WHO

Image result for hermaphrodite to renaissance painting

Is there a female equivalent to me?
What would she look like? Who is she?
When I was a child, I painted in a smock.
In school I put ink on a printing block.

Was I a girl when I first wrote poetry?
When I was a young man and cut my hair
And found a job, no one was there.
If I were shy would she dance with me?

If I ran down the leafy avenue
With everyone getting out of work, would she pursue?
Would she chase me-who-is-really-her, if she knew?
Would she follow me into the evening until the moon
Covered by clouds and serene, came into view?

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8 Comments

  1. J said,

    September 5, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Several of your recent pieces have really interested me. You seem to be stepping back and looking at your work/way of working anew? I try to keep that process ongoing, but always seem to have to be shocked back into it from time to time.
    Is there a (complementary sex) equivalent? Twice I’ve worked with other poets who were so precisely attuned to the same source as I that we seemed to fall out of ordinary time. Strangely, they were both long distance—no physical love was made, but every word was written down. I won’t welcome that degree of auterity again, but I must allow for the possibilty that one will tend to have far more of one than the other—inspiration, and the resulting, fully realized work—or requited passion. I hate to hear myself saying this, hoping it’s just sour grapes, but—what if? What if being wholly dedicated to poetry means that romantic love is sort of a game we play with ourselves to keep the springs flowing—but eloquent loneliness is the way we keep them clear?

    Also—What if she simply wore her beauty on the inside, and wasn’t pretty enough to catch your eye? Do you suppose that has ever happened?

    Anyway, I look forward to more. This is good stuff!

  2. thomasbrady said,

    September 5, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    J,

    I don’t think it’s possible to wear “beauty on the inside” any more than it’s possible to do a true, in-the-world, heroic action on a sudden moment— in one’s mind. Beauty always exists in view. Except if we do an heroic action and it is told to someone else. Poetry.

    Lyric poetry and love, I am becoming more and more convinced, are the same thing. So yes, long distance love and poetry the very same.

    We are attracted to two kinds of beauty: natural and human-made. Physical beauty is largely given to us by nature; poetry is how we add speech of beauty to the beauty of the person.

    And to think of it very broadly: what is life? Reproduction. Without reproduction, there is no life.

    And how, the next question, shall reproduction be guided?

    Beauty.

    Simple reproduction of life would get stale after awhile, so reproducing beauty becomes the essence of life.

    The evolution of beauty.

    And how shall creatures best reproduce? By two criteria: by sight (physical beauty which is understood immediately) and speech (poetry which unfolds in a slower and more conscious manner and supplements the merely physical, in keeping with beauty expanding and qualifying itself in a more nuanced manner—by which life knows itself as life.)

    Yes, I did become fearful that I was too obsessed with purely romantic poetry. Was I writing the same love poem over and over again? “O beautiful woman, how I do love thee!” This will get boring very quickly. I’m aware that I need to “mix things up”as much as possible. But in love we obsess about a thousand things—we imagine what the other imagines, helplessly and desperately. We yearn infinitely. So this torture provides endless food for the love poet. To keep from becoming too depressed, I did reflect that the divine Mozart and his piano concerti, of which I’ve been listening to religiously, has a sameness: he keeps writing the same (lovely) piano concerto again and again. And what’s wrong with that? Happy genius cannot worry too much about being new. If one finds beauty, one should celebrate and not break the template. Even happy genius has limits.

    T.

    • J said,

      September 6, 2016 at 12:24 am

      Gracious! That’s a lot of content for one comment. I have thought about beauty so much over the years. Being female means the whole concept is scary, risky, fraught.

      I used to try to express my esthetic self by my appearance. It only partially worked. I don’t know that I ever attracted more attention from good people than I would have otherwise; I certainly attracted a lot of creeps who felt they were entitled to my attention. In the end, I buzzcut my hair. That was years ago. Few of us stay physically pretty as we age, but I still clean up pretty nice. It just isn’t going to happen in public.

      My late partner, a poet, storyteller, playwright, all-around belletrist, was in treatment for brain cancer by the time we met in the flesh. He had a surgical scar on his head, his face was puffy and sunburn-pink from radiation, and he had put on a massive amount of weight because of the high doses of steroids he was on. I literally did not recognize him from photographs. As soon as he saw me and smiled, though, he was beautiful, and the room was filled with light. Now when I see a big huge Dad-shaped man with very little hair, it’s all I can do to keep from turning around and following him down the street. (By the way, he already had four grown children, so reproduction was covered for both of us!)

      Maybe those two paragraphs put together show what I mean by wearing beauty on the inside?

      And yes, do I ever understand what it feels like to wonder if one is just writing the same poem over and over. I was once married to a painter, and it always annoyed me that he could do endless variations of the same drawing, and each page would be treated like something original. Composers are permitted variations on themes. Poets seem to be held to a different standard of originality. Do you suppose it has to do with how disembodied the final product of poetry is? In the end, I don’t care; I go on composing my side of a conversation between lovers. That’s the magic. It’s blissful, and it never seems to end. And pausing, reading series of poems at a later date, they aren’t the same at all. One never sets foot in the same river twice.

      As for the ultimate value of romantic poetry—for me, obviously I don’t rely heavily on embodied love. I never rejected it, and it has happened at times, but if it comes down to whether I draw from the body or the soul, my decision was made before I was born. I’m more John of the Cross than Bukowski, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for the thoughtful response!

      • thomasbrady said,

        September 7, 2016 at 8:39 pm

        J,

        Here’s something W.H. Auden wrote in a poem which I read many years ago and it always kind of stayed with me:

        “Love requires an Object, But this varies so much, Almost, I imagine, anything will do. When I was a child I Loved a pumping-engine, Thought it every bit as Beautiful as you.”

        T.

        • noochinator said,

          September 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm

          The Auden poem is titled “Heavy Date”:

          https://www.poeticous.com/w-h-auden/heavy-date

        • noochinator said,

          September 8, 2016 at 8:58 am

          The final stanza of “Heavy Date” reads:

          When two lovers meet, then
          There’s an end of writing
          Thought and Analytics:
          Lovers, like the dead,
          In their loves are equal;
          Sophomores and peasants,
          Poets and their critics
          Are the same in bed.

          • J said,

            September 8, 2016 at 6:27 pm

            The main thing is, when you are with someone, do they make your thoughts swirl about like mad? That’s what does it for me.
            I don’t work the Thought and Analytics end of things much, in any event!

            • noochinator said,

              September 9, 2016 at 11:24 am

              “The main thing is, when you are with someone, do they make your thoughts swirl about like mad?”

              I love it!


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