You Fit into Me like a Hook into the Eye

I’ll have to admit I was prepared to dislike the poems in the section entitled “Power Politics” because of the lines on the opening page which read: “you fit into me/ like a hook in the eye” and “a fish hook/an open eye.”

Now I know there’s more than enough despair to go around, and there’s more than enough causes for it, but I’m just not willing to wallow in it. Recognize it, naturally. Deal with it, hopefully. Just don’t wallow. No use giving it more than its due. The older I grow, the more I realize despair is an inevitable part of life, just a part that I don’t have time to dwell on at the moment. My goal is transcendence, not despair. And transcendence seems a hell of a lot harder to attain than wallowing. That’s why I need all the help I can get from what I read.

Luckily, I did find myself admiring much of what was written here. The brutal honesty is refreshing and not overwhelming in a poem like:

After all you are quite
ordinary: 2 arms 2 legs
a head, a reasonable
body, toes & fingers, a few
eccentricities, a few honesties
but not too many, too many
postponements & regrets but

you’ll adjust to it, meeting
deadlines and other
people, pretending to love
the wrong woman some of the
time, listening to your brain
shrink, your diaries
expanding as you grow older,

growing older. 0f course you’ll
die but not yet, you’ll outlive
even my distortions of you

and there isn’t anything
I want to do about the fact
that you are unhappy & sick

you aren’t sick & unhappy
only alive & stuck with it.

I particularly liked, “only alive & stuck with it.” Sounds like you and me, doesn’t it? That’s what we are. Not sick, just unhappy, and unhappy sounds like a temporary state to me. The conclusion sounds all the more convincing because the poet’s analysis of the problem seems accurate, too. I particularly liked “a few honesties/but not too many” because all of us try to be honest with ourselves, but too few of us end up being truly honest with ourselves because it’s just too damn difficult. I like to think writing this blog helps prevent it, but I know some people who seem to fit the line “listening to your brain shrink.”

Perhaps the next poem was actually written as a warning to bloggers, particularly to bloggers who seem all too willing to follow a “party line” and refuse to think for themselves:

You refuse to own
yourself, you permit
others to do it for you:

you become slowly more public,
in a year there will be nothing left
of you but a megaphone

or you will descend through the roof
with the spurious authority of a
government official,
blue as a policeman, grey as a used angel,
having long forgotten the difference
between an annunciation and a parking ticket

or you will be slipped under
the door, your skin furred with cancelled
airmail stamps, your kiss no longer literature
but fine print, a set of instructions.

If you deny these uniforms
and choose to repossess
yourself, your future

will be less dignified, more painful, death will be sooner,
(it is no longer possible
to be both human and alive) : lying piled with
the others, your face and body
covered so thickly with scars
only the eyes show through.

Just kidding, of course, no bloggers around in 1971 when this was published. It’s obviously about the poet herself and her worries that as a you become famous, a public figure, you end up losing part of your control over your own destiny. The “megaphone” is the perfect symbol of someone who makes things sound important, sound louder, but really has not control over what is said. Obviously the danger is even greater if you are seen merely as part of the “establishment,” as an “official.” Of course, if you refuse to do these things, you’re less likely to be accepted and honored, less likely to make money from your work. The scariest line in the poem, though, is “it is no longer possible to be both human and alive,” though I’m not exactly sure what she means by “human.” Will the scarring kill you? Isn’t this just the same as “you aren’t sick & unhappy/only alive & stuck with it.” Isn’t scarring part of being human, part of being alive?

After reading this section of emotionally disturbing, but moving, poems, I was ready for the following poem:

Beyond truth,
tenacity: of those
dwarf trees & mosses,
hooked into straight rock
believing the sun’s lies & thus
refuting / gravity

& of this cactus, gathering
itself together
against the sand, yes tough
rind & spikes but doing
the best it can

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” Perhaps it is, indeed, tenacity and not the mere knowledge of truth that makes us truly human. The poems in this section surely contain their own “truth,” a truth that you can only deny at your own peril, but this truth is not the be-all-and-end-all of life. There is another kind of truth that also exists, the truth of those who endure and overcome the “truth” that others would impose on them.