Saturday, June 20, 2020

Go On With Your Thinking

More and more I'm thinking of resilience and sorrow all mixed up together. Meaning, on waking, I want to sleep but not because I want to sleep because (but) I want to not be awake. This sounds
depressed. Sorrow fills me up but doesn't define me in the same way that watching Sophie seize never gets easier. On June 14th, it was twenty-five years since she'd been diagnosed. Muscle memory. I could keep plumbing the depths of sorrow. Fathom the plumb unfathomable. It's down to words. Rage is just a cover for sorrow and everyone knows that.
Carl and I went out on the water yesterday on a whale-watching boat. Everyone was in masks except for a small group of over-dressed ladies who spent the entire time taking selfies. I steered clear of them and anyone else who came too close (oblivion) and found a quiet spot at the back of the boat. I sat in the sun with my face up, watched a couple of pelicans soar, at least a dozen terns torpedo into the water and a hundred or so dolphin dive and swim in the choppy water. It was cold. About halfway through the trip, a minke whale. At some point, mesmerized by all of this and the hum of the boat and the muffled shrieks of the people on the bottom deck, I wondered what it would be like to throw myself overboard, to slip in the water much like Hart Crane did after folding his overcoat over the railing. No one would see. Could one drown oneself? Could one keep gulping water or would the instinct to breathe, to thrash to stay alive kick in? This sounds depressed. The boat rocked me, though, and the late afternoon sun made the chop gold and glint, Carl was off in the distance, his lens raised and the sorrow rocked, too, back and forth, calm and soothing, making me who I am not quite all filled up.
Here's an excerpt from "Winnie," a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks:

Yet I know
that I am Poet!
I pass you my Poem.

A poem doesn’t do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person’s poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.

I pass you my Poem! — to tell you
we are all vulnerable —
the midget, the Mighty,
the richest, the poor.
Men, women, children, and trees.
I am vulnerable.
Hector Pieterson was vulnerable.

My Poem is life, and not finished.
It shall never be finished.
My Poem is life, and can grow.

Wherever life can grow, it will.
It will sprout out,
and do the best it can.
I give you what I have.
You don’t get all your questions answered in this world.
How many answers shall be found
in the developing world of my Poem?
I don’t know. Nevertheless I put my Poem,
which is my life, into your hands, where it will do the best it can.

I am not a tight-faced Poet.

I am tired of little tight-faced poets sitting down to
shape perfect unimportant pieces.
Poems that cough lightly — catch back a sneeze.
This is the time for Big Poems,
roaring up out of sleaze,
poems from ice, from vomit, and from tainted blood.
This is the time for stiff or viscous poems.
Big, and Big.


  1. I'm glad the dark thought was brief, I would think drowning to be an excruciating way to go. The Ocean is soothing and it's creatures magnificent, I like looking at it from the Beach though, don't feel so safe in a boat.

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  2. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way, too.

    Mary Oliver


    Yes. Go on with your thinking. Sending love.


    The photos of you and Carl always move me. Thank you.

  3. Yes, yes, yes. That's all we can do, saying yes to life and what it brings. Most mornings now I struggle with getting up, facing all the small challenges and the big thoughts. But if I wait too long, I start to remember my dreams and that could be worse.
    We are at a crossroad, something we cannot explain, yet, has changed and all we can do is hope that we don't run out of ideas and compassion to face it.

  4. Everything is Big now. Capital letter Big.
    And why wouldn't you be depressed? Sometimes the rage part of us just can't cover it anymore and sorrow will seep out. I know.
    Bless you and bless Carl and bless your children. And the whales and the people who care. Hold on to all of that and yourself.
    You are so beautiful, Elizabeth.

  5. I remember a year after my uncle Henry died and my son was acting crazy and my husband was acting crazy. I would think what it would be like to drive my truck fast into a tree going down the dirt road. Not a good place to be.

  6. "Rage is just a cover for sorrow and everyone knows that."

    Witnessing your rage, and your sorrow, and your beauty, and your love and your resilience and strength, and your bone weary tired.

    This breath in. This breath out.

  7. I once watched a woman on a Washington State ferry take off her shoes, prop up a manila envelope by the window, walk to the railing, climb over and ..just let go into the churning Puget Sound.

    She was rescued. I carried her shoes and envelope to a ferry worker and watched as she was loaded into an ambulance back on shore.

    Tired. So tired. Sleep is currently my drug.

    Much love, Elizabeth.


  8. Hello, Carl-behind-the-mask! :-)

    That was a fab poem. I have occasionally pinched myself metaphorically in the last few months. I just want the confirmation that I've been dreaming. I can take that. It was all a dream. Now, can we wake up and carry on, please?

    Greetings from London.

  9. Terrific choice of poem. I like the anger and the idea that while she's putting her "poem" out there, don't expect answers. That pretty much sums up all our existences at the moment. I feel the same malaise you do.

  10. You also wrote a beautiful aching poem about sorrow and being on the water, and letting all of it be what it is, no resistance, but intelligence and awareness, I think it is this last that would cause you to swim until someone threw you a rope. I am glad i think you would swim, i would miss you if you didn't. You keep swimming okay, and so will I. Love.



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