A Bright and Sunny Post

December 13, 2007

I was riding the good old New York City Subway a few days ago when I came face to face with a scary looking character. This character was a man of average height and build, his clothes and his face both appeared slightly worn, and his eyes were swollen and about as red as his jacket. The jacket was old and too big for him. He had a beard, too, which needed a trim, and his hair had needed cutting two weeks ago. He looked tired and he looked beat and at the same time I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him snap or explode then and there.

This scary looking character was me. My reflection in the train window.

Part of the damage was done by insomnia. There’s really no describing the effects that prolonged sleeplessness can have on a person. The best explanation that I can come up with: it gives you a taste of insanity. Real insanity. Not pleasant. Insomnia bites my eyes.

The rest of the damage is less easy to explain. I don’t think it’s separable from the insomnia. It shows up with relative frequency, and is the result of an ongoing beating that I’ve unfortunately gotten a little too used to taking. This is the beating of artistic circumstance. I am a writer, and there’s no changing that. There’s no arguing against it, there’s no fighting it. There’s no being anything else.

But you’re often forced into being something else, into fighting and arguing and changing, even when you don’t have any real reasons to support such actions. At least until you “make it,” and maybe not even then, you’re forced into some other sort of vocation. And with that there comes some other sort of life. One very different from what you want and expect.

Even if you’re coming at the task from a more comfortable place, a place cushioned by financial security, or a place free of dependencies and distractions, or whatever, there’s always a cost. That is…if you want truth, if you need it, if artistry is a necessity rather than a skill or an occupation or a distraction or a therapy…there’s a cost. It’s an identity that you have to chase and then assume and then throw off and then chase again. It’s a constant process of disassembling and reassembling the most delicate and fragile pieces of yourself for an often unconvincing and unimpressive reason: simply, because it’s what you do.

I don’t mean to say that it’s not worth it. And, as far as I can tell, I’m not complaining. Really, I’m just expressing some thoughts, breaking some general “rules” that I never quite cared for in the first place.

I mention all of this only in preamble to what I am about to share: a poem I wrote a few weeks back that I can’t keep out of my head. Wrote it to help me crawl back from one of those brief descents into insanity.

The poem still needs some work. I think I know where but I don’t know how. Any readers with poetic predispositions…please feel free to offer suggestions. And the first person to come up with a good title wins a virtual pie, courtesy of Yesterday’s Salad.

The woman sleeps.
The night was good.
The cats lie quiet and the room holds dark, but
Something is at the man.

Sleeplessness cannot
This time be blamed.
Drink, tonight, has no allure.
That down-in-the-gut feeling,
That something misses,
Is at the man


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