of the Fool.
Third, I feel that the poems themselves say all I could possibly say about why the Fool and the writer (or any artist who has a calling) are the same. The reading of the book-to-be will be the experience of why the two things are the same--and it will be more, a good deal more, I hope.
The Fool in The Book of the Red King manuscript has a great struggle growing up. There's early death in the family, there's difficulty. He runs to the forest and becomes a sort of young woodwose: "When I ran off to the forest, I was / Looking for a favorable message, / I was looking for a sign or omen, / I was searching for some news of dreamtime." Eventually he lies down in darkness and has a kind of death himself. Even his bones are scattered, until "The little animals and the big came / Trotting with my teeth-grooved bones in their mouths." A "Lazarus breath" enters his mouth and he awakens, "braced to live before I died again."
|from the Major Arcana|
All this business about metamorphosis is, of course, tied in with the Tarot you mention. In esoteric meanings, the Fool is a story's protagonist. The Tarot Fool goes on, passing through the various mysteries of life and meeting archetypal figures along the way--that is, he goes on a fool's journey through the emblematic places and archetypal figures of the Major Arcana. While the Rosy Cross and such esoteric brotherhoods made use of the Tarot as an initiatory pattern, I didn't study or make a lot of use of that material, though the Fool does meet "the Tarot witch"and her daughter, and there's a poem that is based closely on the Fool card: "...The fortunetellers sketched / This card, the Fool with feathers in his hair, / As if those ancients knew that he would come to pass / And stand between all things, the ground and air, / Wildwood and the castle, Red King and Corvid King." The Tarot connection does, however, reinforce the idea of transformation and archetypes that come from alchemy.
In some ways, we are all the Fool because we go on a wandering path through the life and are changed by it--we begin as children (i.e. innocents or fools), going on insufficient knowledge, and learning as we are knocked about by events. An odd thing about the Tarot and this book-to-be is that it seems quite possible to talk about the sequence in detail based on the Major Arcana and the Fool's Journey, even though I didn't have that in mind. Jung would have something to say about that mix of Tarot and archetypes. Don't we set off heedlessly into the big world with its Magician and Hierophant and Lovers, little realizing that we are about to step over precipice after precipice?