Guilt Theater

It was a masterful piece of guilt theater, you have to admit

— I held out just long enough before I cracked;

I gave just the right weight to the confession,

spent just enough time on obfuscations and denials.

 

You threw in a few unexpected twists, but I handled them adroitly —

no stranger to this performance.

 

Next time it’s your turn.

 

Each of us is always performing,

whether we mean to or not.

We can’t help it.

 

Not acting is the worst acting of all.

 

Know your role, play it to the hilt,

or you may find there is no one behind the mask you wear.

 

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The Well of Silence

Sometimes I want very much to descend

down the well of solitude

to splash soundlessly into the cool, dark waters of silence

to bathe myself in it, as one treading water at the bottom of a well

in the stone-damp, inviting dark

and wash the sweat and grit and sunburn from my soul

cleanse myself, far below the tiny dot of light at the mouth of the well

float there, serene, alone, undisturbed

until my anxieties, my doubts, my neverending second guesses,

dissolve and sink away,

down there,

in the well of silence,

where no one can find me or reach me.

13a

Housebreaking

Are you quieter when you walk sideways?
Do people hear you less?
Do you make less noise? 

Many's the time I've slipped sideways through people's society -- 
like slipping through their houses when
there was no house
in broad daylight
unseen, unknown, unheard

like a noiseless ghost whose story no one knows -- 
- or ever bothered to ask.

 

Time by Flowers

You can truly lose yourself in the tulips, she says
— and the tulips go away
and the peonies come,
and the peonies are going
and the delphinium is coming in
and the delphiniums go
and the dahlias are there.

I love that flowers can tell time.

And that they bring back so many memories or emotions from a time gone by.

Hot and cold at the same time

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?

— Emily Dickinson

Ladies and gentlemen, now I know what Emily Dickinson means here. It had been a theoretical sensation up to this point, merely abstract, something that I thought I might feel someday — but now I have felt it, and I know exactly what she’s talking about.

I’ve been working at reading poetry in a (somewhat) more dedicated fashion for the past few months, and I finally found a poet who took my head off: Sappho. Her writing has the clarity and jolt of the best moonshine, eloquence aplenty, and a direct emotional connection. She just might be my new favorite poet. I immediately inter-library-loaned a volume of her work, and will devour it when it arrives. This is poetry the way people always talk about it. Even in the modern world, there’s still a place for “the best words in the best order” — for universal human experiences distilled into unforgettable verse that changes you. Sappho knew what that feeling was like, too, and even though she was very different than I am — female vs. male, (apparently) not entirely straight vs. definitely straight, ancient Greek vs. modern American — I can still appreciate her poetry and the effects it has. And they may have found more of her stuff! Sappho, this one’s for you…and us:

Like the very gods in my sight is he who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
murmur in love and

laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit;
underneath my breast all the heart is shaken.
Let me only glance where you are, the voice dies,
I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, under-
neath my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are
muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me, fever
shakes my body, paler I turn than grass is;
I can feel that I have been changed, I feel that
death has come near me.

(from “Greek Lyrics”, p.25, trans. Richmond Lattimore, 1955, U. of Chicago.)