Wednesday, December 05, 2007

No comments on my near untimely demise...

My last two posts resulted in no comments, at least so far. I can understand how a cheap DVD player with a toothache can be ignored, but it does puzzle me just a wee bit why no one responded to my nearly dying. Was it my tone? Did the style of my droll recollection undermine anyone taking me seriously? Where are you Pat, or you, Jennifer, or you, Norm? I forgive Laurel because she recently posted.

In my quest for fame and glory, death is the last card to play, and it's too soon for me, as my reputation as a writer must occur sometime in the future, as I am too old to die young and misunderstood. I prefer old and misunderstood anyway, as I have some perspective about how no one is truly understood to the degree they had hoped. Sure, "We are all much more alike than otherwise," but none of us can really imagine the world from inside another's head. Even when Descartes reduced himself to a single thought, you have to wonder what kind of mind would seek that kind of vacuum, and whether he could maintain a limited consciousness without secondary comments floating through his mind from his other presumptive selves.

I sometimes think that perhaps a native, an aboriginal, might live in real time--that his only conversations are with others, that no debate goes on inside his head. He doesn't think: "I'm going to hunt;" he hunts. He doesn't think: "What shall I cook?" He cooks what's available or doesn't because nothing is. And he doesn't ask if his hunger is a sign of some god's disfavor. To have a natural consciousness--is it just a dream of Western Man? Could such peace exist internally? Are our interior discussions a result of civilization? Is the education of civilization therefore psychotic, or psychosis-promoting?

Many times in my poetry I have sought the Zen moment of forgetting myself in nature, when there was no "word" for ocean. Here's an unpublished example, one of a very few poems written during my internship half a lifetime ago:

After Rain

After the thunderstorm’s crackling resonances
the air blinks once
and in the still, unoccupied space
the birds begin their chant
as if by signal
in the tall juniper.

There is a conspiracy among them
or between them and the sky.
Their bamboo bones
divine the air’s pulse
and news travels quickly
through delicate throats.

Their speech is not our speech
but as if one mouth were speaking;
it is not relief they feel
or joy as we know it
but crescendo, counterpoint,
what the proper sound is after rain.

I have other poems that more strain to enter into the moment than describe it, but they are usually not successful, as language breaks down into some unavoidable abstractions. After all, in my imagination, the Aborigine doesn't think, "Kill lizard"--he kills the lizard.

I don't want to go Tom Sawyer on my audience, but 60 people come here each day to read something, whether my latest blog or something in the archives; that not one would comment on my brush with death puzzles me. There, I said it again. And if I were to die, would I be missed artistically? Would my essays, poems, ramblings, unpublished books, songs, CDs, the whole enchilada--would anyone miss them? Or would only my loved ones be tempted to read or listen because it reminds them of me the way I look at photographs of my late daughter, Rachel. Speaking of which, I broke my rule again. Here's the first poem I've written about her death:

On Rachel’s Death

Foam rolls like lava
down the dark rock islands,
waterfalls of seawater,
seafalls of saltwater
down the dark rock,
past the phalanx of gulls
standing motionless
in gray and white,
the colors of my beard.
An old one limps, his yellow
foot more crooked than
this line. I used to joke
that you gave me
the most white hairs.

The ocean sobs at how you died
like Marilyn with her panties on.
These details are what police write,
like the man with the red flag in his pocket
supervising sand, how your hair
was red.

(I know I promised to forsake poetry, and I have for the most part, but sometimes an exception bubbles through.)

I suppose my death would provoke as little comment as my near-death did. It's a big world out there, and the craft of writing earns a smaller and smaller audience. My thanks to whomever reads this, and no, you don't have to comment on my near dying. It's moot now that I'm alive. (Or is time past present in time present?)

1 Kilorat,



  1. Anonymous12:11 PM PST


    The occasion of your near-death has been greatly exaggerated.

    Of course you're the psychiatrist, but more fundamental to me than your the perceived lack of notice, is the fact that you crave notice as much as you do. I mean, you do dwell on your lack of notice. There is a maddening circularity in many of your blog entries that undermines the 'intrinsic value' of the entry itself. That is, much of your blog entry consists of the plaintive refrain, 'why aren't more people reading my blog entries?'

    I'm convinced we have to do things and let fame or notice accrue --or not-- as it will. Would I enjoy a wider audience for my own writing? Of course! Does the lack of an audience dissuade me from writing? God forbid no! A writer who turns his back on writing for lack of an audience was engaged in something less-than-writing. He was an unpaid hack looking for a paycheck --monetary or psychic. It doesn't matter. People derive pleasure from us when we succeed first at pleasing ourselves.

    Finally, you settle on a fascinating question, as you often do after the initial pining. What exactly is interior monologue? Neurosis? Does a wolf-boy engage in interior monologue, is it a human-social function? Will it ever be recordable so that it can be monitored, analyzed? Those are great questions.

    take care

  2. Thank you, Norm, for providing the attention I crave. I won't disqualify all of your comments just because I am a hack, nor do I take hack as anything but a compliment.

    As for my perceived lack of notice, in my perverse psychology no amount of attention is ever enough, though I could line my shelves with awards. This is why I want to be a hack: to make money, why I'm re-writing the ending to my novel again because Kathleen said it was "too abrupt."

