“Still, we ignite anyway,
becoming love in
a time of fire, almost
touching our lost
fingers in a collapsing
swirl of sparks—”
–from Brendan’s poem “Love in a Time of Fire”
I’ve been sitting on these words, so many words, and I have been lost on them and yet breathing them for too many seasons. Brendan’s poem above unblocked me, so here goes a start to what I am centering around:
It’s Just You. And a Pulse. And breath.
Carl Jung said
“The highest and most decisive experience of all…to be alone with one’s own self…whatever you choose to call the objectivity of the psyche…the patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.”
I have been spending the last several months to maybe even since last winter when I wrote an essay about a little black flower, Papa Hemingway, and the circles we center around and travel and leave lost footsteps around. Here’s a clip:
“…Walcott’s old and tired voice deep in my own chest it seemed as he read: ‘I broke my own heart too. It’s broken and gone…you were my little black flower…’ And just like that, breathing was suddenly harder to do. My throat hurt, my eyes stung. I stopped walking. I stood there on the sidewalk staring into a sort of what I call a “shiver” of what was keeping me—a glimpse. Emotions rolled to the surface and my heart continued a forgotten ache. That line, that one line (I bit my glove off and replayed the audio) “I broke my own heart, my little black flower…” The tears were a relief and I walked home with a hole in my chest. I replayed it over and over, pacing the warm wood floors, an eagerness growing in my body….”
Later in the essay I wrote “love doesn’t exist when it cannot get in or out-what keeps you are the black petals surrounding your center–and those petals are what you had left out of all that you had and lost , that kept you going.” –They are the pieces of you you spent your life giving away, letting, and taking from, cowering from yet hovering over your gutted pearl someone took from you and threw into the ocean, leaving you the shell sucking up silence like the ocean–an emptiness you would forever try to fill, your identity and worth words others use freely towards their own foundation. You spend a lot of time losing yourself in what you thought you would be versus what you had become, and then that black flower dies and blooms again wild and new, into what you are becoming–constantly becoming. I am my own Black Flower. We all are.
I thought I had to find love from someone to fix this. To be the something that would pull the noise I am into notes. But love never belonged to me as my own, so I put it in a box-designed, painted, framed and absolute–so absolute that I couldn’t fit inside it right–loose in all that room. I thought love meant something was wanted from me that I couldn’t part with because there were so few pieces left. I was too small for what I thought love was. I thought I had to do something to have it, to feel it, to give it back to be pleasing. You had to earn it, circling that center I couldn’t see or bare to look at, too caught up in what I had been prescribed to look at the center, that black flower’s honey: me. I wandered and wandered with “love me, love me” on my lips-not desperate and sad, but with a weird eagerness-a hunger, a speeding pulse, a quickening breath. I wanted love notes and grenades just in case. I couldn’t stop to look into the self, into light and dark. Instead I squeezed with my fists so that I could hold it, keep it like a lightning bug aglow in my palm “here, here I am…” opening and closing the tightening fist. And that fist was in my stomach, starving out hunger. A hunger to be seen, witnessed. My breakdown saved my life, as strange as that sounds. The breaking down of everything-to where you are just a body, and a pulse, and breath–caused a fear so big I couldn’t fight it, so I…let it. And in allowing something to just do what it does, I began my own indestructible foundation built on the black petals of letting me witness myself- the destruction, the death, and the awakening; the pain, the shame, and coming into myself, accepting the beautiful and the fucked up. I circled without knowing I was, even deep in the disorder around books and medical studies and scribbling out flashbacks, and I think it was my attempt, subconsciously, to keep myself from disintegrating. I was so terrified I’d lose my grip again on reality, and I knew I couldn’t do that again. I would not survive.
I have spent so much time the last two years circling around that black flower I couldn’t see but could feel, not knowing what it was but I followed it. I found it in the blue hour on winter mornings, walking in my boots in the early quiet hours, Bon Iver in my headphones, moving me. I was starting to pay attention. Everything cycled–my drawings, my stories, my memories and memoir vignettes, even the poems-all of them circling around themes I connected when I printed them out and kept circling and underlining and highlighting the same words and connections like code.
I found it in the geometry of nature, the sudden surprise of the beauty of a puddle in spring reflecting telephone wires and the sound of it trickling into the gutter–I actually stopped like a child that late morning walking, enchanted. It was like a painting. Everything was starting to come in like that-waves of sensory shocks, but good shocks, as if I’d never seen the world before.
Circling around the themes, all these repeating words and ideas and emotions, only made me notice even more how all the writing I had been doing over the past several years were snapshots of me painting a narrative I needed, having dissociated and vanished out of my own. They were true to my memories and reasoning and feelings, but all of it–every single poem, essay, vignette–was missing a truth I felt myself gravitating towards. And that was me, this tangible woman, witnessing myself and accepting with no equivocations. I was not writing my reality, my present, myself that was the fist uncurling in my gut into a palm facing up. I was not writing about the design, the journey, the fucked up shit in my head I had to come to terms with and be alright with. Maybe I was too deep in recovering that I couldn’t, so I wrote what I could, I wrote my story–what I remembered, what I saw, what I felt, what I did, what they did-and that became my indestructible foundation. It was writing that helped me stand and move forward, pushing and pulling, fighting and watching, and a sort of circling embrace around small parts of myself as I collected them, examined them with curiosity, and decided without passion but with a knowing instinct, which pieces I would keep, and I began to collect these treasures. My precious metals. My iron center of the black flower–I am my own black flower. We are light. We are dark. And these polar opposites with the exact same properties are the same, yet neither. As time goes on, as I keep one foot in front of the other, I am finding more peculiar, stranger things than I’d ever imagined–yet they fit me. I am not a million little pieces and parts anymore, but this woman I choose every day to be. And she circles around light and dark, experiences life in steps, and then the emotions and reason that follows, and I feel a sort of coloring in me. I am moving and almost tangible, and that tangibility is awakening me, opening up the palm into my center, my black flower. I am hungry for life. But it’s gentle; it is unfolding and I am…letting it.
and Walcott reading Hemingway in Cuba at NYPL: