Friday, October 07, 2005

Ruined (A Poetic Fable)

Poetry has ruined me. More specifically, it has eviscerated the most cynical parts of me and left me split wide open like a wound requiring the most ethereal butterfly bandage one can imagine. It leaves me dangling in the winds of inspiration like a pair of old shoes tossed over telephone wires. It reuses the old junk I have long ago discarded into the emotional landfill that makes up who I am.

I traffic in the most lethal kind of poetry too – the kind that bubbles up from truth; the kind that makes me useless for the numerous sacrifices made hourly upon the altars of pop culture. It is a syllogism of the unearthly: truth is beauty and truth is poetry therefore truth and poetry are one. It is an unearthed rarified beauty discovered rather than made, the way wires pull radio waves out of thin air.

I sell poetry for food and the occasional cigarette – just the romantic ones – because it seems right to me that I live off romance in a macho, Hemmingway-standing-over-a-big-game-kill-in-Africa sort of way. The romantic sensibility has long become the vestigial organ of the twenty first century. I, for one, would love to change the basis for all commerce the way Richard Nixon in August, 1971 removed the gold backing of money. I would make poetry the basis by which all things are valued.

Sometimes I hand roll a couple of fresh fragrant haikus and inhale their warm delicate structure and natural flavor. I hope that a few syllables of haiku will lodge themselves into the wet mucous walls of my lungs to foster great big tumors of metaphor or alliterative coughing that would result in me hacking up a few juicy couplets which I could use somewhere else in my writing. In the mornings I would mix up a batch of sonnets and cover them with sweet refrains of tumbling verse, served with a few sprigs of villanelle poems on the side for breakfast. We would consume them together, drinking coffee then later play the “Howl” version of Boggle where the object is to find anagrams from the letters that start lines or phrases from Ginsberg’s great classic poem. On weekends I head out to do chores around the house so I go down to the hardware store and exchange a haunting blank verse epic for a couple of gallons of paint and the clerk is simply overwhelmed and starts to weep. “This is way too generous for just these two gallons of paint,” he says and provides me change in the form of a few ad hoc limericks.

Though this may strike you as odd in today’s world, and since poetry has ruined me, in this new world even hardware store clerks are nourished by poetry. The farmers who grow my food, the doctors who heal me, the teachers who instruct my children – in a ruined world poetry is like oil where people must line up and fill up their big SUVs with rhyme and alliteration and lyrics and meter. Where people line up now to give up hard earned money for random numbers, the quick pick would be changed to randomly select quotes from Shakespeare, Dickinson, Whitman or Ferlinghetti or Hughes or Chaucer. Poetry can ruin a world in ways that other things can only imagine.

A few years back, Death came to take my best friend who was sick and dying from AIDS. I wrote poems to the many hospitals he frequented to pay for all the MRIs and CAT scans; for the blood transfusions and hours in the ICU; for the nurses and doctors and physical therapists who all tried to heal him. I wrote poems to the pharmacies to pay for all the drugs he needed. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until my hand cramped; until I filled dozens of journals trying desperately to save his life. On that last night, when Death came to take my friend, I quickly wrote this and handed it to him:

New Day

Like the heroic quiet light
Of a sun that sets,
You looked me straight in the eyes –

Someday when our eyes lock again
When the brown from your eyes
Makes a haughty earth
Upon which I will take all my stands;

And when the blue from my eyes
Gives you gentle and earnest repose;

In this brand new place
We will talk of many things
How to make everything fresh again.

We will carry on important conversations
Of what we always thought heaven
Would be like
That will fill large wheelbarrows.

And everything we speak of
Will fit inside the wheelbarrows
With room to spare:

What I love most about you
And what you love most about me
And what remains lamely behind,
Draped over the heavy furniture
Of all the living that we did.

Poetry has ruined me and it seems to have ruined Death as well. The last I heard of him, he left my friend ashamed and crying and is now working in a garden center somewhere outside of Seattle.

She walks in beauty like the night. There are no fewer than one thousand things in this ruined life of mine to which I could apply this single line of Byron’s. I carry it with me with all the jealous verve of a newlywed. I cling to it tightly as I do my credit card or driver’s license. I fiddle with it in my wallet as I head into a local bar for a nightcap. This one line has got to be good for a small glass of sherry for sure.

M C Biegner


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It pretty much covers Replica related stuff.

10/11/2005 7:51 PM  
Blogger M C Biegner said...

Sorry, i'm not familiar with the reference. Can you explain the comment?

10/14/2005 10:05 PM  

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