Diigo Links

Friday, January 19, 2007

I used to really identify with the beat writers like Bukowski, Kerouac, Burroughs, etc.. It's not that I no longer enjoy reading their stuff. It's just that I don't personally identify with it anymore. There's a big gap between us now.

I've been a little preoccupied with the word "wretched" this week. As in


Wretched: 1. of very poor quality or condition; 2. characterized by physical misery; 3. very unhappy; full of misery;4. morally reprehensible; 5. deserving or inciting pity;


I heard someone on TV use the word while talking about life in a far off war-torn place. But ever since I heard the word used in that way (with emphasis on the definition #5) I've been seeing wretchedness all around me. One thing the beats could do well is make the wretched beautiful, if difficult, to look at. They made all the worst attributes of people into some sort of noir cartoon. They tapped a keg of pathos and drank it all at once. They made us own the grotesque excess of the time.

And it's that excess and focus on the grotesque that both won the beats the attention they got and brought on their demise (or prevented them from being elevated to Steinbeck/Hemmingway/Woolf status). The lack of subtlety and sensitivity in every facet of beat literature wears me out, the same way Channel 10's back-to-back Simpsons episodes do, or Gilmore Girls/West Wing dialogue does.

Admitting all of this is difficult for me. It's eroding some part of my identity. I feel like I'm giving up my teddy bear or changing my religion or finding out I was baptised Catholic when I thought I was a Lutheran, such as happened to me this year. After all, I never was wretched. Lost maybe, adrift, but not wretched. Why it took me over thirty years to figure this out I'll never know.

Maybe this is the "growing up" that people always talked about when I was little. Too bad I still don't know what I want to do. And after you grow up, which way do you grow then? Or is it all about learning to shrink gracefully?

With some of this in mind, but mostly just a feeling that I'd lost something, I wrote the following in the kitchen.


I am not Charles Bukowski

I've gone soft
really really soft
all that beat
all that punk
all that, that I thought I had

what was hard and brittle
has cracked and gotten wet with real blood
my blood

it's a concern to have your blood walk and talk
it's a worry to leave yourself to everyone else

Now all that's hard in me is bones and nails and teeth.
They'll all yellow and soften too. (I'm padding my bones with more
softness the less I move, the less I do hard things
.)

And all this love that's turned my brain to mush, that's opened what
was closed, my heart and hardening arteries. And all this love that's
pouring through me, meringue-like, the loaves of my life, my pavlovas,
they'll pinken me.

And this when all I see around me screams and rends.
predation and heat reign and reward rigid minds, the hard heart, the darker colours.
I see terrible things persist.

This is a worry one can only lay at the feet of a God
something so hard, so wet with blood, so full of love
as to be impossible

Instead I take the kisses of my cherubim
and the best love of a strong woman as daisy chains
which maille gently my concerns
Filigreed and adorable armor, quite unlike the shell of a crab,
allows me to walk forward, always hearing the rustle of flowers.

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