“Can I never escape this interminable mourning for myself?” ~ Susan Sontag, from Reborn: Journals & Notebooks

Valentine Cameron Prinsep Il Barbagianni aka The Owl 1863 oil on canvas

“Il Barbagianni (The Owl)” (1863, oil on canvas)
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep


 

“. . . it is best to leave some things unsaid, or else I shall get confused again. Within this irreparable little crack decay has set in – ah, I think I shall yet be able to express it all—the dreams, the coalescence, the disintegration—All my best words are deserters and do not answer the trumpet call, and the remainder are cripples.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from Invitation to a Beheading

Saturday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cooler, 56 degrees.

This dream went on and on: My staff has turned against me and is spreading slanderous rumors. They are unaware that I am in the process of transitioning to a different department to a new position. I have a meeting with the deputy head, during which we are interrupted constantly by members of my staff who want to make themselves heard. I find the whole thing both sad and amusing. At some point, the deputy remembers that he needs to find a physicist, and I remember someone who has been overlooked. There is a meeting with legal. One of the staff members is someone with whom I was friends in high school. I have not seen her in years and years, so why is she in my dream spreading lies about me? Another staff member is the boss’s daughter, but she is not trustworthy. At some point, Laurence Fishburne appears in character as Morpheus. There is a large-fanged tiger that is ripping the faces off people. There is an escape pod from a shuttle. The dogs awaken me mid-dream, and I am completely discombobulated . . .

“But the heart has its own memory and I have forgotten nothing . . .” ~ Albert Camus, from The Fall

So I wrote a poem, or a sequence of poems. As with all of my poems, I am reluctant to share, but my need to voice overcomes my need to hide. The words were burning my fingers, a hard scrabble to release them. I have written them as a sequence, but I am unsure if they belong together, yet when I reread, I cannot imagine them individually.

I am hovering above Nietzsche’s abyss, as it were. Be kind . . .

Notes from November 7

I.
The Bitter Taste of Love

Be with me now great warrior
whose strength depends solely
on the favours of a woman. ~ Leonard Cohen, “The Next One”

He smells like leftover whiskey
and salt, sweet with a hint of fire
and tears and I would lay bare
every inch of my soul
to be near him once more,
would offer up my heart
to a ravenous raven
ignoring the deep fissures left
by its hooked beak,
all—all of it,
again and again,
if only to taste
the barest hint,
the memory of salt’s coarse grains
that he leaves on my lips
after he is done with me

II.
Baying at the moon

And when they tell you
that it’s done,
finished,
you will leave by the door from which
you entered,
step away from their insistent pandering
And when you have at last found
a silent hall,
you will unfurl a howl
like the savage animal within you,
the one that bites and rends and
leaves nothing for no one
After, much later,
you will walk back through the door,
untroubled, as if their sobering words
never touched you

III.
Calendar Girl

One-inch square on the page,
red-encircled,
within it, a single name
Year after year you turn the pages
knowing this number awaits you
as another year nears its end,
poised like a beast
who has caught the scent of fear,
and smirking through jagged teeth,
anticipates the moment of the kill.
And though you try to contain it,
make it but a caesura,
the space around it widens
like a crack in the walkway
rent by incessant pounding rain.
Would that you could rub it out of existence
this infernal remembrance,
but it lingers like the blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands,
thick and viscous—
impermeable to desire
or prayer.

IV.
Dogs of War

…and my need for closeness outweighs my sense of self-preservation. ~ Virginia Woolf

“well, what do you think it means,” she asks, just a hint of a smile on her lips
and you know, know,
this woman has seen inside you, senses your lies before they leave your tongue,
is not fooled by the ways you try to steady your breathing
in your failed attempts to appear calm,
and anyway,
what harm could it do now
to let the lie leave your lips,
utter the three words
you have come to associate with your truth,
for how can you know, really, what any of this means
the wicked ways of the world,
how you have been left stranded
in a café somewhere on the east side of town
with just enough coins for a cup of their burned coffee,
but no money for the sweet roll you so desperately crave,
the sweetness that is so lacking in your veins,
and so you look down and give life to the lie
because it is all you have left
“i don’t know”

V.
The Weight of all Things

ad pondus omnium

You find yourself thinking of the man who is gone,
the one who stood in the room next to you,
the one who left for truer love,
and you wonder how he has greeted the day,
but you must never ask,
never let on that he is anything more than memory.
After all, the sliver of your soul that he erased
has been remade by another,
one who does not leave you gasping
on the cold white tiles
of your bathroom floor,
multi-colored pills spilled around you
like perverse tic tacs, ready to freshen
your final breaths.
So you do not call, and instead
let your fingers slide across the letters,
spelling out three words so banal
they make you blink in shame:
how are you
when what you want to ask
is if he remembers the sterility of the room,
the constant hum of the white noise,
if the memory still slips into his consciousness,
if his pain is as present as yours
if he ever thinks about death, about dying
about her.
You let your fingers hover but a second
before you obliterate the words,
go back to pretending
his existence, like the past,
was merely a handful of ashes.

                   

Music by Mree, “You Are” (featuring Jared Foldy)

 

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2 thoughts on ““Can I never escape this interminable mourning for myself?” ~ Susan Sontag, from Reborn: Journals & Notebooks

  1. I think your poem is really good, hauntingly good. Some doors will never close…

    Why does it seem like life comes up with these freight trains that mow you down… leave you looking back at the magnitude… Yet, the moments of joy and grace are tiny things that you might miss if you aren’t paying full attention?

    I’d like a massage and a good, long soak in a hot tub tonight to work some of the clenchedness out of my body. And maybe a cup of hot grog… Of course, I’d have to take a pill to counter the acid in it… and I’d probably be sorry. But, at least I can curl up in my warm bed with its pile of down throws and read my book. Currently, I am reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m about half way, and she’s brought up this idea from Jacob Boehme – that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. So, it will be interesting to see where that goes…

    You have such intense dreams… I haven’t remembered any of mine lately…

    I hope that you are having a good evening… restful, warm, calm. I’m sending you healing, soothing thoughts. Catch them….

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