“He writes poetry to maintain his sanity, and hopes to succeed some day.”As seen in the bio of James Piatt, octogenarian, on Ephemeral Elegies
This is not a poem. This is not a diatribe. This is not a manifesto. This is not much of anything at all, Except one man accepting his Legacy from another.
He carried burdensome feelings of inadequacy, imperfection, insensitivity, all of them tamped down hard, buried deeply, like a stone in his heart. He layered it with each failure, consoled himself with "At least I am providing for my family." "At least I do good work, support my co-workers with grace, with fairness." And mostly with "At least I fear God." Though whether fearing God came from his true heart or from his boyhood he never knew.
Each new layer of failure or consternation or losing control to anger resonated all of the other layers. Each new layer seemed heavier than the last. Eventually his heart-weight became too much. One failure too many. He said to himself, "I am perfect enough that never, never should that have happened." He said it again. And again. And every day again. He repeated it, haunted himself with it, layering and layering his heart until it only could beat when he didn't think-- and he only could not think by shutting out his own voice, stopping up his ears to his heart-stone: taking flight in sleep, in blessed nothingness.
Five years and five months he stayed chained to that heart. Then he died.
I saw that man yesterday. I see him more frequently these days. I recognize his ways. It seems I live with him more and more. I wish I could cradle his rounded, load-weary shoulders, caress the thin hair of his head. Tell him it's okay.
Then ask him, "Could you do the same for me?"
No, definitely not a poem. Poems rhyme, poems have meter. Poems make sense.
Gnaw Orleans, population one. Surrounded by tusked tasks, centered but not, paralyzed. Icy tears bend old branches--will one break? Violin music screams out its bow-stressed catgut attack. By your aches shall ye know you're alive. By my ass shall alligators gnaw me. Hey, Thoreau, when the quiet desperation's gone, Where's my motivation?
"You must sort like with like; Unlike items may not be grouped. Please Do not place viable problems among Long-dead festerments of imagination which Likely never lived in the first place. Your Concerns must be separated into irritants, Road-blocks, and show-stoppers. If you need help, please use the app on Your phone--attendants appear only to Add worries to your concerns."
Henry David, I'm gonna need a hand here. Give the catgut to the alligator, melt This ice offa me, distract a few of the tuskers With your burdensome thoughts while I Attempt to choose which of these ass-gnawing, Branch-breaking stressors will be coming Home with me tonight...
When I listen to You I don't hear Her...
Them? Voices telling me (in words I've never heard before): Things I've suspected, Never knew, Don't want to believe... Never believed.
Your words resonate, Sound those harmonies, Those sympathetic vibrations Deep within me.
Her disparaging judgment of me Sits numbly in my soul-- This benign tumor neither Growing, shrinking, or leaving.
Her close (convenient) friend Blocking refuge's door: "She doesn't want to talk To you." But-- "I'll talk to him," She said; A limited engagement.
What did She say? To Her friends? To too many?
How could this man, So wanting conversation, Communication, some Shred of mutual effort To maintain a marriage, Find himself wedded to Her non-talking cold Judgment, spitting out Her assessment: Verbal Abuser?
When I listen to You I can't see Verbal Abuser. You paint me differently: Partner. Spouse. I see this. I think, Maybe, Maybe, this Her, Might have erred.
One way to art: hide all your insides; spin a lacquered ball of beauty around mundane air inside. Another way: paint the air.
