Monday, November 13, 2006

Villanelle: Men in Suits; Mood dips

Men in Suits

The men in suits decide which war is good
While desert grunts hear shrapnel whizzing by.
The men in suits never give up their blood.

It doesn’t matter how hard we withstood
Snipers and bombs, watching our comrades die.
The men in suits decide which war is good.

I’d kill the policy makers if I could;
I’d trade them tooth for tooth and eye for eye!
The men in suits never give up their blood.

Democracy cannot be understood
By ancient Islam culture blown sky-high.
The men in suits decide which war is good.

Mostly the war produces widowhood
Though our commander still clings to his lie.
The men in suits never give up their blood.

There is no love, there is no personhood
When men are ground up for bad policy.
The men in suits decide which war is good.
The men in suits never give up their blood.

I was plain wrong when I claimed a week of euthymia (good mood) yesterday; in reviewing my blog it was only four days. It felt like a week because I felt like myself again. Unfortunately, today I feel on thin ice and I’m anxious.

I got up yesterday and wrote my sonnet and blogged, which is my daily mental toilette. Later I felt restless. I couldn’t concentrate on the book I am supposed to review, or on learning the hieroglyphics of html. Finally at 1:30 PM I jumped in the van and drove south about forty miles on winding Highway 1 to the Garcia River. Three years ago in October I had netted a steelhead and a salmon at a deep part of the river, and I thought perhaps there would be some fish pooling around now. I didn’t get a bite, which is not unusual for the unluckiest fisherman in the world. I wear a hat that proclaims, “Fish Control My Brain.” I have since learned that that control means that I am constantly directed away from fish. If I’m there, they are not.

But the feeling of restlessness and irritability persisted as I fished. The landscape was overcast with occasional sprinkles; the bracken of summer had decayed into the color of straw; the leaves of the blackberry bushes had begun to turn red, imitating the dreaded poison oak, but I know the difference in the shape of the leaves. I saw a raven fight off a white-tailed kite over a territory dispute near the bluff above. Placid cows grazed high on the steep embankment along the river, and I thought it a miracle that they did not fall off for an unscheduled swim. I saw a beautiful red-tailed hawk.

I was entirely alone in this somewhat forbidding landscape, and not surprisingly, following my irritability, an angry irritability, melancholy descended. Was it for not catching fish? Was it my memory of fishing there three years ago that reminded me of all that had transpired between, our whole sojourn in that unmentionable country south of the border? In any case I felt like crying but controlled myself. When I came home Kathleen immediately spotted my change in mood. I can hide nothing from her.

This morning I woke up anxious. I held on to Kathleen as if she were a large stuffed animal for comfort. Eventually Kenyon stirred and I had to walk the old boy, as in his dotage he can easily get lost and confused. He stops sometimes, stands still, and exhibits the thousand-yard stare. I remember when he was young and frisky. Now I am a helpless participant in managing his decline.

The point is, my mood is still fragile. I could dive down from here. The self-critical thoughts have returned; I’m no good, I’ve never done anything in my life, yada yada. But I noticed another aspect of my illness, namely jealousy.

I’m jealous of the success of other poets and musicians. I feel somehow it’s not fair, that I’m good enough to be recognized. But even as I think this I castigate myself for my narcissism, since those with greater recognition, in general, have also striven harder to attain what they have. Other than a whole wad of publications on the net and a lesser wad in print, I remain a third tier poet, one of thousands who have not distinguished themselves from the herd. It is sad that the world of poetry works much like Hollywood, but them’s the cards, deal with it. I’m not submitting to anyone right now, a deficiency I need to correct. but sometimes it seems purely hopeless to try; I think my poetry is retro and the moment of its potential recognition has passed me by. Can I accept that without bitterness? Jealousy is the essence of narcissism and I am ashamed of it. But I must admit it. I resent those with greater success, especially when I think their verse is inferior. I try to tell myself that they earned it, but I can’t help believing they had lucky breaks. Take Wanda Coleman, for instance; what’s she doing in the second tier of poets? She is obvious and bombastic, though a good performer. Or take Charles Bukowski, from whom Garrison Keillor chose multiple entries in his anthology of poetry. I could go on, but naming names is always dangerous. You risk expulsion from the potential circle of venerable elders. I suppose my greatest achievement in poetry was when Dorianne Laux solicited me for an issue of the Alaska Quarterly Review and I had as much space as Billy Collins. To be solicited for a top flight journal is a thrill.

At 52 I’ve pretty much let my music and songwriting slide. I’ve let medical practice slide, though not by direct choice. Look: I’m being honest. The Bible advises that we pray for our enemies, for which a competitor in the small world of poetry might qualify, especially if I think their verse inferior to mine.

