For some reason this brings to mind Donald Hall’s “My Son, My Executioner”. Although, when your wife tells you you’re “worthless” then you’ve started dying before the birth of the baby, methinks, and unless she’s vindictive and hurtful herself, you’ve quite possibly earned it. There is a meaning buried in this line: “My pussy-willow ceased. The tiger-lily dreamed.” It has something to do with sex and affairs, with a pun or two involved I’m pretty sure. We know the story by now. Here is a quote from one of his biographies, that sums up his world back in 1951: “As he came into his own power and women responded to his intellectual and physical energy, he had found himself craving and hurting them. Afterward, when his head had cleared and he could survey the damage, he had felt intense shame. Then he would take pity on himself with gin and whiskey, first hating himself and then promising to reform. At such times he had no difficulty identifying with the Tempter, carrying hell with him wherever he went.” Riiight. By the 60s, nothing had changed except that the abuses, self- and outward-directed both, were taking a merciless toll, physically as well as emotionally. Thus, “worthless” probably was a word with some sting. Words like that sting most when you believe them yourself at some level. In 7th grade some kid, the school bully’s little pal, called me exactly that, and it did not sting, although it did incite an intense urge to pound the little creep’s teeth out. Discretion is the better part of valor, and for better or not, my memory of that eventuality includes a tagline marking it as fantasy. Too bad; he was an asshole and deserved dentures at age 12.
Well, the approach of a child is supposed to be a happy occasion. “Dread we our loves”? It seems this line can reach in a couple directions: Dread we the consequences of our affairs, and dread we the awareness of our end that our newborn child triggers, and dread we the dark underside of relationships, when the terrible truths of which intimacy awakens awareness can become weaponized. Here’s the reason I likely wouldn’t have gone out drinking with this guy: Power and intellectual and physical energy be damned if you use it to leave wreckage in your wake. Artistic and intellectual power is not a corollary of that kind of business. And it’s not out of fear of being the next casualty. I just don’t like it. Maybe I should have more pity for somebody like a deathbed Picasso: Among the very greatest artists in history, and with more than a few ruined lives in his wake as a result of his possessiveness and vindictiveness. From the account I've read, he was tormented by self-loathing at the end and terrified of what he thought he knew was waiting for him. Nah: You made your deathbed, now lie in it.
So, all right, I’m not in a receptive mood this morning for what is striking me as narcissistic whining. It’s just a mood. It’s raining outside. I’m going to go stand in it and let sky-water rinse this poem off of my upturned face.