it was dawning on me how uphill a poet's path was, and I confessed to her that if I had to be the choice between being happy or being a poet, I'd choose to be happy.
What hurts so bad about youth isn't the actual butt whippings the world delivers. It's the stupid hopes playacting like certainties.
Ten years, she's dead, and I still find myself some mornings reaching for the phone to call her. She could no more be gone than gravity or the moon.
I'd spent way more years worrying about how to look like a poet -- buying black clothes, smearing on scarlet lipstick, languidly draping myself over thrift-store furniture -- than I had learning how to assemble words in some discernible order.
Such a small, pure object a poem could be, made of nothing but air a tiny string of letters, maybe small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. But it could blow everybody's head off.
I lock all my scaredness down in my stomach until the fear hardens into something I hardly notice. I myself harden into a person that I hardly notice.
I'm bred for farm work, and for such folk, the only A's you get come from effort. Strife and strain are all the world can offer, and they temper you into something unbreakable because Lord knows they'll try -- without let up -- to break you.
I liked to call myself a poet and had affected a habit of reading classical texts (in translation, of course – I was a lazy student). I would ride the Greyhound for thirty-six hours down from the Midwest to Leechfield, then spend days dressed in black in the scalding heat of my mother’s front porch reading Homer (or Ovid or Virgil) and waiting for someone to ask me what I was reading. No one ever did. People asked me what I was drinking, how much I weighed, where I was living, and if I had married yet, but no one gave me a chance to deliver my lecture on Great Literature.
If we didn't read people who were bastards, we'd never read anything. Even the best of us are at least part-time bastards.
If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There's an initial uprush of relief at first, then-for me, anyway- a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren't yet operational.There's been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.
But what if I don't believe in God? It's like they've sat me in front of a mannequin and said, Fall in love with him. You can't will feeling. What Jack says issues from some still, true place that could not be extinguished by all the schizophrenia his genetic code could muster. It sounds something like this. Get on your knees and find some quiet space inside yourself, a little sunshine right about here. Jack holds his hands in a ball shape about midchest, saying, Let go. Surrender, Dorothy, the witch wrote in the sky. Surrender, Mary. I want to surrender but have no idea what that means. He goes on with a level gaze and a steady tone: Yield up what scares you. Yield up what makes you want to scream and cry. Enter into that quiet. It's a cathedral. It's an empty football stadium with all the lights on. And pray to be an instrument of peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is conflict, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair hope... What if I get no answer there? If God hasn't spoken, do nothing. Fulfill the contract you entered into at the box factory, amen. Make the containers you promised to tape and staple. Go quietly and shine. Wait. Those not impelled to act must remain in the cathedral. Don't be lonely. I get so lonely sometimes, I could put a box on my head and mail myself to a stranger ...
Having devoted the first half of my life to the dark, I feel obliged to rever any pinpoint of light now.
But it’s a neurological fact that the scared self holds on while the reasoned one lets go. The adrenaline that let our ancestors escape the sabertooth tiger sears into the meat of our brains the extraordinary, the loud. The shrieking fight or the out-of-character insult endures forever, while the daily sweetness dissolves like sugar in water.
If you'd told me even a year before...that I'd wind up whispering my sins in the confessional or on my knees saying the rosary, I would've laughed myself cockeyed. More likely pastime?Pole dancer. International spy. Drug mule. Assassin.I drive under a sky black as graphite to meet my new spiritual director...a bulky Franciscan nun named Sister Margaret, patiently going blind behind fish-tank glasses that magnify her eyes like goggles.
Few born liars ever intentionally embark in truth’s direction, even those who believe that such a journey might axiomatically set them free.
I think about the story of Job I heard in Carol Sharp's Sunday school. How he sort of learned to lean into feeling hurt at the end, the way you might lean into a heavy wind that almost winds up supporting you after a while.
The head can travel a far piece while the body sits in one spot. It can traverse many decades, and many conversations can be had, even with the dead.
Joy, it is, which I’ve never known before, only pleasure or excitement. Joy is a different thing, because its focus exists outside the self – delight in something external, not satisfaction of some inner craving.
Tomorrow! How sweet its prospects for a drunkard the night before. There is no better word. Before the earth hurls itself into sunshine, nothing is not possible.
Slurping these spirits is soul preparation, a warped communion, myself serving as god, priest, and congregation.
I loved the idea that looking at a painting or listening to a concerto could make you somehow transcend the day-in, day-out bullshit that grinds you down: how in one instant of pure attention you could draw something inside that made you forever larger
That bar also delineated the realm of sweat and hourly wage, the working world that college was educating me to leave. Rewards in that realm were few. No one congratulated you for clocking out. Your salary was spare. The Legion served as recompense. So the physical comforts you bouth there—hot boudain sausage and cold beer—had value. You attended the place, by which I mean you not only went there but gave it attention your job didn’t deserve. Pool got shot not as metaphor for some corporate battle, but as itself alone. And the spiritual comforts-friendship, for instance—couldn’t be confused with payback for something you’d accomplished, for in the Legion everybody punched the same clock, drew the same wage, won the same prize.
The American religion-so far as there is one anymore-seems to be doubt. Whoever believes the least wins, because he'll never be found wrong.
Just being out of the house with Daddy like this at Fisher's lights me up enough for somebody to read by me.
Being smart and rich are lucky, but being curious and compassionate will save your ass. Being curious and compassionate can take you out of your ego and edge your soul towards wonder.
Bad things are gonna' happen to you, because they happen to us all. And worrying won't stave the really bad things off. Don't make the mistake of comparing your twisted-up insides to other people's blow-dried outsides. Even the most privileged person in this stadium suffers the torments of the damned just going about the business of being human.
Joy, it is, which I've never known before, only pleasure or excitement. Joy is a different thing, because its focus exists outside the self-delight in something external, not satisfaction of some inner craving.
I have a completely addictive personality. Diet Coke is my last - God, I know people counting days off Diet Coke; I'm such a Diet Cokehead. Now I won't let myself buy it.
If dysfunction means that a family doesn't work, then every family ambles into some arena in which that happens, where relationships get strained or even break down entirely. We fail each other or disappoint each other. That goes for parents, siblings, kids, marriage partners - the whole enchilada.
Poetry is for me Eucharistic. You take someone else's suffering into your body, their passion comes into your body, and in doing that you commune, you take communion, you make a community with others.