It is so much safer not to want. I think it is a fascinating theme when it’s not about romantic or sexual desires.

When it’s not tragedy in the Greek sense.

When it’s not the trope of the supporting role who we discover late had so much promise and gave it all up for some quasi-noble reason. Pathos. Bathos. The soft, nurturing plot device-of-a-person to serve as the scary what-if-you-end-up-like-her motivation.

Not the weird dude in Hamsun’s Hunger. Or any twisty, petulant teenager full of the angst they think proves their talent and conveniently serves as an excuse for staring at the ceiling. For being cruel.

Nothing noble? We’ll go for a tortured genius. Is this desire? Or is it a private performance? When the dog’s dewclaw isn’t looked after it turns in on itself, growing like a proverbial thorn in a self-contained little monologue of pain.

Funny, I wanted to write woe. A monologue of woe. I’ve been reading Shakespeare and my head is full of full words like sorrow and distress. The howling and the hissing of the language is seductive. And since I’m not longer a twisty teenager, it’s an almost embarrassing pleasure.

Hyperbole is wasted on the youth.

Hysteria is a word with a misogynist trail: the unoccupied womb wondering the body and causing madness. What about unoccupied desire?

I want to be careful not to slide into the pocket of pop psychology and the “find your why” zeitgeist. I’m asking questions, not looking for answers.

It is interesting that when I google poems of “risk and resilience” I get hits titled “Poems of hope and resilience”.

But that’s not what I want to look at. Not hope. Hope in the face of defeat seems too binary for our time, now that it seems our cultures have exploded in chaos. Again. A rebellion of language that becomes a rebellion of thinking.

I don’t want to explore the kind of desire that drives crashing through like a wrecking ball to bruise the world, to bruise the world. That’s not desire as a fundamental emotion; it’s desire as the vehicle to direct the fundamental emotion. Anger, I would guess. Try to google “basic human emotions” and you get 3, 5, 9, 12… how we love to put things in boxes.

I am writing a play, not staging it. But I see the play beginning with a huge explosion of cardboard boxes and confetti. They have two hours to clean it up.

Could be the driving image for so many stories. Who’s blowing up their life this time? Who is risking what and what emotion shapes the desire that has them getting up off their knees again and again?

Poems about disability. Poems about mental health and about mental disorders. It’s easy to conflate the last two. I sometimes have to remind myself I wrote an entire collection about what is it to experience mixed states of mania and depression. That’s how exceptional those months or years can seem in relation to how I see myself. Or in how I want to see myself.

I have been scanning my shelves for the poems that address more than the depressive side of the disorder. Those poems are difficult to find.

(And I would appreciate suggestions!)

I wonder if this is because so many of those poems (if they are comprehensible at all) are vibrant in a way that just feels celebratory? The kind of hyperbole that is forgiven in most poems, that just reads as a tight focus on joy? Where are the poems that feel like wildly flung Frisbees caught in a gust of wind?

And is the taint of shame visible in them after the poet settles and edits?

Instead what I am reading this morning is a poem by Lisa Gill, that is not about bipolar experience at all. Here is the beginning of “The Undering and Other Great Inhumanities on 3.6 Acres”

Remonstrance is no use. I already live
where a downed fence is a plastic tube
running under my dog’s skin, draining
the wound. Even the armchair in the den

held a slumped cottontail, smooth gray
spindle of intestine protruding from a solitary
puncture would. It’s peaceful here. Javelina
snouting the hurricane fencing, sunbeaten

days and every night sky, even clouded,
lit with stars unknown to the city, stars
vanquished from the sight of the dead
or overmedicated. There are so many types

of erosion. […]

from the anthology Beauty is a Verb. Cinco Puntos Press. 2011

The timer is about to go off. I’m going to shut down here and take Leonard for a slow walk. He can’t run because of the scar that runs down his chest. In a moment of excitement, chasing a fox, he’d caught his chest on barbed wire. This is why I have him. A former working dog now at what we call his “trivselsvekt”.

I like to think he’s happy now. We all have so much in common when the specifics are whittled away. Not that that is a goal. Rather, a way in.

There went the timer.

I’ve still been spending time with Lear this weekend. With Shakespeare’s language and the rich stories. And I am chastising myself for the arrogance in wondering… why is so much left unsaid?

An example: Edgar – as Poor Tom – meets Gloucester and hears his father say that if he could just touch Edgar’s face again it would be as though he had his sight again. So why doesn’t Edgar reveal himself?

