Monday, February 05, 2007

Poem: Absence; More on Relapse

My rough draft of a poem, below, obviously owes something to one of my favorites by Mark Strand, though his is more cheerful:

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

-- Mark Strand



Seeing a house, you cry
because it is not your house.
You wish you could be as useful
as the men in orange vests
spearing trash along the road:
you are the absence of usefulness.

You cry because Diego divorced Frida;
You cry because they remarried.
You cry because the berries on the viburnum
have been exhausted by the birds.
You are the tree emptied of berries.

Whatever is is what you are not.
You are smaller than the tiniest fly.
No, you are the absence of the fly.

You weep for the loss
of not being something,
of not having anything.
(There are things you have
but they are not yours.)

You are without memory,
purpose or pleasure,
the imprint of a discarded doll
on the roadside dirt,
the doll long gone.

At best (and you cannot receive this)
you are the necessary contrast:
a black and starless heaven,
the desert leached of color,
the outline of the ocean
imagined and forgotten;
not the hollow of a clam
but the absence of the hollow.

You weep because you are not the sand.
You weep because your wife is deaf.
Yet if you could give your hearing to her
it would not be your hearing.
You are the loss of hearing,
the vacuum where dead nerves twine.

You are the loss of this poem.

My crying spells tend to come in the late morning or afternoon, though today I began crying early when someone called for Kathleen and I told them to e-mail her because she is deaf. I began to cry over her deafness.

It is not themes that make me cry; it is only my melancholy responding to something that touches it for a moment--I am ready to cry at the silliest things, so it is not that I cry for them, but find in them a sufficient nudge to weep. Most of all I feel such severe disappointment in myself that I can hardly bear it. I am reminded of the women with a persistent hemorrhage who touched the hem of Christ's robe and was healed; he noticed power go out from him and was greatly impressed by her faith. I would not have the courage to do that, not even to grab the heel of the woman's sandal as she reached. I would stand at the outskirts, unworthy of healing, unworthy of anything. This disease macerates self-esteem. Although I did much good on my recent trip to my daughters, that was just the familiar father role. I never let them see me cry.

Sometimes I get angry and "refuse to be depressed." But yesterday while swimming at the gym I was crying into my goggles. I thought that ironic, as swim goggles are supposed to keep the water out.

One thing: I am more comfortable in my weeping, at least at home or when not in view of others. I am better at accepting it. It hurts as deeply as any real loss, but if I allow it to proceed, it doesn't worsen my mood any. It's just a symptom of depression, like thirst is a symptom of diabetes. That my disease wreaks havoc with my emotions and world view is the difficult part; to view all that as symptoms is a difficult dance. But over the years I have gotten better at it.

I feel like apologizing to the reader that I have relapsed. I had almost two good weeks if nothing else. I do have a visit with my shrink tomorrow, luckily. What more he can do I don't know.

-4 (four kilorats),



  1. CE, that final line in your poem really took me aback. One to think about. And thanks for the Mark Strand poem too, which I didn't know.

    Sorry to hear about the relapse. I hope you get out of this soon.

  2. I'm sure you're probably better read on the subject than I am, but I'll ask anyway. Do you know about deep brain stimulation or transcranial magnetic stimulation? I heard about the first treatment via a piece on 60 Minutes about Area 25 of the brain.

    You had 2 good weeks. That's something. It might not seem like much, but it IS something.

    Alcoholics and addicts can only face lsobriety one day at a time. I guess that's how you must face your illness.

    I guess that's really how all of us must face life, eh?

    I'm sorry you're suffering again, friend.

  3. Damn, I didn't even comment on the Strand you posted. I love love love it.

    That's why I love working out, especially walking and running. I'm incredibly conscious of my body moving through space(s), occupying then absenting subsequent pockets or pieces of it and feeling a part of each space, changing it somehow as I move through it and leave it behind.

    I like your poem alot too. The only thing I'm not crazy about is the final stanza. I like the last line. I guess it's what precedes it that trips me up. Not sure if it's the shift to first person, the question or what.

    Damn, the Strand is good stuff. As is yours. Just reconsider the final stanza, eh?

  4. Thanks, Rob.

    Hey, LKD, it's a first draft, and I think your comment on the change of POV very good. Weeks from now, even months, when I revisit this poem, I will remember your advice.

    I'm exercising regularly; 100 crunches today, weights, two miles on a treadmill incline at 3 miles an hour for forty minutes, then a mile swim. Sometimes I cry during exercise, but it can be pawned off as sweat.


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