Thursday, June 23, 2005


Nearly a week after my last blog post. I wonder where my famed prolificness has gone? And by famed, I mean that I took secret pride in being able to write something every day about my life. Pride goeth before a fall I guess. Maybe I'm just going through one of those cycles. Retreat into the inner mind - then pop out into the world to get shot at for a while before retreating again.

I figured out that one thing that makes me feel like writing is reading really good, excellent writing. Bad writing makes me want to write too - but as soon as I've gotten enough distance from it to stop being mad, the motivation stops. Inspiration seems curiously related to digestion - you become empty and need to be filled, then you're full and you expel.

Louise Gluck:

Remember that time you made the wish?

I make a lot of wishes.

The time I lied to you
about the butterfly. I always wondered
what you wished for.

What do you think I wished?

I don't know. That I'd come back,
that we'd somehow be together in the end.

I wished for what I always wish for.
I wished for another poem.

I was thinking today that maybe one of the things I like so much about poetry is that it's honest. It's blunt. It's not just honest, it's brutal.

Nobody sees essence who can't face limitation.

You can't write real, good, right poetry unless you're honest. You really can't depend on people to be honest. I catch myself being dishonest toward people all the time - I put up an inscrutable face to keep them from seeing I dislike them. I pretend that I don't hate something because I don't want to offend anyone. I won't critique to the fullest extent because I hate tears.

But when you read a good poem you know. It's honest. It has no other way of being what it is. You can rely on it for that.

Honesty gives you clearer vision than you want.

But then, it's that strength of vision that gives poetry its punch - its fierce uncompromising clarity. There's a reason poetry is boiled down to the best and the fewest words possible to make it with and still have it accomplish its purpose. That's also the reason it has many layers - realization has a lot of layers. Truth is woven into a steel blade. I don't think it was born that way. Also, what poet wants to give away a lifetime of honesty to just anyone? If you're going to be that honest, you want only readers willing to take time to understand and love and return honesty for honesty.

Poetry is a great vast stillness that echoes and captures and changes. To understand its stillness you yourself have to be still. That's another thing I like about poetry. You can't rush at it. You have to live with it a little while. You have to form a relationship with the poetry. You have to ingest it. (See, I told you poetry was a lot like your gastrointestinal system.)

Poetry also lets you face the hard things, the honest things, with beauty. Yes, I'm saying this and it may hurt or enlighten or merely confuse - but I'm saying it beautifully, with music. The hard things have not killed my sense of beauty. Rather, I'm understanding the hard things because of beauty.

I wonder, if I have enough honesty to acknowledge that I don't have what it takes to be a poet - does that much honesty give me the right to hope that I someday might be?

The great man turns his back on the island.
Now he will not die in paradise
not hear again
the lutes of paradise among the olive trees,
by the clear pools under the cypresses. Time

begins now, in which he hears again
that pulse which is the narrative
sea, at dawn when its pull is strongest.
What has brought us here
will lead us away; our ship
sways in the tinted harbor water.

Now the spell is ended.
Give him back his life,
sea that can only move forward.


"Patients are People Too,"

the title would read. Sam dreamed slowly as he fought with the copy machine, old, decrepit, that always started with a groan and made you think it was doing you a great favor by copying. It had discovered years ago the trick of creating guilt in the user and at the same time gratefulness, that it didn't break down - most of the time.

He thought his receptionist was much too hard on the patients. Surely they couldn't ask as many stupid questions as she claimed they did. They could surely not ruin their personal lives as easily as she implied, or try as many stupid stunts. Most of his patients' injuries could be reasonable explained - except the one patient who got his foot sliced off by a refrigerator door. His mother had driven the pickup through the front wall of the house, an intervening wall, and straight into the refrigerator. That one was a bit odd.

But then, he was new in town and new to the medical profession, so maybe he'd learn, if given time. Five years had obviously not been long enough. Or maybe he simply needed to acquire a medical attitude. He was prone, still, to give people the benefit of the doubt and give them an automatic measure of respect as human beings. Medical school hadn't managed to beat it out of him, and neither had his residency.

He sighed.

Maybe if he called it "Patients are Stupid People Too" and marketed it to precociously disillusioned college students as a satire in children's book form he could make enough money to hire a new receptionist with better people skills. And one who could actually type correctly. It gave him pains to see her peck away with two fingers.

As he passed around the corner, carrying his copies and pondering the inherent personality quirks of copiers, his receptionist sat up straighter and began typing full speed ahead - with all ten fingers.

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