The Tragedy of King Lear wasn’t written as a closet play, and I wonder then if the audience – groundlings or otherwise – were able to get under all the psychological machinations in Edgar’s head to make sense of this moment, in the moment, as the lines were spoken, passing quickly over the heads of the orange-sellers and the old women bitching about their sore feet? Did anyone care? Or am I just thicker than the average Elisabethan?

I’m not interested in the question of authorship that has been recently staged in a “court of law” in London. I think it’s funny that we should care so much. And that maybe it is more about a projection of our very real personal fears of insignificance, than an actual interest in whether a single person wrote the work.

There’s never been a serious question of the originality of the stories. Of any story, if you want to take it that far. And as for the language, I very much love the idea that it began with a sketch of a script that morphed naturally in the mouth of a performer, and then again in memory before it was recorded in text. Maybe adapting Shakespeare isn’t sacrilege at all, but the best way to keep communication between us and “them” alive.

But the question remains. Are we all just thicker now? How many of us get the “gist” of it and take the rest (literally) on faith and fake it.

Are we missing the zeitgeist of the age that filled in the bits that are mysterious to us? I took a workshop once with a now-famous and very Shakespeare-associated actress whom I adore. I asked her what a particular word meant. She said she didn’t know, but that the passage was about…

There’s the rub.

There went the timer.

Last night I had an idea for a play. And I told myself it was fine – that I would remember in the morning. We all know how that goes. And now it is gone.

I’ve been listening to radio theater and it is interesting to notice the playwright’s creative daisy chain. I would like that now. A daisy chain.

Yesterday I caught myself eating dinner, listening to a podcast and surfing the net all at once. And I wonder why I am not able to focus after 9 am.

Late last night someone sent me a wonderful goat video. I wanted to read a poem about a goat, but the only one I could think of was “Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

I started thinking about the perennial conversation E. and I have about art. He doesn’t use the term with a capital A, ever. He sees art as a form of escapism, not as a portal to a shared experience about what it is to be human. He doesn’t want to spend his evenings looking at the hard things. He says he gets enough of hard things. And isn’t that true of all of us.

And I can respect that. Though I find it inexplicable why we would have such differing attitudes about beauty and awe. Such differing approaches to acknowledging what it is to be human.

But then, I have seen his whole body express awe while overlooking valleys from mountain tops. Maybe that is enough for him. Everything. You can die on the mountainside. At any point of the journey. He doesn’t put it into words, or squeeze it into symbols. He has this, and maybe it is enough?

I would talk to him about this. Ask him. But I don’t think he wants to think about it. It just is and doesn’t need to be teased apart and put together again. If I brought it up, I think he’d just suggest a hike.

I like watching goats. Their pronking moves me emotionally in ways that I can’t keep up with physically or even intellectually. I envy them their in-the-moment joy. At least that’s what it looks like. But I will admit that there is something about their eyes. The gut-hooked association to Christian symbolism that I carry with me from childhood. The dangerous wildness.

So for me, the pronking kids will always have the darkness of Kelly’s “Song”.

Because this all this is true. And I am still learning to hold the paradox lightly and enjoy the flow.

That film clip sticks in my head. It’s from the 1970s – seems they did an awful lot of odd experiments on kids then – and it involved puppets. The kids would giggle and enjoy watching one of two puppets get their heads bashed over and over. They would have empathy for the other puppet. It depended on whether the puppets liked the same kind of food as the they did.

I think we get better at justifying this to ourselves, but I think the basic impulse doesn’t change over time. Disagreement over what is good and bad on any scale feels like an attack. Probably because it sometimes results in an attack.

I was – and am – sad that our national curriculum took out the phrase about tolerance for other people’s values and replaced it with the ability to see what we have in common.

Maybe the weirdest response when someone says they didn’t like something is, “Can you do better?” And among the erudite, defense of an opinion often involves pulling in the opinions of long-dead people to be on your side.

A random phrase in agreement will garner a slew of flattery.

There’s that.

In the best of settings, a kind of dolphin training. Ignore what’s undesired, reward what you want more of.

I just learned that “teaming” is a jargon verb now. I think it is hilarious since the word teaming still conjures a school of fish in my mind’s eye.

This is related to what I am working on, by the way. The timer hasn’t gone off yet, but I am ready to get back to the writing. That’s a good sign. And if you agree, I am going to take that at face value, not look for ironic insults, and offer you a cookie.

The kind I like.