May 4, 2008:
Been thinking a lot about death lately. I wrote a poem earlier in the weekend called “Imagine my Death, Never Having Been to Connecticut” (go check it out, it’s below this blog post) and it’s a response, sort of, to my experience reading Donald Hall’s poetry—specifically his “Letters” to his late wife, poet Jane Kenyon. I also bought the book “Simply Lasting—Writers on Jane Kenyon”.
I don’t know, perhaps it’s the fact that I’m hormonal right now (always trying to categorize my dramatics via some concrete, outside explanation) and while that’s true, I am also just very quick to feel things. But anyone, reading over Hall’s poetry and bits on him and Jane’s life (Jane having died young from leukemia) I just kept thinking about it all: life, art, death, who we leave (what we leave) behind. Hall and Kenyon met when she was studying as an undergraduate and Hall was her Intro to Poetry professor. There’s this line in one of Hall’s “Letter” Poems (letters, meaning: poems he wrote to her after her death). The part of the poem Letter After a Year goes:
When we first spoke of marriage
We dismissed the notion
because you’d be a widow
twenty-five years, or maybe
I wouldn’t be able to make love
while desire still flared in you.
Sometimes now I feel crazy
with desire again
as if I were forty, drinking,
and just divorced.
You see, they met when he was 40 and she was in her early 20’s. They must have figured she would live on long after he died; however, obviously, they still married. I don’t know why their lives interest me so much—but I feel as though I have loved and lost Jane Kenyon myself, simply after reading her friend’s accounts of her and Hall’s almost too painful to read, poetry. I, once again, was sitting in Borders crying my eyes silly, reading of him waiting up all night as she slowly faded into death, or his post-death poems…I even feel like crying now—just thinking about such loss as this. And, as noted by the book “Simply Lasting” the loss spilled over onto the poetic community as well—losing such a wonderful female poet during her “prime.” She had just won a national award for her book “Let Evening Come” when she fell ill with cancer.
Anyway, my point is, I don’t understand why I care so much about these peoples’ stories. Of course, I shouldn’t question it; I should just be grateful—to feel things deeply, hormones aside.
I drove home, crying. If only I could know everything there was to know about life, right now, in my early 20s—but what else would I be able to do? Nothing. I can only love those around me, try to pursue an honest goal, enhance others’ lives and take each day as a gift. Another poem by Donald Hall really struck me today—I mean, I read it and just about wanted to crumble in tears or make love or climb a mountain…something…but with someone else; what purpose would it be to experience joy or sorrow, alone? (more on that point later, but first, the poem):
In June’s high light she stood at the sink
With a glass of wine,
And listened for the bobolink,
And crushed garlic in late sunshine.
I watched her cooking, from my char.
She pressed her lips
Together, reached for the kitchenware,
And tasted sauce from her fingertips.
“It’s ready now. Come on,” she said.
“You light the candle.”
We ate, and talked, and went to bed,
And slept. It was a miracle.
It was a miracle. Yes. I can see that. I had to go home soon after that poem—I had spent way too long crying in public, and that poem just about did me in.
I feel torn, you see. I envy Hall and Kenyon…though I don’t think I could do that: commit my life to one person. But what of death? Of the dying? Our dying? Perhaps I’m plainly naïve, don’t know yet what to think of love and devotion—however, I just feel like there’s too many people to love. So many people I want to love and share moments just like this with. And I admit it—here, in this myspace blog—for the first time, that yet—I even want to experience moments like that with men and women. To me, people are just people—no matter what sex they happen to be.
This is where my whole worldview goes against the grain. What of family, marriage? What about, when we are on our deathbeds and have not been married, do not have a husband or wife, children, to surround us? Where is that idea of home? I guess we can only be lucky enough to have many dear friends.
I think, deep down, my fear of loss, of death, keeps me from getting too close to people. Oh sure, I want to be close to many people—I want to love people, truly—but what of this intimacy like Hall and Kenyon’s? What am I to do with my love for so many, even unconventional love? And is it love, what one defines as love, devotion?
Is it selfish, really, this longing to be a part of something, a marriage? When it comes down to it, is it actually fear of death that drives on into marriage, children, etc? Perhaps that is the case…perhaps that’s why I want to write—this idea of “carrying on” in the world after death via one’s work.
C. K. Williams wrote a poem (and don’t ask me the title, I’m too lazy at the moment to look it up—but it’s in his collection Love about Love) and he writes about wanting to write all of his ex-lover’s—the whole world—a poem. I feel like that always. I feel like I might explode if I can’t love everyone—but how could that be achieved, democratically? So, can I write the world — the whole world — a poem?
After reading the quite heavy (almost too depressing) poems by Hall about his grief…I looked out the window and there as a young girl skipping outside—she had on the most brilliant Kelly-green goulashes…she looked like she was having quite the time. I wanted to join her—wanted to shake some of this grief and worry I had inherited from the poems and just skip around, dancing with my shadow. I imagine she was feeling the same euphoria I felt as a kid when I would swing on the swings, leaning my head back, watching the world, skyline, tumbling. I ache, too, for children sometimes. Again, I find ways to attribute this to a) fear of death and b) hormones. But really, how simple she looked, happy in not knowing anything but that she was going to live forever.
I don’t even know where I am going with this—so many topics. I sat down, after arriving home, and started drafting a poem. The poem, in its rough, drafted stages right now, (I’ll let you know when I finish it/post it) explores the idea of where I am in life. Who I long to love uninhibitedly, who I think about when making love to myself, though I try and pretend it’s not him—or her, or maybe it’s some version of myself—imagining a scene in nature, together—feeling the beauty of the mountain, together—climbing toward climax….But God, is that possible? I am so naïve. I know nothing. And I couldn’t really love this person, or that person, how they would want me to love them–because I love too much, too deeply, too many. And they never know it, they never see this love—because perhaps I just channel it into my work. Anyway, the poem (as of now) kind of concludes with the idea that, perhaps we want monogamy, to live in another being’s mind—eternal…that is, until they die—until we die. Who will ache for me after I am gone? Is that what desiring intimate companionship is about?
Still, I want to wake up some morning, you there—watching me arrive from dreams.
But—there are so many “you’s” to deal with—I am impossible to love—impossible to grieve.
It’s all down to hormones.
Remind me not to go to grocery stores at times like these—too many cute babies cooing and smiling. Too many lovers. It’s like food—consume, be in love, forget about our mortality, get full on good emotions.
Sex-Death, that’s all we talk about, really.