Misty and cold again, housemate left at 5am to travel over the mountains to see her patients. I took a long bath with foamy bubbles and a book. The oversized dog had an abandonment crisis and howled outside the bathroom door until I gave up and went out to reassure him.
Dog: The Biscuit Queen has left the building! Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone! She’s in there alone with only soap for company! The Dog is an orphan without a biscuit for comfort! The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Somebody come to the aid of the quick brown dog!
Mary (hair dripping and wrapped in towel): Why are you howling like that, you silly bloody animal!Be quiet, or I am going to put you out in the garden.
Dog: Not even a line of poetry? My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
A funny and revealing conversation last night with an old friend who knew me as well as anyone could know me in my 30s. She said as we had coffee and shortbread at the kitchen table: ‘You were more blurry then, a bit pathetic. Drifting through life. Now you have this fuck-offness.’
Not a tactful friend, but that is accurate enough, that is what I was like. I wanted life with its sharp edges and pinpricks to go away. I liked to drink away the long afternoons and evenings, feel the most pressing of concerns become inconsequential and float off down river. Day after day, life dissolved into hours of solitary drinking. I wanted life to go away — and it did. Every now and again I’d wake up in a cold sweat late at night, heart thudding, filled with dread and terror, wonder what was happening to my life, so promising, so uneventful, draining away down the sinkhole. Those painful moments of realising something is terribly wrong are precious and rare, opportunities to save what is left of our allotted time.
And assertiveness (fuck-offness), clarity, hard-headedness, directness do come with sobriety and change, It’s not so much about feeling happy or peaceful or sad as it is about decision-making and acting and discernment — what to do next, what might be the right thing, what will strengthen relationship, what will get money into that bank account, how to earn a living in ethical and creative ways. Choices and actions, new habits, new understandings leading to new behaviours.
And the inspirations of those who lived life life to the full. I am reading poet and translator David Harsent on the Greek poet Yannos Ritsos:
This extraordinary productivity must, I think, be seen as heroic given that it was achieved in the face of personal tragedy, persistent ill health and systematic persecution: first by the Metaxas regime, when Ritsos’s books were burned; next during the Greek civil war, when his allegiance to communism led to internment; and then by the Papadopoulos military dictatorship, when he was again imprisoned, almost certainly tortured, and subsequently sent to island prison camps. During his time there he continued to write, even though writing was a proscribed activity. He would put the poems into tin cans and bury them around the compound.
Metal on metal
hammer on anvil
wheel on rail.
In between each clang
is a bird
not yet killed
coming from the other side.