In my worst moments I’m so jealous I want to appeal to some objective cosmic judge for a decision. After all these years, from adolescence on, why have I not been able to master these feelings of injury? Those who succeed are not injuring me, only helping themselves. Why do I, in my worst moments, resent them? The answer is simple: I think I’m their equal or better, and that it just isn’t FAIR. What a ridiculous concept, that life and art should be fair. In my case it stems in part, no doubt, from being a middle child, a same sex second child quickly followed by my sister only 16 mos. later. Why did my older brother get more liberties? How come I couldn’t be his equal? It never dawned on me that it was just a difference in age that allowed him greater privileges. But I took his privileges as somehow diminishing mine. This is a problem I go through on the edges of depression. I wish I knew a cure.

I do remember one epiphany when I practiced in Palm Springs. At that time a Mercedes was the commonest car in the upscale desert. One day when driving I realized why others had Mercedes and I didn’t: They had earned their cars. I was not gypped; their cars did not diminish me; they had earned their luxury. Enough said. Or not enough.

My narcissism, which crops up when my mood is bent, embraces the ridiculous idea that the success of others, particularly others I think less talented, somehow takes away from me. This is plain silly. But it is one of the slippery slopes into depression again, as I must condemn myself for my narcissism, afterwards paralyzed by my perceived failure. Perhaps the only antidote for this is to simply accept that I have these feelings, justified or not, and that I need to keep working in the hopes of being recognized someday. “Don’t look behind, someone might be gaining on you.” But I am open to comment or commiseration regarding this psychological thorn, and I trust, among artists, that I am not the only one to suffer from it.

At 1 Kilorat, with Anxiety,



  1. Anonymous7:42 PM PST

    Oh Lord wontcha,, &
    What i think is this;

    You should really watch that monk show on, TLC. every Sunday
    though I think they're on day 30 something out of 40 days & nights.. but worth a view for sure. Maybe there'll be re-runs. I like it because of my delusion that the voice of the Abbot is actually mine. Listen , or watch, you'll see.;

    Also - say, did you take pics of those Bpelicans -- it's so funny, I saw the same thing the same day, but it was at a beach a lot of men frequent- as if the lincoln mem. -- the bird watching is par excel,,, and the marsh,, well -- needless to say this time of year,, color.

    Hope you post some pics of your day, for all to see..ha. I can share some waves of mine if you like .. windy/salted/curls & all.

    this last post,,, yeah, saw a lot of controll in there.
    best of wishes Craigee

  2. I remember when a friend published his first book. I was overjoyed and proud for him. However when he published the second book (not long after the first), I was shocked and ashamed at the severity of my jealousy.

    How can I say I like this villanelle? For it is sad but so true.

  3. Anonymous8:32 AM PST

    By sheer synchronicty CE, the email I sent you this morning was composed before I read this blog entry. What compelled me to wax on as I did, I do not know.

    take care

  4. My wife has the digital camera and knows how to use it but we didn't bring it along that day. Besides, you can't capture the presence of so many pelicans in a photo. BTW, anon, may I ask where you live, apx.?

    Thanks, Annie, for confessing to the green-eyed monster.

    Norm, I'll go check my e-mail, I'm confused.

  5. Ah, the emotions the aspiring (but failing in his aspirations) writer experiences.
    You definitely need a "back-up" life. Because without one, how do you deal with the fact that your words -- and thus you -- don't matter one damn bit?

  6. Anonymous5:20 PM PST

    CE Said :"BTW, anon, may I ask where you live, apx.?"

    Now see... therein lies the Rub- bub.. why in the heck would you want to know where "I" live?
    You planning to drop a bomb? or just catch me at the mail box?

    ... lets see... I'm somewhere between Guatamala and the middle most Northern hemisphere of the laguna.... just lft of the E-quator - a locked word.
    is that good nuff? Can ya see me now?

    Ok, Where are You? .. can you approximate? and tell me, how long have you been driving without a current license? lol.

    How's the mood going
    anyway - will check back
    in on you later.
    have a good one, doc.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Anonymous6:31 PM PST

    CE Said:"Anon--because you saw a line of pelicans the same day, I wondered if you were on the north Pacific coast somewhere, that's all. Not prying."

    Oh, ok - it's just I get a little bristlee when kids post the color of my sheets on the net's all. ..

    NPC? , yes, wouldn't that be sumpthin.. you know.. I DID see a bald guy there with a camera up close, but am pretty sure he wasn't from around here, bcause anybody in the know- knows it's not an appropriate beach to bring curly-headed kids to .. and well, can't really say much else as with this new hairdo, that wind really whips things around so I can't see much of anything besides... back at the's calm-er..and I was there hoping to photograph the snowy plover,,,wait
    only caught a crane though.sigh.

    that helps dock.


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