Joan Didion. I don’t know how it’s possible that I don’t know more about you, because every time I see part of something you’ve written, it slaps me around some in a way I find welcoming. It must have been a combination of rebellion and exhaustion: too many assignments, too many unwanted recommendations and feelings of obligation and overwhelm over the years. But now that it’s just you and me, standing in the spotlight of your recent death, I have a feeling I will finally delve into you properly.
I could have sworn I wrote a paper that alluded to something you wrote, and stored it in my trunk. But since a recent paring down, I cannot find it. So I gather I threw it away. Pity that. It probably would have meant something to me right now.
I am starting to reckon with a few things lately. I am approaching something called “middle age” (hell, I’ve probably been in it for awhile, but I’ve declined to see it that way). I am someone who likes to think that I can skip at least some of the phases of grief, before ultimately discovering that this is impossible. I miss long-gone versions of certain people – though I suspect that this would hurt less if I were more self-secure.
Anyway, Joan. I’ll see you around. Thanks for this, which I never read before tonight:
Also, this, which – muah.
In other news: I’d meant to start publishing more of my old poems here, but I kind of fell off. So here’s one.
Salut (to A.) You're the only orange-haired boy I've ever respected, on Graduation Day you sat beside me on the platform, elevated by grades second only to mine. Folks said my speech was more creative, yours more commercial. Our conversation: fingers thrust in ribs. "Don't trip," "You missed a spot," I think you're wrong." I was steel-jawed Republican, you honey-tongued Democrat, called Bill Clinton a Mac Daddy, carried a Red Party card. One day B. asked me, "You know A. flirts with you, don'cha?" I said no, because I hadn't noticed. You and your friends never asked me out, just called me Mistress of Poetry and calculated my GPA more often than your own. So how was I to know? You dated girls with voices that brushed the skin like feathers. I wore combat boots with hearts on the soles. When I told you I'd chosen a single-sex school, you asked if I liked chicks. So how was I to know? Now we're in our twenties, another graduation. I run into your friend who's working office supply at Christmas. He tells me you'd been wondering what became of me. I decide to appease your morbid curiosity. On New Year's Eve, I write you a letter in juicy black pen. I remember how, in our clamoring to be called on first, to use larger words, we'd found each other untouchable; you'd probably loved my poetry because it was the single proof that blood shot through my veins instead of gasoline. Remembering this, I let there be scratch-outs and ink blots, tell you I'm writing at exactly 1:37 a.m. while playing the Beatles' White album. I'm even tempted to tell you what I'm wearing, not to turn you on, simply to let you know that I, too, wear clothes (but I refrain from this). Once you'd signed my yearbook: "May you continue your quest for literary domination, and have fun doing whatever it is you do over the summer." As if I dragged myself, dark-cloaked, down into some manhole, too inhuman to enjoy biking down plummeting hills, or the way food tastes chased with a gulp of fresh air. I confess I wish I'd told you more vehemently how I'd admired you. Four weeks later, your answer comes. It is typewritten, like a business proposal. Complete with a signature block. You say you'll be a lawyer, that you've been reading a lot, that my major has no doubt required me to do the same, and I should try Atlas Shrugged if I haven't already. At the very least I should find it intriguing. You're working two jobs to pay for your new apartment. Sometimes I think I sense in your words a swell of heat (you say my mind is one of those you respect the most), but each time a measured "It is" instead of an "it's" squelches the glow. My friends guess perhaps you're engaged and feel you cannot be too careful - and you do want to be a lawyer, after all. Perhaps it's the jargon you've been poring over. Then, swapping commiserate smiles, they suggest you're still afraid to let your guard down around me, that you want to be at your best before my eyes, that you thought you had to use grammar-and-spell-check lest I lay the smackdown on you. Something in my chest stings. I want to scream Holy bloody hell I just crawled under yellow warning tape to get in a side entrance I slept through this morning's business class I cried during the gondola scene in My Best Friend's Wedding and I don't have twelve poems finished today because I couldn't haul myself out of someone's arms -February 3, 2004
It just feels right to close these with a song sometimes. Here is the one I choose tonight.
Old friends I never visit, will I remember what they’re like?
Standing on a doorstep full of nervous butterflies
Waiting to be asked to come inside
Just come inside
So pleased with the daydream
That now living’s no good
I took off my shoes and walked into the woods
I felt lost and found with every step I took
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