A deep breath this morning as I sit down. Salted coffee, and blackbirds outside the window. I didn’t write yesterday, but spent a full day with a new printer: learning to adjust for paper weights, manual feed, and double-sided pages. A lot of trial and error. Small steps forward. Or sideways.

No: I am moving forward again.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I got my first pair of glasses. But I remember looking at a tree and realizing that you are supposed to see the individual leaves on trees. My eyesight had deteriorated so gradually I hadn’t noticed what I had lost of the world.

This week I feel like I can see the leaves on the trees. It’s not that life is less crowded, but it is more vibrant. Distinguishing the foreground from the background, wresting meaning from it all is easier.

There is a saying that things having gradually then all at once. But these past years, things happened all at once, and then so gradually that I thought changes were improvements, or at least adjustments. I didn’t see the signs of depression because the everyday problems were so tiny compared to the crisis that began it all. How could I be having trouble getting through the day when the worst was over a long time ago?

My world is popping back into three dimensions. Other people seem more substantial. I realize how odd that sounds. I don’t mean that in comparison with how I perceived myself, I have been insubstantial, too. That is what depression does. In my case the desperate search for meaning and pleasure can look like business, like creativity or a “spark” of joy. But the spark is just me bumping against the metallic edge of panic. Wheels spinning, and life is just so much harder than it needs to be. Pinched.

When the doctor asked me if I was depressed, I said I didn’t think so. I said I was overwhelmed, hypomanic. But now I see.

Now I feel like crying. And that is a very good thing.

Last night walking Leonard in the dark, I heard the wheeeEEE of the pterodactyls lapwings. They are back, so it is officially spring. Officially a time to mark new beginnings.

under the streetlight
wet paw prints, footsteps glisten
temporarily
like loved ones gone by morning
after a crossing over

I have an odd pile of books on my desk this morning. Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Inconspicuous Consumption: The environmental impact you don’t know you have. How to Love a Country. Langston Hughes – Selected Poems. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Diary.

There are nine other books and a rhyming dictionary also piled on. I need to sort through my shelves again. And I seriously need to stop buying books for a while. All the things I would love to do with my time. More reading. Perhaps reviewing. Certainly celebrating the poets I love. Deciding what projects to take on can be overwhelming. And there is fitting it into a life with a day job that can suck the joy right from the source at times.

Books make me feel less alone. Less peculiar. I have noticed that when I feel isolated and lonely, I go on book-buying sprees. Every book is a potential: this one will save me. I blame it on my religious upbringing: The Word is God. The answers are in the scripture. When every adult around you is an idiot, there is a near-ancient authority that has left riddles to be untangled.

There is hope, here: on the page. In the verses that sing.

I’m taking a course on visual poetry right now and am fascinated by asemic poetry. I am surprisingly drawn to it. Moved by it. After spending years studying formal poetry and analyzing poems with a chair and a rubber hose (despite Billy Collin’s objections), I am finding an instinctive satisfaction in holding the handwriting up to the light. Acknowledging the humanity, the creative mind present. The philosopher Denis Dutton said that one of the universal criteria for art is evidence of individual expression. Another is craftsmanship. Another is that the work is somehow imbued with emotion.

And in my mind poetry is the leap we make between the poet’s material expression and the poet’s subjective experience that demanded expression. In other words, all poetry is itself a meta-metaphor: the poem is the vehicle and the poet’s subjective experience is the tenor. And it seems to me that if we recognize this vehicle/tenor without putting it into words (creating new metaphors), then we are perhaps communicating in a more directly visceral way.

People have worked for years trying to decipher the Voynich manuscript because we recognize the human hand. We have this feeling that there is something important here. If someone were to ever unlock the code (if there is one) it would no doubt be anti-climatic. Our intellectual evaluation of the work would suck the joy right out of the visceral experience. We would lose the emotional connection with the artist by creating an intellectual one. One step removed.

Let’s not know. Let’s let the mystery be.

E.’s mother tongue is not English, and often when he reads my poetry he says: It sings so beautifully. Sometimes he has no idea what the ten-letter words mean. Sometimes I have leaped too far between vehicle and tenor the metaphor is lost. But it sings.

That matters.

I am, however, not convinced that I can unlearn everything I have worked so hard to more-or-less master. I have been thinking that surely someone has already studied this with regard to the modernists. I am sure there are books on my shelf now that I would better understand were I to dive in now and read them again.

But I’m not going to. I’m going to stay here with the visceral, practical work. I’m going to move my hand over paper and play. And look at all the beautiful evidence of humanity on display.

A circle with lines
radiating from a center
and I understand
she feels the sun on her skin
and knows how to tell me this