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POETRY Wildman, Scholar, Shaman, Papa BY DANIEL DURHAM Of gnarly Bards: ghostvoices in a throwaway world What do you listen for? The earth is wounded. Earth can not make you whole. David Wevill Gather the spirited ones, the stubborn poets, into an Equinox memorial for Jim White Bear Cody, wildman-scholar-shaman-papa: touchstones & riprap, flutesongs & many heady tales & a polyglot so like his own.There is a way, some of us came to believe over the years, that the “ideo-deities,” as Paz called them, would not be found out there but as we stumbled over them in here. Our stumbling stones were words. Jim Cody knew their powers, their failures, the knotty and difficult chores they entail. At the end of his fine book, My Body Is A Flute, he takes pains in his “Notes” to give over to his reader certain hidden knowings of his own. First, a fine Poemthen reconnaisance of it: Journey To The New World I wander along the paths of Celtic mythology, German mythology, all the white myths, and when I get to the end of the path, when the Gotterdammerung has long been over and the gods, dead, long mouldered into basic elements, potassium, sodium, and basalt; when the Dagda no longer plays his harp for human ears, no longer emerging from his Sidhe, waiting for later times to understand his songs, and the Christ is long overdue, only now just come, I find myself along the east bank of the Rio Grande, with the subtle words of Finn MacCumhaill in my ear-blood, the white corn mother standing on the other side. We live, the philosopher Heidegger suggested, in the night of the world’s Nightthe old gods dead, the new ones not yet arrived. Jim says in his notes: “Once when I lay ill on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Rio Grande Gorge south ofTaos, New Mexico, I heard the voice of Finn McCumhaill tell me through the pounding rhythm of the blood in my ears that he had handed me over to the Americas.” Jim tells us Dagda was the Earth god; Sidhe the huge mounds in the Irish countryside: home of the gods defeated by ancestors of the Gaels. And elsewhere Jim says he took corn woman as his goddess figure after she appeared to him in a dream. I like her image there, on “the other side.” And from a farther shore, these words in Gustav Sobin’s Luminous Debris seem to echo with a glimpse of Jim’s own Whooping Crane At the outer edge again of my universe in the Canadian North. At the end of my journey, in Vancouver. I could turn North again and leave my past. But I will go South not knowing where my soul goes, and what, or if, it will accomplish. But South I must go to Texas again like the reason of no reason in the head of a whooping crane. Jim Cody; from My Body Is A Flute paths, both afoot and by the mind’s eye, as he moved among us. Sobin, poet-archeologist, says: Adrift in a world of semiotic vacuity, lost to ourselves in the midst of so much electronic overload, we’ve begun, as if intuitively, haunting museums, consulting archives, sifting through the apparent detritus of long-ignored vestige. Here in Provence, for instance, each village has generated its own historian; each dilapidated roadside shrine, its own restorer. In default of a viable present, we’ve come to valorize the past as never before. Propelled forward, we’ve turned, quite manifestly, backward, looking for the signs, signatures, and substantiating echoes of a world that underlies our own.” Jim Cody lived there, in the interstice. Most poets I know do. When three years ago, I hosted a poetry reading for Jim at a local java joint, he delighted and stunned us by reciting with his strong voice some ancient Gaelic songpoems he had been translating. The feelings of a Sea-rage his words evoked was potent, undeniable; not knowing meanings but in those sounds, his small audienceyoung students, mostlygot it. Said one young woman, “That’s about a storm!” And so it was, and so Jim sang then his translation, handing it over to us Americans. I liked his image that night, his voice and how it carried so much of who he was, and what he knew and how he had, like so many of us, stubbornly nurtured a long won faith in the art of the poem to speak the heart of the man. Daniel Durham currently lives in West Texas, and is working on a chapbook, Other Songs Other Nights. He hosts occasional poetry reading events for The Wobbling Twilight Revue. 1/17/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23