The Sensations of Life: Growth and Change in DiMaio’s Sound, Scent & Light

img_6305A new review of my first book by Zach Jaeger

“This book is an unfolding,” Edward DiMaio states at the beginning of his collection, Sound, Scent, & Light, unaccompanied by punctuation or any other emphasis. DiMaio, a Sturgeon Bay contractor, social worker, and poet writes poetic journal entries and contemplative prose of past traumas and vivid depictions of nature’s presence. From these two forms arise a picture of commitment to self-discovery, as well as realizations about the delicateness of life and harmony.

DiMaio’s writing began in a spiral notebook for journaling. He wrote as a means to work through the difficulties and traumas he faced growing up. Eventually, poems emerged in the pages of his notebook, such as his early Strangely I Smiled.

Bursts of music late at night, the volume

of a radio became a focus for frustrations

of tight quarters, a still relationship.

Obscenities, woven with hatred and

regret drifted up to my bedroom window.

Strangely I smiled.

Specificity of imagery and a brisk, bare tone give a glimpse of wizened wonder and gentleness toward adolescent fear and uncertainty. This perspective sets the stage for the real work of Sound, Scent, & Light. Just as memories are called up to bear, they are met with tender reflection.

From that lonely space a part of me

awakened, reached up through my fear.

A part rooted deeper than the billowing

from down the hall.

Rediscovering that age old place within

opened my eyes to the peace that can

come with the light of a new day.

DiMaio’s reflection upon harsh experiences in his life – difficult circumstances, the death of loved ones, decisions made in zugzwang – provides him with opportunities to embrace reality and grow. The tedious work of self-discovery shines through their visage of therapy in these journal entries. A decision made on uncertain footing leads to a declaration of dedication to life and its challenges in the confessional, Gone.

Right or wrong,

good or bad,

he is gone

by my choice.

How wise was this choice?

How much of it was in line

with my heart?

Through the passage of time

answers will be

whispered to me.

It is through action, not hesitation,

that I best discover my life.

Love and loss accentuate life’s turns toward maturity. The love portrayed by DiMaio is young, unsure, and at times a little desperate. His grappling with loss is afraid and blinding, as if the lights in a vast and empty ballroom suddenly burnt out, leaving him stranded. Momentum is gained through these emotional pushes and pulls in life, feeding his hunger and reminding him of what is important.

The impulse to reflect upon the difficulties in life spurs on personal growth in the deepest sense. This massaging of tension and dissolving of inertia enables us to move with the waves of life, rather than reel at every shift. Through the work of opening and healing these old wounds emerges a picture of a grounded, motivated, and compassionate man.

The dynamic image of DiMaio’s coming-of-age is set upon a vivid backdrop of stillness in songs of nature. Beauty, love and awe evolve from savoring the present moment and tasting the spectacle of nature in great detail. Often trees speak of seasons, their roots preventing them from following the birds departing for winter, their new spring foliage welcoming back those same birds who return to sing away the frost. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean pull DiMaio toward thoughts of unity and a vast formlessness.

DiMaio’s crystallizations of nature’s beauty bely a grounding power, a source of energy for his reflections. His descriptions of nature sanctify the present, as in Winds from Around the World.

Standing in the shallow waters of

Long Island’s Great South Bay, feet

shifting as retreating waves slowly pull

grains of sand out from under me.

Cool winds from around the world blow

through to my skin as they gently toss my

hair about.

A stillness seeps through DiMaio’s imagery. His perspective is strengthened and rooted down by the continual motions of the natural world. How long have these grains of sand been on this beach? From what mountain across this great body of water did they erode, carried here to be stood upon by this human? And where did this wind begin? Was this air breathed by a far-away likeness of myself and exhaled in my direction? As these wonderings flow through our heads, we are drawn further into DiMaio’s perspective. We stand with our feet on the same sand as his.

Looking forward, however, a more sobering image appears. Presence within nature turns into fear of the future.

Bathing in the strength of this mighty

mass of water, a cold shiver runs through

my body telling me of a powerlessness, a

vulnerability to the pounding assault

flowing from towns and cities spiraling

behind me.

Which of these will be the lead goblet

of Roman times? A goblet of choice

that quietly departed a visceral assault.

Is it for frivolous conveniences that

we press lead to the lips of our newborns?

That cold shiver revisits me. It rides

through my body on news of war, forest

fires, oil and toxic waste spills, nuclear

bomb testing.

