Sunday, February 23, 2014

Poem: Love anyway

Love anyway

You stand there like a clown in a spotlight without a broom
because you love her
more than you can say,
more than you have ever loved anyone else,
more than anyone has ever loved anyone else,
and she does not love you

She loves him
and he has no poetry in his soul

But love her anyway
even if she will never love you

Because the opposite of love is not hate
the opposite of love is not indifference
the opposite of love is resentment
bitterness and anger for being denied that which you know you deserve
that which is given freely to one so undeserving

Love becomes you in a way resentment does not
love is not the answer
love isn't even the question
love simply is

Love her anyway
because you love her
and whether she loves you or not
or continues to love him
him, the one with no poetry in his soul.
you will have loved greatly and grandly and without hope of reward
and the universe will have become a better place for it

So take off the greasepaint
and the shabby hat
forget the broom
step out of the spotlight
put aside the resentment
and love her anyway

This is the fifth version (at least) of this poem. I first read it on January 31, 2014 at the Kick Out the Bottom poetry reading at Embassy Vinyl in Scranton (just a few hours after a major rewrite at work over lunch) and then presented it again on February 20, 2014 at the Third Thursday Open Mic Poetry Night at the Vintage in Scranton, with the line "the opposite of love is not apathy" changed to "the opposite of love is not indifference."

As with most of my poems, this came from several sources. I originally came up with the line "I love you and you love him and he has no poetry in his soul" back in November of 2013, but didn't take it anywhere. In early January I tried to come up with the saddest image I could think of that could be used as the basis of a poem, and I thought of the old Emmett Kelly Jr. "sweeping up the spotlight" routine. For those who don't know, Emmett Kelly Jr. was a very famous hobo clown back in the 1970's who would end his performances with a bit in which he used a broom to sweep up the spotlight. Sometimes this was played for laughs, as he would chase multiple spotlights across the stage as they grew and shrank, appeared and disappeared. But sometimes this was played for pure pathos: he would sweep at the edges of the spotlight, making it smaller and smaller, until it finally disappeared and the show was over. This made me cry when I was a kid. How much sadder, I thought, if he went out to do this routine and realized he had forgotten his broom?

So I pictured a pathetic, lovelorn sap, standing there broken-hearted, hoping to garner some sympathy for his plight, realizing he had screwed up his opportunity to do this and just looked like even more of a fool.

Good, good. But where was this going? What did I want to say?

Poems in the "Waaah, my heart is broken, life sucks" genre are a dime a dozen. Less than that: go to most poetry open mics and you won't even have to pay a dime to hear numerous poems with this same message. If every person who ever had their heart broken gave in to misery and despair and just curled up and died, the human race would be in immediate danger of extinction. But most people get over it. The pain dulls, they move on, maybe they find some sort of happiness with someone else. Well, hooray for that, but was that really what I wanted to say? "Ehhh, you'll get over it?"

No. I realized I had something else to say. If you really love somebody - love them on a level beyond just wanting to get laid, beyond infatuation or lust, but really love them - then it almost doesn't matter if they love you in return. Your feelings for them aren't conditioned on reciprocation. Your love exists on a level the best word for which would be Platonic - if that word were not already being used to refer to another type of relationship entirely. And this is dangerous territory, because it sounds like its delusional, or steeped in denial, or simply stalker-ish. But it isn't intended as any of these things. The message is simply: if you truly love someone and they don't love you in return, you love them anyway - and go on with your life. Don't wallow in darkness and misery and despair, writing bad poetry about how your suffering is beyond anything anyone else can understand. Love them anyway, and get on with it. 

And so I wrote this.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"If I had the time to write about every little thing that happened in my life..."

"If I had the time to write about every little thing that happened in my life, I wouldn't." That was the opinion of blogging expressed by a friend of a friend about ten years ago. That was before Twitter and Facebook came along end encouraged people to engage in a degraded sort of blogging, a running commentary and series of "lookit this!" presentations.  (Ultimately the person who made this statement had a nervous breakdown. I'm not saying the two things are related, but...)

So I guess this is going to be another one of those "Where I've been / What I've been doing" posts that have taken the place of a lot of the blogging I used to do. Only it won't be like them, because I'm going to be leaving out most of the details. One of the reasons I haven't been blogging is because much of the stuff I've been doing has had me intimately involved in someone else's personal life, in a way that neither of us is really comfortable talking about yet. Facebook has a relationship status of "It's Complicated," and the two of us would be the prime example of that status - if she weren't already seeing someone else. To give you an example: Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and I spent several hours after work with her - helping her shop for Valentine's Day stuff for her boyfriend. She saved a bundle on chocolates thanks to a coupon I had for Barnes and Noble, and his homemade Valentine's Day feast was made in cookware provided by me. So, yeah, it's complicated.

And it's not just that. That's just the part I can talk about. There was other stuff going on, stuff that made me glad she has a boyfriend to help her and watch over her when I'm not around. We've decided that when everything is over and the dust has settled, we'll write out an account of some sort. I'm thinking that opera would be the best format: huge, preposterous themes, heroes, villains, a young, plucky, tragic heroine, her handsome but arrogant suitor, the well-intended but buffoonish older fellow, reversals of fortune, death... What else could possibly contain all that? Even the driest and most objective version of the story could easily be dismissed, to poach a phrase from Shakespeare, as an improbable fiction.

Her life has settled into a new normal in recent weeks, in part because of a horrible and vile event I can't talk about. This has taken some of the pressure off of me. For a long while I was seeing her two or three times a week, sometimes more, usually from immediately after work until after midnight - meaning that I would be getting home and into bed at best by 1:00 in the morning, to wake up at my scheduled time of 5:15 or so. (Did I mention she was living very close to where I used to work, back when I had a high-paying job in the DVD industry that made it possible to afford the gas for such a commute?) But because of what happened a few weeks ago, it's not absolutely necessary that I be there two or three times a week, and because of a reduction in the obligations she has, obligations which pass on to me as her personal driver, my visit time is considerably shorter - as is my commute. Plus she's now in a new living situation which presents her with the opportunity to take advantage of living within a supporting community - but also poses a new set of hazards to her well-being. A guardian demon's work is never done.

Poetry reading at the Vintage, January 16, 2014. Photo by Carlton Farnbaugh.

I'm still writing poetry. I presented one of my best works so far (in my opinion) at an event in Scranton on January 31, and plan to present it (with minor revisions) at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at the Vintage in Scranton this Thursday, February 28. The Vintage is located at 326 Spruce Street in Scranton; doors open/signups begin at 8:00 PM, poetry begins at 8:30 PM. All are welcome to read or listen, and admission is free, though donations to the Vintage are encouraged.

Reading at the fourth edition of the Kick Out the Bottom open voice poetry reading at
Embassy Vinyl in Scranton, January 31, 2014. Photo by Charwonica Dziwozony.
Usually my blogging takes a dip in the Winter months as the usual hibernation reaction / seasonal affective disorder kicks in. This year I can't really blame that. All the other stuff I've been doing has actually helped keep me going through these months, even as it has reduced my time and freedom to post. Still, I can't promise that I will be resuming anything close to my old blog-a-day schedule anytime soon. You will occasionally see new posts from me at the other blogs listed on the sidebar, so you can know I'm still around, even if you don't follow me on Facebook or anything like that. I do hope to come back to blogging. I just don't know when.