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Reading in end times

  • 19 February 2016

The poems began rolling in when I was chin-deep in the end of a relationship. I was miserable, but not succinctly or definitively miserable about the relationship's exact ending. Rather, I was dramatically miserable at an accumulation of losses — relatives, old friends, and old loves who had slipped and passed away over the years leaving roles that could not entirely be filled out again.

I was miserable yet I fluctuated between relishing the misery and keeping it together: eating 'clean', slashing through to-do lists, shaving my legs with pizazz. I only let the queen of weeping loose when I had an afternoon to spare.

And the poems peeked into my inbox, just a few at first, part of some chain-letter-style poetry project that a less miserable person might relegate to their trash.

I sent out Frank O'Hara's 'Having a coke with you' to someone, because although in this moment of life I was mainly having a coke with myself and my loose ends, the poem buffers a region in my romantic heart that is saccharine and soft. The poem is appealing, and this is about the limit of my bibliotheraputic creativity. Part of this email project's dictate was to forward on a poem that's changed you in some way. 'Having a coke with you' simply made me smile.

Documents entered my usually work-oriented email account saying 'I stumble over my words. I just don't know how to explain.' 'I am not done with my changes.' 'Nobody can buy my time absolutely.' '& the whole garden will bow.'

This project was, again, appealing. But it did not alleviate the sense of disorder awash in my life. I mean, how could it? What are you supposed to read when the trickle of things drains out your plumpness, your fullness? When the accumulation of disappointment leaves your skin a bit loose?

Redeeming oneself through literature seems up-itself and futile, really, when your body just wants to walk up to the wall and quietly bang its head against it.

A region of reality is untouchable by art. The one that's a bit close to the bone, where art seems frivolous, offensive, even. A lot of people think that to spend time on art is to take time away from the material difficulties of the day — and that if a day is not difficult to get through, you must be a prince!

This distrust of art is, I think, a fear of