 

Human’s presence in nature has put the safety of our world at stake. Though his imagery portrays catastrophe, DiMaio assures that it will be a slow reckoning by our own hands that puts us in the most danger. With this beauty in danger, the solid ground upon which peace lies begins to shift. This jeopardization, above childhood trauma and winters of the soul, demands attention, for it is not certain that will follow.

DiMaio’s attempts to address past, present, and future coalesce in his longest work in the collection, Fading, in which we follow him in his departure from New York City. DiMaio’s admiration for the city is clear, as nostalgia flows from his detailed descriptions of stations, trains and other sounds and scents of his surroundings. Riding trains out of the city, first through Queens, then Nassau and finally Suffolk County, the sprawl thins, and trees appear in empty lots. As he passes cement plants and lumber yards, thoughts of looming development amidst old trees strike him. “Such beauty drew many to purchase bits / and pieces of this island, each enclosing / their portion with walls and a roof. // At what point do enclosures erase / the reason?”

As the countryside approaches, the stale air of the city is blown away by the sweet scent of honeysuckle. DiMaio’s ambivalence about urban life gives way to excitement.

At this point I uprooted myself, drawn

to the open space at the end of the

train car. Opening the massive door

unleashed a burst of sound scent and

light. Rail butts loudly clicked as warm

morning sun awakened the sweet scent

of honeysuckle.

My journey ended at Ronkonkoma.

Stepping down from that bottom step,

old diesel still in motion, I felt renewed.

The piece continues with a second trip through the city, some time after the first. The tone this time is less vibrant. “On a more recent trip,” it begins, “the train ride was / quick and quiet.” His expectation for the countryside and its trees and its honeysuckle is met with a grim discovery that had loomed before. Countryside had acquired a new station and a gigantic parking lot filled with cars. “I grieved for this island’s fading beauty,” he laments.

 

This is the supreme dilemma faced by DiMaio in Sound, Scent, & Light. The greatest crisis is that we are doing away with the land, which is the very thing that feeds us, brings us peace when we despair, and provides shelter from the rest of our lives when we need it most. Bit by bit we auction off parcels of land, but what happens when all of the land has been built upon? What happens when the reason is swallowed up by our desire to have it for ourselves? How much can we fill open spaces with our presence before they lose their vastness?

How far will we extend our enclosed

world? How much of nature’s voice

can we silence before emptiness fills

our souls?

In subtle ways, nature slowly evaporates

from our lives, like water from a cup.

Thirsty from the rigors of an urban

existence, I turn to drink contentment.

My heart shudders as I realize what was

life is now lost.

We must choose a different future than this. Rather than individual obligation, it is a collective one. Our consumption has run amok; we are stealing our own souls from our chests by seeking to fill a leaky cup. The leaden goblet of our times is our disregard for the sanctity of nature, of the mother from which we all came– of the choices that we have made to prioritize economic gain over conservation.

Yet hope remains. Hope lies in our ability to choose our fate. Hope lives in our capacity to see the world as it really is, not the way we wish it to be. There is still hope because there is still something that can be done, and there are people who still wish to act accordingly. There will continue to be hope for as long as these things remain fact, for as long as we choose to move toward the world we all wish to have. This is DiMaio’s hope, as he greets the return of wildlife, “Since that time, good things have happened. / Osprey, Herons and Eagles have / returned to many places. These, and other / changes, show me there is hope.”

 

“This book is an unfolding,” in the sense that it captures the ongoing work of an individual working to find peace and to preserve beauty in his world. Discoveries of self and creeds to live by galvanize DiMaio’s character and draw the elements of this collection together into a coherent whole.

And so, just as this book is an unfolding, it is a reflection of the nature of the human by whom it was written. He is an unfolding, just as the rest of us are. Sequences of minute choices – day-to-day endorsements of what we love, what we fear, and how we choose to embrace our lives – shape this unfolding with kaleidoscopic effect. By facing our past, we cultivate our capacity to witness the beauty of the present moment as well as our ultimate togetherness, which in turn spurs a realization of the gravity of the choices that we make, however inconsequential they may seem. May we grow with DiMaio’s parting words in mind: “Find love that lives within, recognize that love in the eyes of all things.”

Ed DiMaio lives in Sturgeon Bay, WI. He is currently working on his second publication,When It All Falls Away.

https://www.amazon.com/Sound-Scent-Light-Edward-DiMaio/dp/0970694601

 

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imageReview copies are printed. Some are being sent by mail others delivered by hand. I am so looking forward to incorporating reviews into the layout of When it All Falls Away.

