They say it’s good to write naked, the ones who preach truth-telling and catharsis. And to be emotionally naked as coyotes howling out their hunger and loneliness from a safe distance. This rings true; I have heard them, when I am out under the stars. In fact, don’t you think that some of us have run for so long we have become coyotes, feral, panting, gaunt, always grabbing what we can and then making ourselves safe again.
No pelt, no paws, I wake and I am beached on my back after a long night of tossing and turning. I am on my back, the curved leg propped on a pillow, having built a nest of many pillows. I try to arrest the terror that courses through me when for a few minutes I see my life for what it is– a matted, shaggy low to the ground thing, cornered.
Sacred crows. Ice maiden poets. Ice maidens and warriors. The piece in the Huff Post bashing everyone, ramblings of a lonely iconoclast, flecks of truth in the rhetoric but only flecks. Bash everyone and paint yourself into a corner; I know that tactic well.
I would point out everyone else’s sins, but unfortunately, I have the same ones.
Writing has always been about transcending the unbearable for me. When I was young I would sit at my desk in our basement while the vendettas of alcoholism raged on overhead. One afternoon when I was sixteen, my mother punched my father in the face. I went downstairs and wrote: “I looked in the lake and saw the sky/soft and tan and edged with fire/twilight’s clouds came passing by/in shapes of castles, lofty-spired.” I translated “Omnes Galles divisa est.” I played “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.” Let all mortal flesh keep silence. De profundis. Out of the depths I call unto thee…. the force that through the green fuse drives the flower… I sang as we all do, as broken children must.
Last night I was out at the old house, with my longtime friend. The place has been taken over by yellow cats and kittens. I went in like a drill sergeant. In ten minutes all of the boxes were clean, the tiny dark calico kitten — one “Inkling”– we found in the grass and one larger cream-colored kitten in his bathroom, the three oldest kittens and their mother outside, the five stunted kittens and their mother in the study. Every one had food, water, spanking-clean cat litter, new sheafs of neatly folded newspaper under the boxes, incense lit, pine sol into the vents, windows open, jazz on the stereo, a candle lit. I do this well, imposing order on what I perceive to be chaos.
Out of sight, out of mind. We sat, cat-free, I in my wheelchair, he perched on his sad kitchen chair, and began our ritual. Out came a can of O’Doul’s apiece and down the gullet for me, the first of a few pills I take for my inner and outer pain.
I have recently read poems that glitter with craft. But they strangely lack a heart or a soul. What’s a poem for? Of all places, to hold back in some kind of filigreed reserve. Some of these poets, you want to punch their lights out so that they cry. Anything but serving up some tour d’force of form and turn of phrase empty of all feeling. Then we have the movement against the “I”– a reductio ad absurdem of the I to the merely confessional. Denoting the chaotic contemporary sensibility with chaos on the page.
Poetry is the balm for the wounds and the making of song heals all wounding– gives the lie to it– one is not hiding when one is writing. One is living, not dying. Writing in the first person is an invitation to the reader. Who wants to be all alone in the rooms of a poem?
Let us go then you and I, down into that circle of hell where Guido burns. For it is late in the year, and we are already infamous.