A couple of weeks ago, this quote came across my twitter feed: “tears are just words waiting to be written”. Immediately I thought that if that were true, then in the last 4 months I have cried at least two best-selling-Pulitzer Prize winning LARGE books.
But then I remembered how long its been since I was actually successful at putting pen to paper, in a meaningful way.
I am pretty sure that last time I wrote a poem that I was happy/satisfied with and proud of was in late Spring 1997, the week before I left Cali/TJ for my first summer session at RPI. It was my last weekend with my friends and we were out and about, enjoying San Diego together “for one last time”. While we were waiting for another beautiful SoCal Sunset over the Pacific (man, I DO miss those!), we spent the evening strolling thru Sea Port Village and stopped at a little art gallery, not our usual type of thing, but hey, it was a sort of nostalgic night, so we were feeling adventurous.
It was at this gallery (I wish I remembered its name!) that I first noticed a painting I had never seen before in the back corner, almost seemed hidden, away from all other art, but it struck a cord with me. A strong one: I stood in front of it for what felt like an eternity, I studied every stroke of the brush, every angle of the scene and felt incredibly overwhelmed — a feeling that no piece of art ever had before, or since, and I had been a “fan” of art since I was a little kid (I “declared” myself a fan of Salvador Dali’s work when I was 8 or 9 years old, so art has always been a big part of my life and who I am. The piece was called “Looking Elsewhere”, by Malcolm Liepke (you can see this piece here: http://www.artbrokerage.com/Malcolm-Liepke) and all I could think about as soon as we walked out of that gallery was “I need a pen and paper!”…. I borrowed a pen from the girl at the coffee cart outside the gallery and grabbed a couple of napkins, and lost myself for a few minutes on a bench while my friends looked at me like I had just lost my mind, maybe I did, for a moment at least, but I didn’t care: I just HAD to write, right there and there, that second or I would not be able to do anything else for the rest of the night!
What came pouring out of me, without any thought at all and flowed so effortlessly was the last poem I have written since:
Looking Elsewhere, 1997
Looking elsewhere I have stood
Letting life pass me by.
Filled with sorrow disguised with laughter
I live dreaming of a good tomorrow.
Admiring happiness I rejoice in sadness.
Armed with reason I deny emotion.
My life runs by me
And I let it slip away.
But a mirror painted by a stranger
Showed me the right way.
The strokes of his brush displayed my spirit.
The essence of his art was submerged in my passion.
It was with the climax of visual ecstasy
That I discovered myself.
The exaltation of a poet’s soul
Filled my empty body.
The beauty of recognition
Made me reach the stars.
I have lived my first day.
Sure, I’ve put pen to paper a few times in the years since: in the stacks of sketchbooks and ‘travel journals’ I have accumulated in the last almost 20 years there are dozens of verses, half-started efforts, the rare randomly brilliant line, but nothing substantial has ever come from it, at least nothing that felt like it was simply meant to be written by me like that night in California. Since that night, I have “accepted” that I was simply stuck in a writer’s block rut and that it would eventually end. That I would eventually feel so much love, or happiness, or pain, or loss, that words would just come out flowing out of me again like they did that evening… but they haven’t.
Oh, there has been more than enough love and happiness and pain and loss since then that one would expect some meaningful poetry would have been born from all that my life has brought me thru in the last 17 years since that night. But nothing.
I sort of expected it actually, that it would happen suddenly, almost unexpectedly, and yes, somewhat effortlessly. After all, I started writing “poetry” when I was in 5th grade and I always thought of it as “easy”, something that just came to me naturally. Except that as I got older, and life and emotions became more complex, writing them became damn near impossible — even more so than speaking about them.
So, when I read that quote on my twitter feed last week, from a writer I follow, I began to think perhaps it was time to start writing … again. I mean, the last 4 months have certainly provided sufficient emotions to write about, love, death, loss, hope, devastation, disappointment, hopelessness, impotence, desire, friendship. An overwhelming barrage of emotions for sure, and an incalculable about of tears have flowed thru me, from me, and yet I have been incapable of writing about them, and this little under-140-characters post from a stranger seemed to be sort of pushing me to at least think about trying.
But that is something I have a general disinterest in doing: trying — don’t feel like even putting in half an effort, so why bother, right? So, no poetry. No writing — Hell, even this blog has been neglected more than a few times since I started in hopes of reigniting my inner writer’s flow.
And as I’ve been thinking about it more and more this week, I’ve sort of realized that that’s just not me: I don’t try… I just do. My whole life I’ve just moved from doing one thing I was good at to another, never really ‘trying’ anything. I either do or don’t do, it either flows naturally from me, or it doesn’t happen. Whether it was math, chess at 4 years old, sports, writing, drawing, everything – I just did it. There was never any trying at all. Do I even know what trying is? Do I want to know? Do I really need to “try” to write? No, I should just write, right? How else are all these tears supposed to become words on paper?
But, should I be expecting the writing to be in the form of poetry again? Perhaps painting has replaced words as my form of expression, but that has been on hold too.
Then, as I struggled to reconcile the initial ‘push’ I felt from that tweet with what I expect from myself to naturally occur, I read this list on Friday — ’83 things every man should do before he dies’ (http://www.esquire.com/features/bucket-list-0414). #18 struck me a bit:
18. Write a poem. Make it about whatever you’re feeling about whatever you’re seeing in your mind’s eye. A person. Someone you love. It’s a fucking poem; why waste it on anger or fear? That stuff is what prose is for.
So maybe prose is what I should be focused on, not poetry.
Either way, I know I need to write again. And I will focus on this blog to make this happen — so, expect more posts to keep coming, I hope.