I’m home today with a nasty cough and a slight fever. And I am thinking to lie on the sofa in the studio and watch inspiring films while drinking tea that I really can’t taste.

So I google “films about poetry” and what comes up? A list of films that are love stories. A list of films about poets’ dramatic love lives. Read: sex lives. One particularly disturbing story seems to directly equate a very young woman’s sexual desirability with artistic talent. The trailer is shot full (pun intended) of perspectives dictated by the male gaze. I get a very “let’s ogle her while the kitten searches for true love” vibe.

I am cranky again. I am being very judgmental and unfair. And I have used the word “cranky” a lot the past few days.

I suppose one could scrounge up a dozen reasons to explain my frustration now, but one of them is actually related to my current exploration of “what poetry means to me”. Whether poetry and lyric are inexorably linked. Whether the “exuberance” of the lyric is inexorably linked with desire and other aspects of interpersonal relationships. Or whether the mechanism of “art” truly is open to expressing any aspect of what it is to be human. A human was here. Love, sex, grief, yeah. But also other unnamed things that we recognize without “knowing”.

The asemic.

I have experienced exuberance for no reason. I have felt a swelling in my chest and tried desperately to “remember” the cause – was there something new, did I win something, was I anticipating something: What!? I usually start worrying about my mental health. Exuberance without a dramatic cause – a story – a rationale and justification – is just (hypo)mania, right?

Unjustified emotion is a sign of mental illness. Or hormonal imbalances. Or some other dis-order. Dis-order.

What if everything we tell ourselves about why we feel a particular emotion at any given moment is nothing more than another story we’ve learned to compose as a way to soothe ourselves? To control one another and keep the world predictable?

Kids wake up happy without questioning their sanity or looking for the reason for it. I know there are some adults who do this, too. I have heard people talk about them and rationalize it by describing these adults as “simple-minded”. Or “special”. Unexplained cheerfulness is definitely anti-social behavior. It makes us giggle nervously. I’m not sure if it is a named archetype, but it should be. (Note to self to look it up when the headache subsides).

What if all art is just an act of unlearning? Resisting. And that our ideas of what poetry is can get in the way of that? What if art should start where we are familiar and then chisel at it until it leaves us speechless. What if instead of giving us more stories related to our own stories, it tears down every story?

What if it is the “made thing” that shows us the artifice in all made things? Even our own stories?

I watched a really good lecture about Alfred Jarry’s work the other day. I have no idea if my thoughts are at all in line with his. But I am wondering…

The more difficult things become – subjectively – the more I want to make beautiful things, and the more frustrated I become with my lagging craftsmanship. I spend evenings in the studio staring at the paper. Judging. I should have invested more time here. Been patient with myself. I understand now the absurdity of impatience.

M. writes about her diagnosis in a chat message. B. talks around hers over the phone, but on social media, she writes amusing anecdotes about chemo and radiation therapy.

And I find myself separated by one more degree from other – more sudden – death. My brother’s chosen brother, whose parents watched the coffin being carried out of the church yesterday. Put in the ground.

There are places we don’t want our minds to go.

I pull back and assess an angle from which to offer… what exactly? There’s no comfort to offer M. and B., so I offer attention. And I try to comfort the grieving along that chain of sorrow. The people whose pain I understand. Whose helplessness I can relate to. We can choose our connections, but we cannot choose our losses.

I can at least relate to loss.

Yesterday I dug out the last letters to and from my mother. And to and from my grandmother. All the pain came rushing back very unexpectedly. The anger. Fury. Clicking and popped in my chest like a wasps nest as I told myself to keep breathing. To let go of the tightness. There is nothing to brace myself for. It’s over. I copied them and tore them into strips and began the process of making something.

Beautiful is absolutely the wrong word.

Meaningful?

True.

The odd thing is that sorting through this single box of the artifacts of my life, I also ran across love letters from my ex-husband. I couldn’t bring myself to read them but I glanced at some of the phrases on the brittle paper. I’d forgotten the sweetness. The openness. And I mean forgotten in the sense that in reading them I experienced no recognition whatsoever. I am glad I didn’t see these during the divorce process, it would have overwhelmed me to see the whole of what was lost over the years. What good I needlessly let go of. Why can’t I look at these and just think: how lucky we were for that span of time? Without running a post mortem on those twenty-two years. Appreciating, but not clinging, to the people we were.

Nothing is permanent and, for me at least, life has been a series of small but absolute endings that are metaphors for death itself. My mother used to practice for her own mother’s death. That seems superfluous.

Some holy people meditate on their own rotting corpses. But new life begins in the decomposition. The ripping up of the old constellations of parts, making something new of the elements.

For right now: I choose to focus on that. The ripping-up. The making-new. One true thing from all of the lies.

I think that the more I do it, the better I might get at it.