The Bashful Wearer of Flesh Stripped

Say, what’s with this condition? You know, having no desire for anything but that of a story well told.

Is it something in the genes that has now decided to kick in? Have I finally discovered my own origin of species? It’s a Herculean task now just to clean the dishes or tidy up after my daughter. I wonder if it isn’t my own way of prioritizing what I now consider time’s fleeting. A need to get something in print before people start wearing printed T-shirts with “Print is Dead.”

It’s euphoric when the creative bellows do blow, but then a ring of ashes, this ring of apathy descends for anything that isn’t writing and that creates only jeremiads and a long search for synecdoche. And I don’t need schisms now, what with a lovely daughter.

I wonder if I find myself in this state because I am striving to be recognized as a writer and think that it needs every particle of my wayward self to make it. But then the work requires everything from you, doesn’t it? It requires the semen from whence you sprang to the ashes from where you’ll spring.

So the writerly life becomes very hermetic. But then life gets father away, and I always feel madly isolated, lost to others, some kind of hooligan at society’s sullen games of propriety and elegance and togetherness as if it were monolithic when filaments, filaments, filaments are being sucked out of themselves leaving them as desiccated husks.

I’m sure this little big epoch isn’t just mine to explore. I think many other writers have gone through similar zeitgeists. Although it might be better to describe it as a fox hole. A sharpening of reason. A quiet space outside the raging battle of humanity that goes on with such speed that I’m surprised when I wake up to find the world is still with us. A hole to witness the carnage that has come before, all the dead writers strewn over the killing fields, their books clutched in their hands, their lips in a tight grimace of “Write, you bastards, write. It’s all you’ll ever have. Stories. Because when death comes you’ll have to give the greatest one of them all to make him go away. And none of us, not even the greatest, have been able to tell it better. Death is the greatest storyteller of us all. So start outwitting him early. The older you get you either become too literary or not literary enough.”

And to be honest, I’d could hole up for a good six months in some shed in someone’s back garden. Get brought the occasional libations. Sleep extensively (it’s when I do my best work). Write as if Sodom and Gomorrah were planting seeds of destruction around the shed. Write as if the Four Riders of the Apocalypse were being shipped UPS. Write as if a pack of rabid writers were pawing at the door. Write as if Atlas was in the middle of scratching his arse and the world was slowly sliding down his well-curved spine and knocking on every vertebrae as he digs at the itch. Write as if you only had this gifted 6 months, this pardon from the powers that be that you could check out of Hotel Pandemonium for a while and write until your heart is content then slip back into the slipstream where people’s dreams clog the gutters.

I think all of humanity needs a shed at the bottom of their garden to “loafe and invite my soul,” as Whitman wrote. Right now humanity is living in bunkers constructed not underground but above, surrounded by concrete, living as if dust and mortar were more vital than flesh and blood. Communicating by technology instead of by mouths. Flying noisy flags above their fortified compounds. Calling them unique and distinct when they are all just one giant block of uniformity. Teaching their children the ways of cement and dry walling and drilling and exploding as means to feel, explore, think, and have an imaginative spirit. Even the new born are covered in layers of dust.

And me? Give me a hill. Give me a tent patchworked from the skin of dead animals. Give me even a cave of natural rock. I don’t want to commit myself to the sarcophagus of this new brave world. I’m not ready for the cerecloth. There’s more boldness in going naked! Let me find what Lawrence referred to as disdaining my social self and proclaiming the authenticity of my “permanent” or “fundamental self.” Whitman did it, too, with the “Song of Myself”.

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