For Janet’s birthday on Tuesday, I posted a poem I had written about observing a nocturnal visit to the bathroom. From almost exactly a year earlier came this one about seeing myself reflected in a bathroom mirror, also at night. Although set in a pleasantly homely apartment, the setting for “Sweetness and Light,” it’s not nearly so endearing as either of those other poems (since it’s not really about Janet at all), but true to myself, even these days. The title says it all…
The cruel fiend gnaws my naked heart
with iron teeth of moonwhite sin.
He sucks his fill, my fall, and licks
with slurping lips these pale warm bones.
He wears my face backwards, looks
lefteyed into my right, wolfjowled,
smiling. Speaks silence, hears
least of thoughts in grim contentment.
A hundred hurts puzzle my toes,
and webbed in veins, his hornhard
fingers taste my liver’s greenish love.
He weeps my hair and then returns alone.
15 June 1981
Possibly this post should have been entitled “Failing the Mirror Test.”
I am beginning to see a pattern in some of my ideas. I really do seem to get fascinated by looking at things inside out or backward. It’s just that sometimes it gets scary. Especially looking at yourself. It’s not always fun to practice self-examination, unpleasant in the extreme, awkward and uncomfortable — at least for me. And I feel confident that it must be the same for most other honest folk, at least if you’re not actually a Bodhisattva or a saint.
For analysis, it may be that the less-than-white teeth are “iron” because of the grayness all colors assume in poor lighting. Night light may also explain “moonwhite” — the only available illumination from my remembered moment. If I want to be honest, I wonder if “He weeps my hair” because of my then-increasing (now long-since fully accomplished) balditude. A while back Facebook spasmed through a doppelgänger day or three. This poem makes me wonder what an Evil Twin day would be like…
A few days after the poem above, I wrote another — perhaps connected — one for which I’ve always had a strange fondness. Here it is:
The heart’s strange work is silent,
iambic in organic darkness underneath
the nervous mind, clutching at the blood.
Still its limbic products can be felt,
unsaid but howling in the hollow
where the ribbed hard sternum ends.
The thrust of blood is silence,
and quickchapped speech can only sound.
on the separation of feeling and expression
27 June 1981
I believe the neuroscience on which the poem is founded is accurate yet today.The title, although principally a pun and therefore preciously cute, is a reference to Broca’s region in the brain, one of the principal centers of speech processing. Speaking of being too cute to tolerate, I had intended to call today’s post “Aphasia or Self-Recognition” but then went for comedy.
I do sense in my own experience a grave dichotomy between my interior feelings (and even thoughts) and my ability to express them in words. Perhaps even biologically the interior and the exterior are sundered. Or is that just expressing my own inabilities as a writer?
In actual news that isn’t scavenging from the long dark corridors of the distant past, Janet’s birthday lunch on Tuesday was a very pleasant experience. The drive up was nice — sunny and bright. The food was good; she and her folks had the daily special, a spinach wrap with homemade chips, and I enjoyed a very nice Greek salad. If you’re in Dubuque, you might give Caroline’s at the Hotel Julien a try. Afterwards, I came home and worked up yesterday’s post from the unnamed horror story and then created this post (well, to be completely honest I had the poem saved with no commentary, and in finishing my closing remarks to the story segment, I decided this was going to be what you got to read for today). I know: I’m scrambling for something since I’m out of story to post. That probably means I’m going to break an unwritten and unconscious rule of which only I am vaguely aware, and post some other prose in the meantime.
At least today’s selections are nicely brief. (And I do hope you click the links: all the real fun—and content—is there.)