Having been through the book numerous times I now have a large pile of dropped words on the floor under my desk. In poetry it is through subtraction that we find addition. Additions of strength, addition of focus.

Deleting the post poem summation lines was at first difficult yet toward the end satisfying. I felt a bit naked about it at first. Through it I was won over by discomfort prolonged in the absence of explanatory hand holding.

Gritty

james-byrd-jr-2

In memory of Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) and James Byrd Jr. (May 2 /1949 – June 7/1998)

Life finishes where desire for it is confused and muddled by fear. Once willing, now still, life passes from where it is banished without mercy.

Wind blows warm over cold flesh. Dust sticks to bludgeoned skin. Fingers chapped, their deep crevasses lined with the layers of life’s patina. A man’s hopes and dreams lie within such layers.

The sun burns hot over ravaged flesh. How does one come to condemn another?

What darkness holds eagerness to persecute and destroy another being? What blinds one to the beauty that embodies another?

How does one find that beauty in themselves when a brothers’ flesh is strewn along a country road?

How unloved, how worthless must one feel for such actions to be taken.

Hunger drives animals to kill in what may seam like cruel and deliberate ways. We are animals who kill to drink righteousness from the destruction of others.

Broken men leave bits of their brother’s broken body along a dirt road. They show the world what they see deep within their own eyes.

Soul Memories of Herculaneum

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Feathers guide me through this ancient city. Rubber sandals laden with the dust of 1000 seekers and maybe the dust from simple leather sandals of another time.

So familiar yet I hold no memory or history of this place. Has my soul walked these streets before? Narrow streets, faded frescoes, strange to my brain yet familiar to my soul.

Human sized rooms, walls painted with scenes of places lush and beautiful. Why this street feather? Why this room in this house? What story began in this room, this portion of a house, family, village.

All those voices are silent now.

Encased in glass a skeletal family of bones huddle together, mother, father and child. Frozen for millenniums in the ash of Vesuvius now white plaster reveals the bones of a dieing moment.

Did the hollow sockets I now gaze into hold my own eyes or the eyes of one whom I loved? It is for the living to remember the pleasure, pain, life and death lessons that these walls have witnessed.

My soul remembers, it touches my heart when I enter an ancient yet familiar room.

Dream the Dream

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DragonFlyCroped

Dream the dream
Launch the journey’s vessel
Swim within it

Slumbering in watery flight falling rising
through the eyes of the dreamer’s dream

Intercepted   thoughts   feelings
set free to fly in the dreamer’s dream
until that moment
Point of Release

Stay! Do not flee with the opening of an eye or
hide in the song that play’s over and over in one’s head

In the quiet hours of morning
Remind me of darkest secrets                                                                                     most wondrous dreams

Balance Point

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IMG_0510When planting a bare rooted tree it is easy to see the tree’s hilt. The hilt can be found at a shift in the line of the trunk just above the roots. This spot is the balance point between Heaven and Earth, the Seen and Unseen. If the hilt of the tree is given too much to the earth, the tree will die. Similarly if the tree is given too much to the air the tree will also die. For the tree to thrive, the hilt must be placed at the balance point between Heaven and Earth.

This is a wonderful mirror for our breath. It thrives when placed at the balance between Heaven and Earth, Love and Fear. For us the balance point is found within our hearts. With open pathways, we breathe energy up from the earth as we breathe energy down from the heavens. Blended in balance, these become greater than the sum of their parts. This enhanced energetic flow nurtures our entire body and straightens the healing energy that flows from our hands.

Making room in our hearts, breathing free the stuck energy of “encapsulated trauma”* clears the way for our energy to flow freely into and through our hearts. This shift in energy is directly reflected in the aura of the planet.

*Situations that cause us to stop breathing out of fear will generate opinions of self, world or other Become “encapsulated”

The Lock and The Key

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Our breath is the lock and the key to our emotional healing. A held breath in the face of fear locks that fear within us just as a full and deep breath is the key to releasing negative events from our past. Within our breath we have the ability to heal the scars of traumatic events. No matter how subtle or overwhelming, no matter how deep, or how much you depend upon or loved the other person involved. A basic function of our breath is the ability to breathe through and release any fear or negative belief that limits our participation in life. Releasing such traumas opens us up to relieve greater joy and deeper compassion into our lives. Living with a greater sense of freedom and joy boosts our immune system and our energy levels. We all have the ability to achieve great levels of clarity and wholeness. Such an ability quietly awaits our choosing in the depths of every breath.