“I don’t know about you, but my right-now life is laden with reality: bills, the 9-to-5 (necessary to pay said bills), the leaden thing that weighs on everyone at said 9-to-5 (making them mean and me mean), family, the failures of family, a slowing metabolism and no will or energy to exercise. It’s a maddeningly endless personal abyss. And the language that surrounds me every day–mostly sad, simple transactional language–fails.
Yet the poems I’m sharing this darkening October month come from writers who somehow manage to slip out of the trance that keeps us subservient to reality, tethered to the mundane. When they lapse into consciousness, they are possessed as Nietzsche was when he wrote “No artist tolerates reality.” Those who are awake, if only momentarily, are the artists. And by artists, I mean these writers who feel and tinker until they’ve given form to something that exists within the bandwidth of reality but resists humdrum conventionality. Of course, it’s akin to the famed tell it slant. But more than that, they’re telling it like it ain’t, not keeping it real.”
Kevin Simmonds, introduction to poem of the week 10/11/13
Every now and then I stick my head out of my mundane shell of day to day survival and find a poem, but not today. I was not trudging through the viscera of life though. I was reading and trying get my head up a little higher so I could start seeing the parts of the world that can only be seen when I am not creeping along trying to make a living and dealing with slings and arrows (Fortune can be such a bitch sometimes). But here I have a few hours and some inspiration, breathing in. So I can hopefully mingle some of this fresh air with some of the overused stuff I have been moving around and come up with a something not real that is a synthesis of outside input mixed with imagination and reasoning. I always feel a little more optimistic about life when I get a little space to breathe in. The breath out is just a relaxing of the diaphragm, an easy sigh of relief.
In Which I answer the last 18 questions posed by Marcel Proust’s aunt to the 14 year-old Proust. I gotta say these are pretty tough questions for a 14 year-old. I know if my aunt asked me these questions when I was 14, I would have thought she was crazy, but I have no French aunts from who lived in the 19th century.
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
That would probably be words like awesome and terrible, which I am misusing because I actually mean good or bad not that the experience left me frozen in wonderment or terror. In general I think our language has been hijacked by advertising and media culture which uses the most extreme language to describe the mundane and trivial.
I probably say, “Life sucks,” way too often, but then this has been a really hard year.
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Mary, my ex-wife, is and shall always be someone I love. My children are precious to me of course. I ache with the weight the world puts on them. I love music and art in most of their many forms. I love language and writing. I do not think I would survive without these. I love my friend Pat, who I have known since high school. I love my parents, though they drive me insane most of the time. I love my brother and sisters because I went through the trials of youth with them. I can’t say which is greatest. The loss of any of these would be devastating to me.
3. 3. When and where were you happiest?
There have been little moments when I was free from all the gravity of life. I remember one time just dancing in a field to the music in my head and not even realizing that anyone else was there. There are times when I am singing, or drawing, or writing when everything is flowing that I reach a feeling of pure joy, but these are moments. Overall, I can’t remember being consistently happy. I do remember when my children were young we were all busy at pleasant tasks or playing games in summer with all the windows open and gentle breezes blowing through a warm room, when Mary and I weren’t worrying about keeping our lives together, which often made those moments impossible.
- Which talent would you most like to have?
I would like to be able to understand people well enough to help them realize their humanity and interconnections with the world. I would like to be able to learn music on a deeper level, to be able to improvise and interact with other musicians through music.
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be more able to focus on something without losing sight of everything else in my life. It seems that I am either hyper-focused or distracted. It makes it very hard for me to learn anything very deeply or be committed to a goal. I wish I was less aimless and drawn off on tangents into cl-de-sacs of obscurity and isolation.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
During the 3 years I spent teaching Head Start preschool in South Seattle and 3 years I worked for Head Start in West Sacramento, I did so much good work that made families stronger and helped to create learning space that allowed children who were in very compromised situations of poverty and abuse to blossom a little and maybe carry what we gave them into the rest of their childhood. Helping to raise 3 wonderful human beings is something I will always be proud of as well.
- If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Whatever or whoever it was I would like to be alive without fear or anxiety, fully present and capable of joy and compassion. I have live in such a prison of anxiousness. I hope to figure this out before I die.
- Where would you most like to live?
I would most like to live near the Pacific Coast, somewhere north from Santa Barbara, California and south from Vancouver Island, British Colombia, in a small town. Trinidad, California is one place I have always wanted to live.
- What is your most treasured possession?
My guitar, though as long as I have access to a decent guitar, I would not need to own it.
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Last year about this time, when Mary decided that she wanted to separate our lives. I had many desperate hours in which I wanted to not exist. I am glad now that I am not immediately able to make my desires manifest. So many dark thoughts passed through my mind at that time, but somehow I pulled myself together and am climbing slowly out of the pit. It is a very deep pit. I figure it will take a while longer to be on level ground again, but I can see the top and it is not too far off.
- What is your favorite occupation?
Drawing, writing or playing music. I will always choose one of these when I am free to do so.
- Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don’t identify very strongly with any historical figures. I suppose it would be a poet, musician or painter who like a troubadour wandered from town to town. Again someone like the Dalai Lama, whose mission is to create peace and acceptance in the world, appeals to me the most, but mostly, I feel very little connection with the stream of history.
13. Who are your heroes in real life?
People who are able to bring a feeling of shared life to others. The people I admire are mostly anonymous, known only to those who are graced by their presence. There are people who are able to make others stronger and more able to feel good about themselves. They are rare and will never be famous. Maybe there are just moments in any life where anyone can be one of these people.
- What are your favorite names?
I like simple, musical names like Lily, Allison, Riley. I like Spanish and Italian names that are like songs Margarita, Juanita, Silvio, Anatoli, and Mario. I think any name can be either enhanced or disenchanted by the person attached to it. I like the names of those that I love.
- What is it that you most dislike?
I most dislike the pain people cause both to themselves and others.
- What is your greatest regret?
I regret that I did not challenge my fears more when I was younger. I am living life contained by my feelings of discomfort and anxiety. My life is small and cramped because of this.
- How would you like to die?
I would like to live until I can have a little understanding of life and be able to help others live more meaningful lives. I want to cause as little pain or fuss as possible in my dying. I want to go without fear. I want to be ready.
- What is your motto?
Each Moment Is An Open Door