Monday, June 18, 2012

"But I never had the feeling I could offer that to you"

I hear someone say, the other day, that to be in love at 16 was the greatest of all things possible. He said he knew it was true love, that he didn't believe those who cautioned otherwise, those calling it puppy love, those who mocked him for it.
Love is a strange thing, Gentle Reader. It can come upon us at strange times, and in strange places. The woods, say. When we're bleeding, maybe. There could be a horse. Or holding someone's hand during a blood test. Anytime, really.
I've been thinking, lately, about an advice column I happened across, as I boldly attempted, as I do every day, to read the entire Internet. The column suggests that a life without love isn't really a life at all. Or, rather, a life where one gives up on love, even the possibility of it, where one loses hope in love all together, isn't really a life.
It's a good read.
It's gotten me thinking, I suppose, about love. Granted, this is not new. Love is something I often turn my thoughts to, and not just in the springtime. Thus:

One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,  
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:  
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,  
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries  
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,  
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose  
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,  
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,  
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,  
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Love can be dangerous, gentle reader. It can be sharp, and cruel. To love, when it goes badly, can be the worst of all human experience.
However, and this is one of those big "However's" of life, if it goes right... If you find the one who loves you back...
I'm not sure if Neruda has found that someone to love him back here. Is his secret love, one of obscure things, "between the shadow and the soul", a hidden love? Is it the love one might never have the feeling one could offer to you? Or is it simply a love that is free from the conventions of modern life, not the over-the-top RomCom love, not the Bodice-Ripping love so often encountered? Perhaps not even the love we so often see in poetry, and that so often catches my eye here, that my Muse seems to want me to see more than others? 
Neruda's love strikes me as a different sort. Of course, Neruda himself might not know himself what sort of love he has, as he loves "without knowing how, or when, or from where", and knows no other way. That may be the truth of love. Who, I wonder, is to say?
Gentle Reader, this seems to me like a fine way to love, no? Like the love, the true love, of a 16 year old, who is sure, beyond all things, that his love is pure. Perhaps I, you, and all our inner 16 year olds should strive to love "directly without problems or pride", and above all not give up on a live where love is possible.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Ghosts...

I can do a lot of things with the past. I can look back at it, from the vantage point of the present, and attempt to make some sense of it. I do this by times. Or I can try to retell the past, to myself, or anyone else who will listen. Not everyone will. I try not to do this anymore. It smacks of dishonesty to me now, although it did not always. Of course, I can forget the past. Wipe it from my mind, condemn it the the dark places of history. And hope that no one ever finds it there. I no longer deliberately do this, either. Although I've forgotten large swaths of my past, I did not do so directly. Deliberately, maybe. Directly, no.

The one thing, gentle reader, that I can't do with the past, try as I might, is change it. Despite my best attempts, there it remains, staring back at me across the abyss of time. Grim, non? Some of you surely, feel no particular need to escape your past, and wonder why I should want to.

What if there was a way, Gentle Reader, to change the past? What if there was some power, the power of a good story, say, that could banish from the past all the ghosts that linger there, tethered by strange desires?

On the subject of ghosts:

On the day we moved in, the pings, bumps, and snaps
Were scary, it's true, but probably normal;
A house accepting new patterns of weight
With protest, the way no conviction goes gently.
We laughed a little, and called it "our spirit."

Later that night, when the power conked out
And the kids were crying, the ghost got a name,
"Daniel," and a history of whispered exploits,
All of them harmless, like nursery rhymes,
Or like the little fibs we tell ourselves
To explain why this or that has led to suffering.

Pretty soon, we were using him for everything.
When the Christmas tree fell, it was "Daniel";
When my wife lost her ring, it was "Daniel";
When the kids forgot to feed the goldfish
And it turned up dead, its eyes silvered over
Like water shadowed under sheets of ice,

Well, that became Daniel too, which was curious;
And pauses me now as I make the long walk
Down the hall to the bathroom in darkness,
And hear, in soft concert, the sound of my footfalls
Answered at once by my children's voices

Still calling to Daniel behind their door.

Daniel is not, of course, quite the same as the ghosts I made reference to earlier. Still, he seems to be an accurate portrayal, to me, of how these things work. They are convenient for a time, funny even, until all at once they are too real, and something shifts, in perception, or in reality, and you are faced with some painful realization. The father here sees in Daniel his own mortality, and further, the growing distance between himself and his children. Your ghosts might remind you of other things. But they are real, Gentle Reader, and maybe I'd better start thinking of an awfully good story to make them go away. I wonder if my Muse would want to help?