    I hope I don't come across as merely whining. But the medium is the message: a personal blog, where I expose myself down to the milligrams of medications I take, creates a false aura, on the author's side, of intimacy. If I only commented on literature or mental illness from afar, I suppose the personal craving for evidence of contact would be much reduced.

    Like many things in my life I am ambivalent about this blog. I began it for sanity's sake; then to keep my writing in shape; and now I write it because it's fun and I have a small following.

    Since it's free to all who come and there are no editorial restrictions on those who wish to comment, I don't think it unreasonable to check in with the readers now and then. And if you truly think of me what some of your response indicates, the better action would have been for you not to respond at all. ;-) In doing so you feed the very beast you decry. .

    Thanks for caring, or not caring.

    And one more thing: Does my occasional pitch for attention irritate you because you wish it as much as I do?

    Also, your take on fame is plain wrong. Merit is not rewarded. Excellence is often punished. It's all about promotion. Publishing a book is nothing; selling it is everything.


  3. Anonymous2:28 PM PST

    Your writing is not the usual hack fare. Technically, what is a hack anyway? Someone who writes for remuneration?

    Shucks CE, I like you and would be absolutely mortified if you died.


  4. Anonymous6:12 AM PST

    ce, i don't think it's safe to assume that any of your readers are actually your fans.

  5. Vanity, all is vanity. And don't forget about Ozymandias. I have faced the fact that the world doesn't give a fig for me.
    What has perplexed me for a long time is how you want to make money off of -- writing! An intelligent man like you. Poetry, a book on Eliot -- guaranteed to bring in the big bucks. There is the novel you wrote, in which you seem to recycle every angle from previous best sellers, but those hacks who churn out the best sellers actually have a rare and special talent.
    If you want to make money take a course in bookkeeping and get a job. You are physically able to do all sorts of things. It'll feel nice to get a paycheck. And it'll take some pressure off your wife. I think a job will help with the depression.
    I suffer from depression, as did my father. As do many who daily plod to mundane jobs.

  6. What shall I say? "Fans," I admit, is a misnomer. Thanks, Norm, for caring. I would miss you as well, though our correspondence has fallen off of late.

    And Max, you are absolutely right. I am Don Quixote in my choices. FYI, my disability income exceeds my wife's income more than 2:1. And I work hard, and it is hard to live the solitary life of a writer without a paycheck. As for being an accountant, I can't sit more than three hours a day. It's hard to write lying on one's side. And whatever I made from that would not exceed my private disability.

    Perhaps I'll go back to work as a doctor anyway. I need the human contact, whatever the risk to my health. What you may not understand about my disability definition is that it is the consensus of many doctors without my pleading; my family had to plead with me to accept it.

    I have never accepted it internally--it's too much a blow to my self-esteem. Then everyone is impaired in some way--only some of us are smart enough to make a living off of it. ;-)

    As for suffering depression, I hope with all my heart you get the proper help. If you suffer as a bipolar I, I especially grieve for you. They are the hardest to treat.

  7. "it is hard to live the solitary life of a writer without a paycheck"
    You're not solitary -- you have a loving wife. (Could you survive in true "solitary"?)
    OK, be a doctor. Williams was a doctor, and wrote some pretty good poems. He treated the "bohunks."
    The point is, you are pursuing money from writing when it's not there. Thus there is an idle (or call it futile) aspect to your days. And you use the word "solitary" to refer to your state. Burton advised, "Do not be idle, do not be solitary."
    You do things -- take courses, have interests -- so you function. Inertia and fear have not yet immobilized you.

  8. But what kind of steak? That's crucial.

    I mean ... near death by t-bone is poles apart from near death by ribeye.

    Stay well, CE.

  9. LOL! It was one hell of a tough steak that I mistook (frozen) for rib-eye; for all I know it was pot roast, really. Call it "suicide steak!"

    And Max, if you were a long time reader of this blog, you would know how I have forced myself to act in the world when I was essentially psychotically depressed. Other people won't notice how paranoid you are if you don't let on. I won't let myself be immobilized by my illness. And furthermore, I have been paid perhaps six times or more in the last year for individual poems; so it's not pointless, just pointless from a standpoint of a living. But I do have this thriller to promote, and nothing would please me more than to sell a bunch of books as an intentional, though slightly literary hack. As my Christian mother said: "Money is one indicator of success."

  10. Been there, done that with the Hug...glad you survived it. Bet you got that steak at Safeway, right?

    I have been remiss, my plate full, you know? But it was good to see you writing again...and on a mighty tough subject. I think you captured it well but like Norm, knowing the circumstances, it is very difficult for me to comment. So, they didn't like your sob on the Gaz... didn't like my wail either...but then they weren't here for the storm, were they? : )

    I dressed up tonight to go out for First Friday gallery openings...December being my favorite...first stop was Art Explorers where we created quite a stir with Taylor falling into a table seizing. Needless to say, I missed the rest of First Friday, but thankful there were no injuries and nothing broken. Guess we didn't get our sobs and wails right this week, Craig, but we both dodged another bullet, didn't we?

    Hug your bride for me,


  11. Sorry, I was doing nanowrimo and have not been socializing. And, of course, I am not very social any way.



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