It’s my last day as a 36 year old.
I don’t know why I decided to write a poem.
I don’t much care for poetry.
I don’t read it.
I don’t write it.
I don’t appreciate it.
But here I am.
(I’m often an enigma to myself.)
I love Rumi, Roberto Bolaño and William Blake.
A weird combination of people.
Rumi is sexy and wise
Bolaño is sexy and weird
Blake is weird and wise
Sex and wisdom and high weirdness
These things, clearly, matter to me
in some odd circular tautology.
And the coffee stains on the discardible papers
A near-perfect semi-circle colored sludgy brown
And the sun-ravaged faces of the young
We have too much sun in this country
We have too much rain in this country
We have too much wealth in this country
I can’t seem to synthesize the disparities.
Everything these days is coated with dead skin and dust.
Something about the scarred page.
I start this poem.
I was fourteen.
It was late at night.
My cousin ran over a possum with his shitty car.
We turned around to look at the carcass.
The possum’s mouth was still moving.
My cousin shined his headlights on the dying animal.
He muttered something I didn’t hear.
We stared at the dying creature.
I knew then that one day I would die.
A real memory, parsed through words.
Language is the most diabolical of traps.
You can feel the edges of it, the sinewy musculature
The bones and teeth of it, the gaps, the erosions
Always the imprecision.
And what is poetry but a quest for precision?
Nothing is true, language seems to say.
Not even the words “nothing is true.”
Deconstruction. That’s the literary term.
Led me to some dark thoughts.
of squiggly lines
jagged realities overlapping in bizarre places
each person carrying a flawed universe inside.
I didn’t like it.
Everything felt liquid and insubstantial.
Boiled down to this:
So do people.
Everything is everything.
Lauryn Hill said that.
If it is, it can be.
If it can’t, it won’t.
If it were so, it might be.
But as it isn’t, it ain’t.
That’s (stolen) logic.
It was a horror, the deconstruction.
Sartre and Beckett and Conrad and Bergman and God’s silence
Tarkovsky and Dostoevsky and Dracula and Superman and God’s silence
Real horror is nonsense.
Real horror is unanswerable, patternless.
Death and the machinery.
Dust and decay and the crumble of buildings.
Fresh skulls repurposed for TV.
The blight of history.
All just words.
(I take some comfort in this.)
I don’t drink enough coffee
I drink too much coffee
I can’t drink coffee and liquor on the same day
Therefore I never get drunk
An almost-syllogism for the modern man,
Who flickers against the digital displays of a billion monitors.
I don’t believe in the singularity
Although I want to be a futurist.
(Dig: the collective human imagination can liberate everything. Even our consciousness.)
Bolaño always fucks famous writers in his poems.
He relishes the high/low brow saturnalia.
Blake fooled everyone, hiding the demiurge in a Christian’s robes.
Blake is one of the great tricksters in literature.
Rumi is pleasure and wisdom mitigated only by beauty and concision.
One of the most engaging minds in history.
There’s something here.
In this unholy trinity.
My wife says you can be Whitman
wild and self-promoting
full of vigor and half-crazed with delight.
Or you can be Dickinson
inward and self-directed
quiet and insulated from the world.
“All artists fall somewhere on this spectrum,” she says.
My fear is that I’m Whitman pretending to be Dickinson.
Or the other way around.
I admire them both.
Don’t ask if I read them.
(I don’t. Not anymore.)
Language memory literature
At 19 I was an existential Christian.
I didn’t drink coffee.
I didn’t drink booze.
I read. A lot.
I loved Paradise Lost.
Milton almost bridges that God free will evil conundrum
I loved Gilgamesh
(and still do)
ancient god man sad and lonely looking for eternal life
I hated the Mystery Plays
and pretended to love Shakespeare
while I preferred Ben Jonson.
I studied the Romantic poets
Wordsworth and Byron and Shelley and Keats
and Coleridge and Tennyson and Browning
(I liked Coleridge best.)
For a hater of poetry, I’ve lived with a lot of it.
Then Kafka, goddammit.
Kafka fucked me up.
He reinforced the Manichean sex-is-evil thing
He floated through my life like a ghost
A cringing weirdo.
An overdose of masochistic
yearning for real life.
And all of it false false false
(I’ve never forgiven him.)
Literature began with two books.
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis.
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.
I read them when I was 19.
Babbitt is about a small-minded man boxed in by the world.
He isn’t happy.
He is mangled by foolish thoughts.
He is as real a character as anyone walking and breathing now.
I love him for his failures and pettiness.
Gravity’s Rainbow is about boners bombs orgies the Nazi war machine
There’s an octopus trained to record human movement
It’s about the absurdity of the human condition and the absurdity of using language to render that human condition
Babbitt remains one of my most personal novels
He’s a friend of sorts, a man I fear and love.
Gravity’s Rainbow has receded
Something messy about the lack of structure, even the language.
(I now prefer V.)
Pynchon brought me DeLillo, paranoia, absurd linguistic dynamite.
Lewis brought me realism and pungent social criticism.
(There was a time when I confused him with Upton Sinclair.)
Other confusions: Lee J. Cobb and George C. Scott and Rod Steiger. (Booming voices.)
And Celine and Genet and Gide. (French misanthropes.)
And love with sex
and laughter with intimacy
and rebellion with substance
and schlock with art
and heights with danger
and derangement with insight
Movies with real life
Movies with real life
(Who doesn’t prefer the beautiful lies?)
I stole that line from Ham on Rye.
Or maybe it was Keroauc. Yes.
On the Road was the beginning of something.
And an ending.
It’s about wanderlust and drunkenness and being young
And finding a way through the stony nonsense
and he was a fatigued, unhappy man
miserable at the end
There’s a lesson there, too, about art and writing and society and crime.
A flowering and wilting.
Did Keroauc know himself too well?
Or not well enough?
I turn 37 tomorrow.
I spent a day in-between things writing this poem
Without a clear reason why.
Rootlessness, ennui, the bespectacled age
Coffee stains on an innocent, blank sheet of paper
Faultless without the human intention
Blameless before the smudge.
I must now decide
Do I write on it or toss it aside?