I've been thinking about depression lately--maybe because Sylvia Plath's son committed suicide Monday. He was a marine biologist. Not a poet. Somehow suicide and art are so commonly linked, I wonder if he was artistic as well. So many of my artistic friends talk openly of their depressions. My less arty friends do not.
Some of my "not-arty" friends see depression as a weakness. Not a medical condition but rather a form of self-indulgence. Something you could cure by will alone.
My mom never really understood sadness. She thought it was something that should be easily fixed, and sad people angered her. She had a whole list of ifs she would say,
and each if was supposed to make you feel better when/if you were sad: If you were in prison, you would envy everyone outside, everyone free, and so imagine you are in prison and then imagine what you would wish you were doing if . . .
If you were unable to see, you would want so much to see . . . Look at the world with the eyes of one who has never seen it . . .
If you were unable to hear, . . .
if you were unable to walk or run, you would be wishing you could race across the green grass or walk out into the sun . . .
If you were unable to eat, you would imagine all the cakes and cookies, all the potatoes and peas and meats, all the flavors you might wish to eat . . .
If you were told you only had 3 days to live, you would wish you had lived when you lived . . .
I liked all these games. I especially liked living my last three days.
1. My friend was telling me a story the other night that made me wonder--it was about a woman who was terrified of flying. She had repeated nightmares of planes going down, herself beating on the escape door, the wind gushing in and sucking her out to the open sky. Finally, when she was in her mid-forties or so, she had to take a business trip. And sure enough, the plane ran into trouble and managed an emergency landing . . .
No, the exit doors were not opened, but the experience came close to replicating the dream. The woman said she should never have given voice to her fears, her nightmares . . .
2. My devout Catholic friend tells me you must never be too happy. Never too sad. And never-ever give voice to your happiness. Or to your sorrows. Because soon, God will punish you for being too happy. And you know what He did to Job.
(Sometimes she says this differently. She says--soon the other foot will fall. Just as night follows day and . . . Now that is a little easier to hear.)
It's an odd thing, but for no religious reasons, I share her fears. I am always afraid to say life is good, or to brag of good news. And I feel ungrateful saying life is bad.
But do I think as she does? That words are somehow like curses?
3. I have another friend who was always afraid her husband would leave her for some young sweet thing. For years she told me this fear. For years I saw her as so happy happy in her marriage. And her husband, too. Yeah, well, you know how this goes. We all do.
But what I wonder is, was it the power of suggestion? Or did she know something. If a man is repeatedly told, one day he will leave, does it become a prophecy?
I was thinking about a distant cousin of mine who lives in Napa. This woman lives in the middle of a grape vineyard--a huge vineyard in the midst of hundreds of acres of grapes. But what impressed me wasn't just the scenery. It was, rather, that she seemed content. It occurred to me that I haven't met that many contented people, and I don't think I have ever met a contented writer. I keep wondering if it's even possible.
After all, I am always unhappy if I'm not writing. And when I am writing, I am not finished yet, and so I am wanting to write more and finish. But I never ever want to be finished because then I am not writing.
And there is always some doubt. What if I am only imagining that what I'm writing is really worth writing? And who can say what is worth, for what it's worth, and if worth is worth anything?
Today I went slogging through the muddy paths in the woods. It's easy to avoid the mud, but there's something nice about the paths no one else walks on. What a day. So many birds singing, so many choruses all at once. But looking at my shoes afterwards, I was reminded of one of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood . . .
I was in fifth grade, and I had been sent home a few times already for being "out of code"--wearing the wrong clothes. Once I wore shorts under my skirt. Another time I was wearing what my Mom called a shift. It was some kind of dress that didn't shift far enough down my legs. So the day I came in wearing red tennis shoes, the teacher called and asked my mom to bring my brown school shoes. My mom was indignant, but she brought those shoes, all wrapped up in a brown bag. She didn't warn the teacher that I'd worn them to the barn that morning, and they were covered with cow manure.
My mom just smiled when I slid them on and walked into the classroom, leaving a little trail of cow turds as I walked.
I love spring. One of the things I love most--the peepers. They were singing away in the afternoon yesterday--there in the muddy leafy "ponds" that will soon be mosquito (frog food) breeding grounds before they dry out. Yesterday I went from peeper pond to peeper pond, watching as they slipped into the water, the circles spreading above them in the black water. But there was this one giant brown frog in one pond (not peeper-like at all) that was swimming around and looping upside down--exposing his pale belly flesh.
