CAN I HELP YOU WITH SOMETHING? SERIOUSLY WHAT.
In search of a poem that I had mostly memorized in 1990 but was a little hazy on, lo! these many (23? sheesh) years later, I went digging through a box of paper that will either fascinate or terrify whoever goes through my stuff after I die. Here are poems I liked, torn out of the New Yorker in this case, or often photocopied or even copied by hand from books. Notes I took during poetry readings when I used to go, and even some fliers I made for readings of my own. The best reading I ever did was with Scott Soriano, who put a steak on his face and squirted blood out of it while reciting a poem that was a revision of Howl, but about Carls Jr., this was 1989 I guess. Most performance art seems kind of a disappointment to me after that.
What else was in that box, Anne? Oh, children, gather round and see. Here are poems that a friend wrote, and songs. I haven't talked to him since he left Prague, that was 1995 I guess, but I can still sing one of the songs and every year I tell the joke I first heard from him, that Jan Hus was a man with a lot at stake. Also poems by my former insane roommate, no longer my roommate and probably even no longer insane. Poems by people I took classes with. No letters, because those are in another box around here somewhere.
So many things by other people. I can't bear to toss it (and anyway it's just this one box) because even though the smell of the mimeograph machine has faded from them, my memory of exactly how I felt the first time I read some of these poems stays fresh, and I am transported back to sixteen, or twenty-six.
And things I wrote as well. Mostly poetry. Oh, so young and earnest! My love was a tree, you guys, and also a glass of water. Already with the metaphors, and THAT earnest. And also one letter I wrote that I made a copy of for myself, stored separately from the other letters. It is three pages long, and tearstained, and so absolutely naked with pain that I want to get that girl a blanket and cover her. It has the range of a great battle, from the personal to the general, from Greek mythology to Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics, except it is clear that I was mostly fighting with myself, as the object of my affection had long since left me. I sat there this afternoon, with these pages in my hands, thinking: should I throw this out? Because this does not really go with how I see myself now, and it is so painful to remember this that it is almost embarrassing. Back when I used to find it easier to tell the whole truth than to hold it in, even if it sliced me open on the way out.
I mean: now, I want to finish something, and I know I can just just sit very still until you go. It's to the point where sometimes I hear the words before you say them, and I smile and say lightly that it was my fault anyway, sorry, and my teeth clamp over my tongue before I can say another word, and I wave goodbye and I don't look back until I know you're not looking. No more tearstained outpourings from this corner, no more bleeding the truth. So now I remember why I keep the letter, and fold it back into the box, as gently as I wish someone had been with me, put a lid on it, put it back in a quiet safe place.
Hey so it's fall, my favorite season when I can get it. Last year was summer and then it rained for a week and it was windy and all the trees went from green to bare, like strippers who don't know that the tease is at least half of the point. I mourned the lack of transition, and it made me grumpy(ier than usual) for the winter.
This year lacked the Indian summer we were promised, but still: fall is falling. The leaves on fire, yellow and red, and crunching nicely underfoot most days (though not this morning, as it rained last night). The morning wants hats and gloves already, but by afternoon most of us carry them around if there's a little sunshine. Trying to grab the last bits of vitamin D, like the last drops of syrup in the bottle. Sweet, sweet, and disappearing. In the evening our speech is puffs of smoke on the clear cold air.
So I'm happy. I do like a season, it's one of the best parts of living here. A transition. A sense of movement. Like a new year every few months.
Mind and Body pass each other on the stairs. Mind pauses, a little winded, well not really because Mind doesn't breathe, that's more Body's thing, but anyway. Mind wants to have a look around, a reflective moment. Mind says: Hey be careful down there. Body just looks back at Mind wordlessly; Body doesn't talk much.
Mind says: Down there? Where I was? It's crazy. I was so innocent. I didn't have any perspective. Like from here I can look down and see where I've been? But down there, I couldn't. Body nods and looks down the stairs, and thinks of falling. Body looks up the stairs, where Mind is going, remembering. Body knows that it used to be able to touch its head with its foot in two or three different directions. Body did ballet, Body was graceful and flexible. Body had all the time in the world.
Mind says: I used to think I was nothing, you know? And anybody who told me that I was nothing, I thought they were smart for seeing the truth. I used to think it was important that I was smart, and tried so hard to be clever and witty and knowledgeable, and if anybody said I was stupid it crushed me. Body is thinking about dancing, the crush of bodies, sweaty limbs tangled. Crushed in someone's arms. It's been a while, but Body remembers. Body knows this is not the kind of being crushed that Mind is talking about. Mind says: I was crushed, as if the external validation of my intellect was more important than the thoughts I had. Hey are you listening? Body is thinking about being crushed at the foot of the stairs, which seems more probable.
Mind says: It's very interesting at this point on the stairs, you know, in the middle. Where I can see how far I've gone and how far I have to go. I used to think back a few stairs ago that I had the best perspective but now I know that this is the best. Now I can see things clearly. Mind says: I used to stumble around at the bottom because I couldn't even see to the top, I thought I could but I couldn't, but now I can see everything, I'm sure. Body sees a lot too, and also knows that some of the stairs are longer than others, that Body took a stair's length for granted recently and fell, bruised, weeping. Body sees that it can't count on itself anymore, that Body is no longer graceful and flexible, and there are stairs ahead that creak and groan even more than Body's knees do, these days, and Body is a little afraid about that.
Mind says: Well anyway nice talking at you. Miles to go and whatnot. Mind is exceedingly cheerful. Mind thinks it can go miles. Body nods, numbly, grips the banister, slides out a cautious toe. Takes the next step.