Fearing language, tongues Curbed, feelings thwarted, Shells built, lacquered, Again, again, again… Forever adding layers Between heart, meaning, Cell-fired knowledge; those Truthful connections brought By well-placed, -chosen Words--to favor Tinsel-shiny, symmetrical Language trees grown in Deception forests. "I love your sweater"-- Its workmanship, Its fuzziness, how its Fabric truthfulness Lets me see you; how Its presence demands I Explain why it's such an Effrontery to my eyes. "Ah, rum balls again! I Look forward to these, Every year!" Yes: Looking forward similarly To property taxes, to Week-long rainstorms, To dogs humping my leg. Intellectually accepting Privileges offered me By these taxes. Loving Dense greenery which thirsts For spring rainstorms. My Sardonic smile acknowledging This dog's instinctual need. "Didn't your mother ever Tell you 'If you can't say Anything nice, don't say Anything at all'?" "No. I would like to think My mother had more Character than that." (I know my father had.) Poetry walks narrow Precipices. One misstep Spells doom. Meaninglessness Assails poems, surrounding Them, attempting to breach Their constructs. Poets Cannot choose their weaponry. What comes to hand, Comes to hand.
Yes is the No Where that leads to Some Where or Some When, but always to an Any-When, an Any-Where.
Yes whips Some Where and Back When into Here-Now: No When, No There.
No is the Non-Where that cannot lead, cannot follow, cannot do anything but hang curtains of illusion between us.
No jerked out of Satan's mouth mid-plummet, greeted Moses after Sinai, cloaked Judas's lips during his god-kiss, takes little bites out of our daily redemption.
Yes is the Here that pinpoints Now, focuses our hearts like candles mid-night, like a scream on a quiet summer's night.
Yes escaped Jesus's mouth accepting pounded nails, danced in Stephen's blood, dissolved barriers 'tween mortal enemies, plasters o'er cracks in our good intentions.
No was good enough in Its Day, made us look more intelligent, more urbane: critics, noses tipped. But Now, Yes must be given Its Due, must claim center stage in our heart's theatre, in our dreams of Perfection.
Then we'll move on to Yes-No and No-Yes, live in Then-Now making plans for Now-When.
Solos, well & good,
Don’t cut it.
“Collaborative teams” —
That’s our new cachet!
Okay, mister poet.
Slowly. Go slowly.
Harmony. Let’s see
How it goes. (Still…
Isn’t this is a
We are falling from the moment we are born.
Until forty, we don’t know this.
We think we’re going forward, outward,
Growing; not understanding we are
Shrinking, no, crystalizing into the final
Jewel we are, will be, maybe. So much
Wiggle-room, so many paths, so
Endowed with timelessness!
At forty, we understand, turn,
Brace for the fall—
Realizing we haven’t jumped up—
Realizing we’ve hurtled ourselves toward our doom—
Realizing falling’s inevitability:
We thought we’re responsible!
We acknowledge falling, but abstractly:
“There’s plenty of time!”
Our sixties—a.k.a. When Our Parents Die—we
See the barrier against which we all
Crash. We understand: not only
Didn’t we start anything,
We won’t be able to
End it, either.
These moments of clearer revelation,
Shorn of pretense (hopefully),
Our backs against the wall of our
Inexcusable behavior, our
Youthful ‘revelations’, our
Moments we thought were heart-rending,
Our happiness we thought
Aimless or purposeful existence, regardless,
Brought us here,
To this place where
Time is short—
Dreams are ending—
Fruition MUST occur or
Be buried forever while we
Begin to plant ourselves in the ground—
Then…then…we see clearly what can be done,
And what can’t, and
We do it.
Or we don’t.
As it always was!
As it can be!
It’s our best/worst time,
Happiness. Fear. Resignation.
Our diamond-quest involves vast pressure.
Let it come, let it come.
Add color, sparkle, luminescence—
They mean something:
To yourself, to
Those who wait, to
Those who follow, and again,
'There’s a problem with poetry,'
He said. 'Today all poets
Want to compress meaning into
Too few words. This squeezing of
Displays the poet’s desire
To be obscure,
To force the reader
To find the meaning,
Giving away nothing,
Hiding mediocrity by claiming
My meaning is clear to those
Poetry today problems itself:
Compressing fruitful meaning until
Pulp disappears, leaving it
Compressed to star-dense
Proportions, a light-sucking
Mass. Makes me
Reading stuff like that.
Searching for meaning,
This reader finds only
Consider today’s poem—
Dense with meaning—
Makes me sick!