Saturday, February 6, 2010

prophet and poet of slowness

Photo by Nicolas Humbert

It is said that those who knew Bob Lax consider it a particular stroke of good fortune.  From that point on, he became a part of their own life, in body and soul.  Even though I never met him, the more I come to know Lax, the more it seems like he is part of me too.  Or it's easier to find my own "Lax-ness" within.

Lax lived the last years of his life on a Greek island, writing.  Writing and living were not separate things for Lax.  His last notebooks - november 2, 1999 until march 2, 2000 - are collected in a work that is known as “acrobat off”.  It contains poems - or "momentos", as Lax called them - with names like: now is now, advice, end of the line, reporter in the land of dreams, train of thought.

Lax died in september 2000 in his childhood home in Olean NY.

I know that I can never do justice to Lax’s writings.  Even copying them here will not work, because there is an inherent rhythm and surrounding stand-stillness in the way that the word parts are laid out on the page that can’t be “blogged”.   Still, there are fragments that I am again drawn to.  Like this:

you

were

cre
a
ted

to

be

a

part


of

the



un
i
verse

(the

whole)



let

go

fall

in
to
place

&

you

will

dis
cov
er




what
ev
er

that

place

may

be

---

let

go

?

fall

in
to

place

?
that’s

the

clear
est

way

I

can

say

at

the

mo
ment




what

I

mean

what

I’m

try
ing



to

say

---

let

go

of

what

?

what
ev
er

i
dea

you

have

of

who

or

what

you

may

be



hold

on
to

noth
ing




just

fall

---

can

you

say

that

some

bet
ter

way

?

if

ev
er

I

fall

into

one
I

will

(time:
2:47
A.M.
Nov.
10)

---

fall

?

like


fall
ing




a
sleep


---

fall

in

love

---

fall




in
to




Tao

---

in
to

grace


---

(6:30
A.M.
Nov. 10)

rise

ear
ly

&

let

things

fall


into

place

---

Robert Lax, "you were created to be a part", p. 92 from the catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition, Three Islands: Richard Stankiewicz, June Leaf, Robert Lax, held at the Museum Tinguely, Basel, between September 2004 and January 2005.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Beth, that felt like taking a warm bath. Knowing Lax: I first heard of him by reading "7 S.M." with Tom's descriptions and when I saw Lax speaking in the Merton Biography video it struck me how spot-on Merton was in how he portrayed his friend (which increased my admiration for Merton's writing). I wasn't aware that Lax was a poet until relatively recently. Letting yourself fall comes up a lot in AA meetings - most people don't want to let go - part of the fellowship in AA is ensuring that when someone falls there is someone there to catch them - but I guess that's something different?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Merton once said that Lax had a "direct link to God".

    If it weren't for Merton, I doubt I would ever have known about Lax. But coming to know Lax, I can see what Merton sensed in him. He's clear, pure, direct. Doesn't like for a lot of words to get in the way of what he has to say.

    [I have some of Lax's poems from the Circus work posted here, if you click on the LAX button at the bottom of this post.]

    He was different from the usual person you might meet, but he didn't let that difference get in the way of just being a regular guy. But he trusted and followed his different-ness. That's what really made him different.

    In 1990, when he was 75, he came back to Olean for some sort of celebration. I think there was a Merton thing being held at St. Bonaventure. He had to take the QE2 across the ocean since he didn't fly, etc. When he finally got back to Patmos, he said that it took him a year to recover from the trip! I sort of could relate to that story. He made no apologies, ever, for his introversion and love of solitude. Rather, he sort of celebrated it!

    I'm no expert, but I think that the FALLING of AA is the same thing that Lax is talking about.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can relate to that anecdote about Lax' excursion back to Olean. I sometimes feel as if I have to space my excursions out, although they do not involve distances of that sort.

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  4. The story of Lax's coming back to Olean to die is interesting, too, Barbara. He really had no intention of ever leaving Europe and making the trek back to the USA. By the spring of 2000, though, he knew that he was too weak to live alone in Greece. He had wanted to go to a seminary in Switzerland for his final days. His niece and some friends came to Greece to help him make the transition.

    It took awhile to get a wheelchair delivered to Patmos and then the ferries to Rome and train trip to Belgium (I think).

    Something happened and the Swiss seminary plan didn't work out, and other options somehow were not right. His neice mentioned coming back to Olean if he could take the QE2, and he said yes, that would be good.

    Even though the doctors could find nothing wrong with him, he knew he was dying. He was weak, and never wrote again. After getting to Olean he stayed in bed most of the time, looking out the window. One Sunday morning in September, he quietly just "passed over". He is buried at St. Bonaventure. I wish I had found it when I was there last summer. Next time I will, for sure.

    Something tells me that, like Merton, Lax is going to become more popular as time goes by ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, Beth. Absolutely wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think so too, Paul.
    Lax may just be my favorite "saint", as they call them.

    ReplyDelete

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