Poem: The Anti-Climax of Radical Freedom #NaPoWriMo

“But can you imagine a worse fate for your declining years than being read aloud to by Simone de Beauvoir?” ~Elizabeth Bishop

Other people were Sartre’s idea of Hell,
but Elizabeth Bishop’s idea of Hell was Simone de Beauvoir.
And somehow these three, brimming with radical freedom
and unconventional relationships, illuminated my way
to my own path of mediocrity and obscurity punctuated
by poor, if unconventional, choices in lifestyle and relationships.

From their inspiration, I was driven to write sporadically,
love without enthusiasm, and live quietly on the fringes
of a friendly but disinterested community surrounded
by an interested but hostile society of blame and recrimination.
In some unjustified fantasy, I sometimes imagine that Sartre would
approve of me or that Beauvoir might wish me greater freedom.
Elizabeth Bishop might mourn my dim light but not think it a disaster.

But still, I imagine myself in their shoes, standing on a balcony
overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery before writing in a cafe
on the ground floor. And here I am, just like them!, sitting with my lover,
writing in a notebook, drinking Beaujolais, and munching quietly on a fresh galette.
The words neither flow nor drip but must be pried out, singly, and with great effort.
But still, you can feel the energy, can’t you?, where fertile minds spawned the
great works, and I have spawned faint evidence of mental effort, in their shadow.

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Poem: The Epistemology of Indifference #NaPoWriMo

I hadn’t really noticed
You had stopped calling
Or coming around
Until a mutual acquaintance
Mentioned you were struggling
With unspecified issues.

I was curious, or course,
But didn’t really ask much
Or follow up in any way,
Because I have other things
weighing on my mind.

I don’t worry too much
about your health,
job security or children.
I haven’t checked to see how
your business is doing.
I am confident your life is flourishing,
Though it sometimes seemed like disaster.

No, I’ve forgotten that I once relied
heavily on your trust and confidence
while fretting constantly over your
well-being and safety. When I have
some success or crushing failure,
I no longer immediately think to call you,
at least to the best of your knowledge.*

*Apologies to Kenan and Kel in Good Burger.

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On the Disastrous Art of Losing (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

Kisa-GotamiOn our first meeting, she
Described me as a “near Buddhist,”
Meaning, of course, that I had
The ascetic qualities of a monk.
 
And it was true that Siddhartha
Helped me lose my appreciation
For things. You learn first that
Attachment is suffering.
 
But Elizabeth Bishop was more
On my mind. Like her, I had
Lost things every day, and
Most of them didn’t matter.
 
We all get practice losing things,
Of course, and we learn it isn’t
A disaster; lives are nothing
More than crude or elegant mandalas.
 
Everything will be wiped away,
And there is no use torturing
Ourselves with excessive hand-wringing,
Longing, covetousness, or desire.
 
Push on, let it go, they’re only things
After all, and the universe continues
With no pause. And still, I sit
Thousands of miles away
 
Thinking of you.