We’re Ourselves in Spite of Us

MMM on the verge of 20, 18×24 in., oil on canvas (JMN 2015).

Not the selves we ordered, but the ones received. So it went with those that got us — the trick of not caring for who you be is handed down. Each tiny burden of wiped snot is a pair of shoulders for forebears to die on, paying forward the fight to bury them.

Occasionally I vent a spate of verbiage, as above, which I fancy has a poetry-like intensity and rhythm. Any effort, however, to pad the text with meter or rhyme blights it as poesy straightaway. Likewise, passing it off as free verse drives home my cluelessness as to how real poets make the decisions to break their lines just so.

Here, for example, are snippets from Louise Glück’s Poems 1962-2021, in which I’m currently immersed:

A beautiful morning; nothing
died in the night.
(“Otis”)

On a small lake off
the map of the world, two
swans lived. As swans,…
(“Parable of the Swans”)

Nothing
was exactly difficult because
routines develop, compensations
for perceived
absences and omissions. My mother…
(“Telemachus’ Burden”)

I do perceive in the following verses a certain logic in how syntax makes the lines fall and flow:

Therefore it will cost me
bitterly to lie,
to prostrate myself
at the edge of a grave.

I say to the earth
be kind to my mother,
now and later.
Save, with your coldness,
the beauty we all envied.
(“The Open Grave”)

Evident everywhere is Glück’s exquisite scruple in the art of punctuation. Her work stirs me often enough to respect; when it connects, it has what I can only describe as the feel of poetry, not doggerel or gussied prose, yet I’m not sure why.

A friend’s mother shamed her child for the normal bouts of illness youngsters suffer. Being under the weather garnered censure. That disdain dogs the child’s self care in middle age. Guilty relief dogged me when my own long-lived parents were at length gone. Gone too were the appraising looks and silences for a son well advanced in his own decadence. Came the spates.

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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