Monday, September 04, 2006

Thoughts about the past; still held hostage by Microsquish

Held hostage by Microsquish day 4.

What I can't access: literary correspondence files, medication orders (including my blood pressure medicine yet to be delivered), submission files, family correspondence, just a few niggling things.

The reps that write me insist they've unblocked my e-mail but I can't get in. And apparently they don't work Labor Day weekend, unless Bill Gates sent them all to Africa to step on mosquitoes.

Enough whining. We all keep correspondence too long, as if it were a totem, a fetish that proves we existed in the past, that we had feelings in the past, that our past mattered. But who among us in this e-mail age goes back to moon over and treasure past correspondence? The only reason to keep it all is in case you die famous and someone wants to do a biography on you. Now fame is rare for anyone but the famous, like Carmen Electra, Pam Anderson and Paris Hilton. So you have to ask yourself: Why do I keep all this correspondence? Do I secretly believe I might be a famous poet someday?

I believe enough in that possibility to save my literary correspondence, hoping some graduate student might someday discover me, although this scenario strikes me as a monkeys and typewriters proposition. As for the rest, I need my passwords for various sites, lots of other technical information as well. But it's amazing how much you can live without. We lug our bronzed baby shoes through the world like a ball and chain, thinking yesterday matters when it rarely does.

"My history amounts to me but I am not merely my history."

(Quote from a failed poem of mine, the one line I like)

My sister recently gave me a packet of letters from Germany which I wrote when I was 16/17. Did I open them? No. Did I throw them away? No. Did I save them somewhere like a mad packrat? Yes. Why? What if I wanted to read through them sometime? I don't want to throw away that if. Yet my year in Germany was so beset by depression that I fear to read the good face I put on it in letters home. At that age I was too young to know what depression was.

We are forward looking creatures. The further we get from memories, the less they seem to matter (unless you're in trauma-oriented psychotherapy). I have a habit of dissociating myself from the past, as my feeling about the past is that remembering it will be an unhappy experience. Or perhaps it's painful to read the words of a 17-year-old when that same person is now 51.

What I most remember about the past are the severe depressions and manias I experienced, and all that feels radioactive to me. And all correspondence before the age of 30 has no clue to my diagnosis. I willed my way through life while psychotic and undiagnosed. Am I tough? You bet, and that's no brag. Mental patients aren't glassware; they're some of the toughest people you'll meet, because they have had to function under the worst kinds of duress.

I admit that a manic-depressive poet is a cliché, but a manic-depressive doctor is not. I have a much published poem I wrote during my internship that touches on that experience, which I will post below. One correspondent wrote to me about this poem, saying "It's the one work that will likely live on after you." That was high praise, but all that is half a lifetime ago.

I should mention, for those who care to comment here, that you may get an "unsecure" warning box if you try to post. I don't think this is dangerous, I think it's just a glitch in the new beta blogging I've begun. I can't say with certainty that it's OK to post here, but I'm running the risk myself and so far nothing untoward has occurred.

At. 0.5 kilorats, though the mixture of emotions inside me can never be adequately expressed in mere numbers; but in terms of the depth of my depression, yes, Virginia, after five months I've been better for about a week.

Thine in Truth and Art,

C. E. Chaffin

p.s. I am slowly repairing my links, so please, anyone who wants to be listed on this page, write me!

A Time to Weep

I suppose you could call me heartless
as a dull anvil clanking in a sodden barn,
the damp wood too lazy to echo your pain;
and your limbs twisted like great roots,
your hearts rank melons bursting with fluid,
your tidal headaches, your equatorial fevers
were all grist for my scientific mill,
my hands cold and precise like metallic probes
on your beaded foreheads.

I suppose my brief visits and cryptic prognoses
do little to comfort your collapsing veins.
You ask for a word, I spout statistics.
Your skeletal hands pray for light--
I check your pupils. Do you understand?
It is not that I care not for healing
if only the power would come;
but science is an impotent matchstick
broken in death’s fingers.

I have never collected moths
but you are pinned somehow on my mind’s wall
several hallways from heart.
Allow me this distance,
allow me not to weep.
Should those dark waves with their thousand eyes
once spill over the dike, I do not know
what sort of god I should become--
most likely a madman
but never again your doctor.

(Published in the Christian Medical Society Journal, among others.)

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