Thursday, October 22, 2015

Those Ferocious Tangoes

In his poem, The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, August Kleinzahler writes of, Ambiguity and Reason, locked in a ferocious tango. The dance floor might show other partners in a similar embrace, Fate and Free Will, Imagination and Reality, Revenge and Forgiveness. Faith and Doubt, mustard and mayonnaise.

(When I was a know-it-all, age 17-30, I thought we had to make a choice. Now I know that mayo can coexist with that yellow stuff.)

The tango has always been faintly subversive rising as it did from the tenements of Buenos Aires with African as well as Caribbean and European provenance. The abrupt pauses, angular movements against soft curves, control and abandon all with unsmiling demeanor reflect a sense of longing. Eros is tangled with melancholy.

The containment of opposites is an uneasy state. Keats called it Negative Capability. It involves the overthrow of categories so that what seemed mutually exclusive begins to enlarge one’s capacity. It involves an ease living with uncertainty and the unknowable without the need for resolution.

We live in an age when the ferocity of the clash can drive one to despair. The three Republican front-runners, malignant buffoon, brilliant imbecile, and merchant of deceit leave a voter famished for sanity; all of them destitute of intellect and humanity. The alternative seems to be the limp rhetoric of mind-numbing demagoguery. What would Keats say to this morass? Maybe that’s why he died young.

The tango is a fierce language. It speaks of couples enacting a tamed violence, an erotic confrontation with an indifferent world.

(I resist slipping back into that shuttered, doctrinaire mindset vestiges of which still plague me. I abhor absolutes yet ... It isn’t that I thought I knew everything just that I had to be right in what I knew. If I was wrong about anything I might be wrong about everything.)

On the larger stage I make room for fate but insist it be randomly issued not by the gods but as a contingency of being alive. We don’t get our way but we don’t stop trying. Free will drives us but also runs out of gas. What happens next isn’t ordained; it is improvised.

The dance of accountability can be tempered with forgiveness. It is a move toward grace; that step, unstrained and twice blessed.

As for faith, mine is close by, not in the firmament or the parchment. It is in the daily YES that prevails. And when it doesn’t it confirms my inherent doubts. We live within that ferocious tango.  

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