Sunday, September 21, 2008

Infinite Sadness for DWF

It's taken me this long to collect myself--scratch that, I haven't really been able to collect myself after reading almost a week ago about David Foster Wallace's sudden exit. I've been reading the obits and the articles, most of which seemed so tongue-in-cheek badly written as to further highlight the rarity of the talent that just left us--even DFW's Kenyon's Commencement Speech. This evening, I found Laura Miller's tribute on Salon, (as well as a 1996 interview with the author that is telling in so many ways) and an outpouring of letters and responses to his death by readers, writers, colleagues, students and friends (as well as a disgusting spate of venomous, tasteless trollery by a few pithed vultures here and there). Miller's piece resonated with me on so many levels. She found a way to be eloquent at a moment where I have felt too rattled and grieved to articulate myself. Porochista Khakpour's posting on the Remembering David Foster Wallace column at also touched the nerve-center of grief that so many of us are feeling right now. Suicide and terminal depression are nothing new, and yet the way in which they claimed DFW, in spite of all his attempts to live in the world and to love it as best he could, still managed to blindside me. I think of Kurt Cobain, of Nietzsche (who might well have taken a similar way out had he not been institutionalized during the final years of his life), and I think, especially of Anne Sexton. Our loss of DFW, although I never knew him (though like many, I feel as if I surely must have known him nevertheless), is beyond words for me tonight. And so instead I leave for him a poem by Anne Sexton, although it comes too late to save him, just as it failed, ultimately, to save her, for even if words cannot save us from ourselves, they are all we have with which to make meaning out of the meaninglessness and to make life/our lives out of mere/sheer existence.

Well, death's been here
for a long time --
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart's doodle.
The chief ingredient
is mutilation.
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody's mother,
the damn bitch!

Even so,
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed the body
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I play it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody's doll.

Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don't like to be told
that you're sick
and then be forced
to watch
down with the hammer.

Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize --
and you realize she does this daily!
I'd known she was a purifier
but I hadn't thought
she was solid,
hadn't known she was an answer.
God! It's a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
and better,
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchings,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I'm on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I'm ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.

all along,
thinking I was a killer,
anointing myself daily
with my little poisons.
But no.
I'm an empress.
I wear an apron.
My typewriter writes.
It didn't break the way it warned.
Even crazy, I'm as nice
as a chocolate bar.
Even with the witches' gymnastics
they trust my incalculable city,
my corruptible bed.

O dearest three,
I make a soft reply.
The witch comes on
and you paint her pink.
I come with kisses in my hood
and the sun, the smart one,
rolling in my arms.
So I say Live
and turn my shadow three times round
to feed our puppies as they come,
the eight Dalmatians we didn't drown,
despite the warnings: The abort! The destroy!
Despite the pails of water that waited,
to drown them, to pull them down like stones,
they came, each one headfirst, blowing bubbles the color of cataract-blue
and fumbling for the tiny tits.
Just last week, eight Dalmatians,
3/4 of a lb., lined up like cord wood
like a
birch tree.
I promise to love more if they come,
because in spite of cruelty
and the stuffed railroad cars for the ovens,
I am not what I expected. Not an Eichmann.
The poison just didn't take.
So I won't hang around in my hospital shift,
repeating The Black Mass and all of it.
I say Live, Live because of the sun,
the dream, the excitable gift.

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