I kept wondering about him. He looked as if he hadn't thawed out all the way yet. And he didn't peep, he glugged and garbled, his legs not able to propel him down but rather moving him in slow, helpless circles. Maybe there was something wrong with his liver, my friend suggested when I told her about the peeper-life.
Spring Peepers make glucose in their livers. The glucose is like an anti-freeze that is circulated through their vital organs in winter. The other (less vital?) parts of the body do freeze.
I'd never really thought about a frog having liver failure.
Back from vacation, from Berkeley to the real world . . .
(There is something comforting about reality after all, and something nice about everything surreal.)
And which would I pick? Poland, Ohio or Berkeley? folks ask with a smirk. (Californians have a way of gloating, don't they?)
Let me ask you . . .
Which will it be? Fried chicken or sauteed parsnips? Late spring or sun/wind-scorched days? Pantsuits or skin tight jeans? SADS or skin cancer? Mansions for $300,000? (Or in Youngstown for $100,000) Or 3 bedroom homes for 1.5 million bucks and up? A life that ebbs and flows or one that rushes and surges--the people all caught up in the rush, racing past like salmon going upstream. Oh I wonder. . .
Do you prefer to slow dance? Or spin like a dervish? Do you think of your life as the color and song of dusk? Or do you live in neon 24-7?
Do you live with a chip on your shoulder? A sense of apology, as if something isn't ever quite right? (It never is, is it?)
Or do you think everyone wishes they were you--or at least living where you are? Yes, it's so. If only everyone were there, if only, . . . then they might know how bright life really is, like a flash bulb . . .
Don't blink. Keep your eyes open. You might miss it.
I love the new Barn Owl Review. Even just flipping through it--you can't help but get sucked into it.
I have a habit of reading the last and first parts of poems. I'll just give you a last and first to show what a mean. The last is first -- and is from Greg Rappleye's poem, "Carnivorous,"
A fight ensued, my wife asked me to leave and within a year became my ex-, though I kept the grill and a recipe for chipotle rub, and could give them to you, if your marriage is troubled, if you truly hunger, if you still wish.
An opening line from Laura Madeline Wiseman's "My Imaginary Cock,"
My imaginary cock and I pair up for a scavenger hunt.
We went to see Cirque de Soleil last night. It was amazing. And the Chevy Center in Youngstown is a perfect place for it--not a bad seat in the house. At the same time I was slightly disappointed because we'd seen them in Pittsburgh where the show was far more of a show. I felt like we got the Youngstown version, the abridged edition. The first half was over in a blink. The different acts were cut down to a minimum, fewer people jumping or twirling or balancing this way and that, more solo acts and fewer duets and so on, and there wasn't that overwhelming sense of entering another world. I wasn't sucked into the theme, the story, the drama . . . Instead I was just amazed by every single performer.
I suppose in some ways it was nice to be able to focus on one or two flying men or women at a time.
And I'd go again tonight if we had tickets. I'm a sucker for acrobatics and circus tricks and magic. As a poet, I always feel so limited. All I have is words to play with, to dance and twist and turn and try to balance in the air . . . And somehow they just don't do it all.
The new Sentence has arrived. I love Sentence! I love the title--I often think of sentences as an issue when I write. I tend to use too many dependent clauses. I think in terms of if and because and suppose. And then I leave out the second half of the if. Who cares about the then?
I love to let phrases dangle out in space, alone and unmodified. Those fragments that were once X-ed off my pages now claim their own space triumphantly. Go ahead, say I'm not a sentence! they say.
Maybe it's the philosophy and religious studies student in me. How I lack conclusions to all my thoughts. I do wonder, though . . .
Is the world a declarative sentence? A simple is? Or a compound sentence, both this and that. Or is it either/or, but not neither/ nor? Or is there a because, or only a maybe? A perhaps? Is it hanging out there like an illusion, a ghost, a cloud, a passing thought?
Is there a beginning, and if so, then is there an end? If there is a big bang, is there also an infinite silence?
I like the idea of reincarnation, but each day I experience entropy. Usually it happens at 4:00 in the afternoon when my mind blanks out, and I wonder if I will ever have an interesting thought again. It's too early for dinner, too late for hope and ideals, and it is neither afternoon nor evening, neither a dark time nor a light time . . .
That time when everyone wonders if they will ever make love again. And I know they won't.
Nin Andrews is the author of 5 full collections of poetry and 5 chapbooks. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. She keeps a literary blog and a blog of physics comics.