November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
In this depression—lighter, but lingering—I’m producing poems so fast I feel embarrassed. Is it loss when the muse descends, dropping her petticoat over my head? I remind myself that others get paid for their work, and it doesn’t mean they enjoyed medical school. To turn unhappiness into art—or an art-identical substance—is better than many solutions, and if not as healthy as, say, running around the block 75 times, it has the advantage of not requiring me to get out of bed.
But that’s no advantage at all! You need air and others’ voices! You need someone to knock some sense into you! But as soon as I write that, I’m thinking of a boxing ring and the glistening sweat on a bare chest tapering to a manly waist, those tiny shorts…float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…
No sexual fantasies, please. It’s winter.
Anyway the ratio of pain to poetry is extremely lopsided, and to keep the poems fresh the emotion has to be fresh, you can’t use last week’s warmed-over anguish. And going back and looking at the best thing I wrote in the summer, feeling as much authorial pride as I’m capable of feeling, still doesn’t remove the queasy horror at the idea of actually remembering August. Forgive and forget, they say. It works better when you forget first.
But forgetting—really forgetting, not just numbing— frightens me. It aways has. Add that to the weirdness of what seems like a very similar but essentially different human being… I understand that he is, in himself, to himself, a consistent being, but to me the break is not only heartbreak. It’s a reality break. It’s a minor version of what I felt when I first encountered death in the family. At that moment—I was nine—I thought that all the laws of the world as I knew them might be false. The sheets on my parents’ bed could reach up and strangle me. The furniture was sentient and glittering with malice.
The past 11 years are suddenly different and my brain’s having trouble with the story. You know your brain changes your memories to fit in new facts—so that reality has a shape you can comprehend—you know that, don’t you? Sometimes, it just gets stuck. There’s a standoff between the old and the new.
That I hang on stubbornly to anything I want is a given. But now, in addition, I’m suspicious of whoever—whatever—changes my memories when I stop paying attention. It’s happened before, and the more I read about the brain, the more it reveals itself to me, kind of like this: Hey, Stupid, here’s a tidied patch, something gone. Kaput. I pruned it. You don’t like that? Sue me.
I know what comes next in my life (what appears to be coming next), and it’s good. Yet I want to remain in the transitional state. Dusk. Night’s coming but if you run fast enough, you can get back to afternoon. Dawn. Sky’s lightening, but you can close the shutters, make the darkness last all day.
–Aren’t you sick of that then?
–Why should I be?
–Everyone else is.
–That used to matter more.
Remember No Exit, Sartre’s play about the voices in my head? No, it was about something else, wasn’t it…“L’enfer, c’est les autres.” Well yeah. That too.
There ought to be a TV series set in Hell. The trio of stars has ended up there by mistake because at the moment the 4th, not-so-good guy died, they were all holding hands. (Why? I don’t know; get some writers.) So they’ve got a beef, and there’s lots of curious company, and the Devil’s played by Angela Lansbury and Charlie Sheen’s her asshole son, who keeps whining how come nobody likes him, he’s supposed to be an asshole, and he’s married to Penelope Cruz who used to be Persephone before the Christians took over and she hates him and is always setting him on fire or freezing him into a gigantic block of ice. Of course there will be an episode when she manages to eject him onto our plane of existence, which gets her in a lot of trouble with God, who looks uncannily like the Devil. The comic style will be halfway between Ingmar Bergman and Monty Python. Oh, I’m giving too much away.
November 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
Every time I look at my brother’s photographs, I’m more in awe. Go to his site.
I was going to say that my mood was bleak, and that’s true, but what I’m really feeling is hostile. And just behind that—who the fuck cares? Well, you’re reading my blog. If you don’t care you can trundle off to your own life like a good little wabbit, never darken my door again.
Actually, you can. I have no bouncer, though I kind of wish I did. Wouldn’t that be cool? Learn a little code, embed a virtual bouncer on your site, and then whenever the wrong person showed up they’d be automatically redirected to a grainy surveillance video of a laundromat in Queens. The second time, the video would be a turkey’s eye view of a turkey farm in the weeks before Thanksgiving. The third time, well, that would be special.
Have you seen the new Twilight flick? Would you want to fuck a 100-year-old sparkly vampire virgin? No, me neither. I didn’t see the movie, but I did read the book. I wanted to know if I could write for teenage girls. I was one once, but I was more Lady Chatterley’s lover, Cat’s Cradle, In Watermelon Sugar. And far too much of Yeats.
Yeats was a great poet, and he knew how to be a great poet in every aspect of his life, so he could afford to believe in fairies. I didn’t believe in fairies at 17, but I believed in magic. As a result, I wasn’t paying attention to what I’ve come to accept as reality. Nature was the highest good, where the magic lived, if it lived anywhere; dogs and cake were very fine. I loved books and wanted boys. Paper and pen. Not much else. Not a career, not power, not making a difference in the world, not children once I really understood what children meant. I wanted to be a published writer, but if I’d known what that entailed, I’d have stuck to reading. What I thought ( and don’t ask me how I could have thought this because I don’t know) was that I’d exist in the book, and the reader would come to me privately.
Artists don’t want to grow up. This is not a surprise. Making art is like OWS: we don’t like your shit; we’re not going to play by your rules; we’ll find our form and direction when we fucking feel like it. And the simmering anxiety: will we find it? Or will the whole thing fall apart? But it’s better it fall apart than become what it doesn’t want to become. Let the energy return to the source. It’s difficult. If I could write about sparkly vampires and make all that money, I would. But my sparkly vampires would inevitably find themselves jumping out of a cake at a gay bachelor party.
Lisa said, “You’ve always talked about depression.”
“It’s different now. I don’t go into the details because I figure it will just bore people.”
She didn’t dispute that, but we talked some more, and as always, she seemed mystified and sad that I don’t embrace “strength” as she does. If I was in her life, I would be strong too. The structure and people and responsibility strengthen her. But I never wanted a life like that until recently—and now it’s not what I really want, only something I envy because it works. Where I am is on a strange island with my emotions like great prickly probes sticking far out to sea.
I dream of death as a language. I don’t go there because it won’t say what I want it to. I think and think, but it never will. I have to stay here to speak. There are days when that really pisses me off. Some of you understand. One minute you feel like the most pathetic loser, and the next like a plucky heroine the villain has injected with a deadly poison. The doctors come with their bags, and leave shaking their heads. “We can’t remove it from her body. It’s entered all her cells. She’ll survive, but she’ll never be the same. Keep her warm. Give her plenty of fluids.”
No, I think they said chocolate, and to open the window.
Writing’s like death. It transforms experience into something inanimate that’s packed with nutrients for whatever comes next. Hear, hear, my lovely flies and beetles. Dinner’s ready. Even the uninvited may attend.
I Give Up My Identity
My name is smaller than it sounds. I work & polish it until a light shines through. I thrust a thorn under my tongue. I drop the little stones behind me. Striding I can feel my height extend up to the rafters. My voice is thin, still thinner is the space between my footsteps & the earth. I do not want you calling me except at the allotted times. I scratch my head because I know it's empty. Hot & cold are equal terms. I give up my identity to write to you. The notice on the board says: Stay at home Be vigilant The aim of medicine is medicine. I can hardly wait until tomorrow. Signals everywhere are fraught with terror. In the deepest waters spread around the globe there is a sense of life so full no space exists outside it. I will go on writing till I drop & you can read my words beyond my caring. --Jerome Rothenberg