POLE OF CONTENTS

A Totem is a Link To Where?


Totem pole: ototeman, an Ojibwa word; for the Haida of Alaska's Queen Charlotte Islands it's gya' aang: imaging ancestors and the spiritual guides they encountered, as I saw the posture for the first time in a clay figurine created at Cochiti Pueblo about 1890...The posture is duplicated in sub-Saharan Africa, (and) in a polychrome rattle fragment from the Northwest Coast, as well as on a totem pole from the same doorways, roof beams, memorials, squirrel dens, owl nests, windsplitters, carved for the soul's sake. It is said that the god who sent the Haida these posts wore fingernails painted with human faces, his whole body tattooed. Shiva? Kali? Yama?

Artists' fingers burn while chiseling pixels, the pole's images a smoldering electronic fire. Straight as a spine, its fibrous connections give rise to "the curious dual image, at once both animal and human, from which both the clan and the animal species of like name are supposed to be derived."

There are no human faces, only half-warped splintered and painted masks. There are no eyes but entrails. There is no skin but bristly hair. Blood dissolves tissue into foam, a salty ocean from which fog seeps in as sweat. We are the earth, the earth is our veinous meat rooted in space.

Traversing the chilly precincts of one's Self, movement is uncanny, extending outward by inference, inward by inclination, a mind riding trains of thought like a hobo, going where? "Just goin', boy, just goin."

I wake up and leap out, rolling to a halt on the desert's hardpan, where my sculptures stand like cacti grown in the aesthetics of Northwest Coast indigenous art, though I wasn't aware of it then.

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  I am in bed, asleep.
There's someone who i cannot see,
breathing in my face. i try to throw it off,
to no avail. Instead, it laughs at me.
"
Are you human!?" i yell.
"
Are you human!?
"

"There are creatures that live (on the Northwest Coast) that were originally only animals and were considered the ancestors of single tribes. The totem was hereditary only through the female line; it was forbidden to kill the totem...; members of a totem were forbidden to have not entered into the mythology...Some things get passed over, other things become strong presences. Nobody knows why."

There is no direction but this eternal Asvattha, whose roots rise on high, and whose branches grow low, is the Brahman, what we call Non-Death. All the worlds rest in how the apparatus is framed, broadcasting light while remembering that nature is wild, hairy, savage, frightening--a nightmare...As children of nature we are each children of Pan. We are already infusing the aroma of darkness.

If there is a direction, it is "a mode of perception which raises it to the power of a symbol, to being a symbolic direction, that is, to a 'dimension beyond'...And so we are concerned with primordial Images preceding and regulating every sensory perception, and not with images constructed a posteriori on an empirical basis."

  Footprints are found within
a curve of sizes, configurations and depths, seen in a context
of what isn't readily noticed.
Each story links to the life of a text, each text takes steps toward enhancing all others, splaying out, bifurcating, the pole's roots draw from the universe what our ancestors cunningly rendered as Gods.

How far behind the Dreaming is one's
life lived?

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Depth holds Height
hostage to rhizomic
morphology.

"The totem is an embodiment of each individual in his or her primordial state. That is, before the individual was born into the world." I climbed the pole to repair its broken connections. There was a storm, Birth!
The pole swayed, but stood.

During the process of building the pole, I realized that if I suggested a title for each story to John Kielty Bell, who was making the original designs, he usually fell short. Only when he drew with no image in mind did he cast an original scene. This process began when I sent him the news of my mother having weathered a massive heart attack. MASSIVE resonated to a point where, even as Mother lay dying, the first totems were beginning to lathe.

The totem pole marks True North, a direction to which no compass points, a center that is off-center, melting from our own ontogeny, flowing within who we think we are.

To survive, we need to embrace something like ourselves, only then what seemed almost a unicorn. My God, she thought, all sense of fear gone, her instant reaction of alarm replaced by a sense of enchanted wonder, the bulls are different, loosening the tacks that drive us to consistency.

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A theogany of stars dreamed into depth, siphoned up as Wakiash told the people that the animals called the pole Kalakutuwish, 'the pole that holds up the oldest stories, sometimes disguised as the daily news.

"These totem animals often appear in dreams or in literal experience. They are not medicine animals, they do not have anything to do with healing..."

Coded totemic figures are worked out at the height of diurnal life. Then the Pole is placed six feet deep, a temenos, a sanguine pit, and braced by the strain of what's known to be known.

Coding totem"Part of becoming adult is the dawning realization that the principle of transformation is a major feature of the cosmos."

Not transcendence, but transformation, a paradoxical, the becoming-body, a certain phenomenal and carnal form exhaling the breath of the Primal Other onto a self-directed, liminal stage.

Will we walk, or will we slither, hissing at each other?
Sasquatch reaches out, grabs some thing, and eats.

I saw: F.D. Goodman, Where the Spirits Ride the Wind. Bloomington, IN., 1990.
the curious:
J. Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York, 1976. p.129.
The totem is:
J. Cowan, Mysteries of the Dream-Time. Bridport, Dorset, England, 1990. p.105.
then what seemed:
M. Walker, The Caves of Perigord. New York, 2002. p.209.
There are creatures:
G. Snyder, "Hanging Out with Raven." In, J. White, Talking on the Water. San Francisco, 1993. p.154.
were originally:
S. Freud, Totem and Taboo. New York, n.d. p.139.
this eternal:
Katha Upanishad. VI.1.
remembering that nature:
J. Hillman, "Animal Presence." In, J. White, Talking on the Water. San Francisco, 1993. p.133.
a mode of perception:
H. Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism. Boulder, CO., 1978. pp.4-5.
Wakiash told:
"Kalakoyowish." Traditional Kwakiutl story. Parabola, Vol. 14 No.3 (1989).

These totem animals:
J. Kounin, "The Clinical Use of Animals in Dreams." In, D.F. Sander & S.H. Wong, Editors, The Sacred Heritage: The Influence of Shamanism on Analytical Psychology. New York, 1997. p.100.
Part of becoming:
P. Shepard, "The Ark of the Mind." Parabola, Vol. VIII No.2 (1983).
a paradoxical:
J. Derrida. Specters of Marx. New York, 1994. p.6.