The lapwings are here, with their pterodactyl claws. And I am shredded. Not in a good way, but worn very thin and strained to the point of snapping here and there. But not entirely. What do you do when the good news and the bad news falls into your basket at once?

It is very difficult to settle attention wholly on either as would be the honest thing to do.

I read a poem this afternoon by John Lee Clark: “Long Goodbyes”. Also from the Beauty is a Verb anthology. The speaker of the poem and their family are deaf, and the way Clark write’s about their touching “more things with their hands”, makes me feel like I am missing something essential by not touching everything I can.

[…] pausing
where the walls offered stories,
reasons to stay longer

and touch more things with our hands.
I remember how long,
how wonderfully they stood

unwilling to open the front door,
signing away with warm faces
and hugging goodbye again

before going gently into the night.
My family would huddle to watch
their cars’ headlights roll away. […]

This is supposed to be a process journal for my writing, not a therapeutic process journal. How odd how things will bleed into one another. Maybe that is how both creatures stay alive?

I got the commission to write the Lear adaptation. I’ve added a line in the final scene – in the treatment at any rate – about only just beginning to understand the causalities of the day. I want to hold the details tight to their source for now, but I will say my adaptation is not nihilistic. There are no gentle nights, but there is always a morning for someone. A warm mug in their hands. A soft fabric thrown over their shoulders to rub against their neck.

What use is thought if there is no effort to make it tangible? Isn’t touching how all of us we know the world?

 We can’t restructure our society without restructuring the English language […]

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Marginalian has got to be the most seductive rabbit hole on the internet. Continuing the quote I found there – out of context: “One reflects the other. A lot of people are getting tired of the huge pool of metaphors that have to do with war and conflict [and] the proliferation of battle metaphors, such as being a warrior, righting, defeating, and so on. In response, I could say that once you become conscious of these battle metaphors, you can start “fighting” against them. That’s one option. Another is to realize that conflict is not the only human response to a situation and to begin to find other metaphors, such as resisting, outwitting, skipping, or subverting. This kind of consciousness can open the door to all sorts of new behavior.”

From the fragments of information that I like to believe I understand, there is soft science evidence to back up Le Guin’s argument. There is the story about the social scientists who integrated themselves in another – very small – culture. They struggled with some aspects of the language. Particularly, they said, one word that described an emotion that they couldn’t comprehend. It wasn’t until they’d lived in the culture for years and experienced a personal trauma, that the new feeling arrived – following the word. They explain that it wasn’t a new association, as in “oh this is the feeling y’all’ve been describing, of course”. They say this was a new feeling that the word itself spoken in context brought into experience.

But the catch? Le Guin also said that we forget that history isn’t a science, it is an art. There is no objective truth. I have been witness to a crime and know that if there is an objective perspective, a truth in any eye-witness testimony, I know it is unidentifiable. Random perhaps. His truth. My truth. What then do with do with this story of the researchers, the trauma and an emotional language? Their story?

Isn’t it a kind of origin story? How the bear lost his tail. In another culture, wouldn’t there have been another word, only completely appreciated by the members of that culture?

It seems to me that nothing stands alone. Every word and every sound is tangled with shared experiences of local grasses on bare feet, of the specific steam that rises in this or that day’s weather.

The Greeks’ sea was the “color” of wine.

It seems that we go about it all backwards, looking for some fundamental building blocks that are put together to make the things that we perceive. That we are outside and inside, but disconnected in a way that demands of us to understand what is and to follow the rules. Listen for instructions. That there is a right way.

What if the tree of knowledge is really the source of all neuroticism. That was the point of the myth. The tree of knowledge itself is a deception?

I want to point out, now that the timer has chimed, that I am not laying out philosophic arguments. I am deliberately discursive in the process of exploring – which is the process of writing, I think.

So yeah. When Lear says, Nothing will come from nothing – and the audience hears a curse as literal as You barren c*nt. Is it a story of history that we share with past experience? Or a story of our own time. Is it possible to try too hard when working with the language? Is it possible to be disrespectful with the language? Is it possible to be just sit down naked with it and let it sing?

Yeah. I actually wrote that bit. Ugh.

There went the timer.

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.