The God of Poetry Wears Loud Shirts
In response to a query from a friend about the short post preceding this one:
Carolyn, everything in that little piece is true. I mean, it is an account of actual experience. Experience of what? Grace, I guess. It assumes, first, that there is no meaningful distinction between the exotic on one hand and the everyday casual on the other—it’s imagination that is either working or not working. It’s about my complicated feelings about the island landscapes and seascapes which get inside my gut like nowhere else on earth--even places of more natural beauty. But for all this intense feeling about nature that I have when I’m there, it is, like everywhere else, a casual and everyday kind of place. I know nothing duller than the capital city of a small Caribbean island on a Sunday afternoon.
So this is kind of about how your possible happiness can come by a sort of grace, unsought, not as a solution to anything but just existing of its own right like nature. It comes among the ordinary things like the dude who promises to call but never calls, it comes among flat tires and laundry and all the things that need solving, but it does not come by solving them—unless the Gods of What We Want happen to be agreeable. And that is the great thing about it, it's what your aliveness is actually about, but I didn't understand this at the time. It was a fleeting experience of being in love, not with the sleeping man, but with being. There is no “why.” It just is. And being in love with being means finding a way to love the dull and ugly bits as well, the everyday, to find the whatchamacallit—Holy Spirit if you will or god of poetry—resident among them. You could say that the feeling of loss of grace, as chronicled by so many poets (Herbert, Wordsworth, Hopkins come to mind) is the conviction that for some reason you don’t have it within you to get that love of being, that you’ve lost something, you’re cut off. Being in love with someone is like the next best thing, and sometimes it is the best thing. (However, if you feel and suddenly express a sudden surge of love for being, you don’t have to waste weeks afterwards trying to figure out how to talk the fucker down out of a tree--which, it is probably safe to assume, is a waste of time anyway.) The solitude I feared, then, was full of promise; that’s what came in through the window that day, and something in me was yearning for it but feeling unworthy of it.
This thing occurred during a very unhappy time in my life, eight years ago, and although the experience impressed me I didn't know what it meant or what to do with it. Over all these years this experience kept trying to fit in somewhere--should it be in a novel, in an essay? I mean, I’ve tried putting it to various uses like that and while these experiments were fun they didn’t let me feel finished with the matter. Whenever I try to “use” anything it doesn’t work. Maybe one doesn’t finish. I put a man-of-war bird in this version and then I took the man-of-war bird out again. The man-of-war bird is a whole other story.
I am able to wholeheartedly welcome its persistence in my mind. That persistence, it occurred to me just recently, was part of the gift.
The "I'll call you" is a reference to the other party in the piece, the sleeping man, who always used to say, "I'll call you," but would never call. I mean you’d be walking down the street and “Beep! Beep!” he’s sticking his head out of his car window, “I’ll call you!” The call never came. This line is a joke at his expense.
You have to be unhuman sometimes for a while; be a man-of-war bird or just nothing. My vision of what that's like is the Caribbean, the sea there, perhaps because that experience was so common in my childhood.
See how long and boring this is compared to that?