Outside of vague poetry I’ve ignored the stroke. I want to pretend it never happened as if, maybe, that will undo the brain damage and emotional trauma that comes with going toe-to-toe with Death. I’ve spent a lot of years flirting with Her and I guess Death finally decided to flirt back.
I traded one form of insulation for another.
“Now I saw in my dream that… they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was “Despond.” Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt… because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.”
— John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
The Slough of Despond is a nasty, miserable bog of guilt that sucks people in and is almost impossible to escape. In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s an allegory for sin but I think it can be more accurately described as Depression. Yes, capital-D, clinically-diagnosable Depression.
Knowing someone stuck in the Slough of Despond can be difficult, draining, and generally lead to depression itself. I know this because I am scandalously intimate with the Slough. It’s my Unhappy Place. I’ve lived with it since I was 8 years old.
There are universal truths:
- Love and fury are indivisible.
- Matter cannot be created or destroyed.
- There is victory in being remembered.
- No one exists on purpose.
And so you will persist in the wake of your own supernova as an accidental afterimage on the retina of the sky that we will all observe in love and fascination.
my wrists ache and my doctor says it’s from typing too much but i think it’s because of all the stories i’ve left untold. my carpals are swollen and burning with narrative that i’m too frightened to let loose from my central nervous system to my peripheral nervous system so i do repetitive, stressful things instead like reading others’ arguments on twitter and wondering why i can’t manage to start conversations with my best friends. a brace will treat the cause, sure, but not the symptom.
I’m making a pb&j at midnight because I live alone and can do this kind of thing without arousing suspicion. I haven’t eaten a full meal in a week. The world has made me sick.
As always when I’m sick and tired I think of you. How it’s been almost three months since we last spoke. Almost eighteen since we kissed. How when Death came for me my mother turned you away from our doorstep and how I am glad and resentful for it. How you went from being the woman I wanted to marry to a bullet grazing my cheek en route to elsewhere. Late nights like this the scar stings. I do my best to soothe it with hamfisted metaphor and flourishes but I always fall short.
I always fall short.
I never read the letter you left on my nightstand.
But then you went and gave my mother a card for me in the wake of my nearly-dying. A card full of hallmark sentiments about freedom. “You just crawled tooth and nail from your death bed but don’t you remember how I broke up with you? Aren’t you happy I let you go free?” I’m paraphrasing but that is the spirit of it and I wish I’d never read it.
Would you have said the same thing at my funeral? Eulogized not my corpse below you but our relationship? Waxed poetic about the crushing kindness you did me by breaking my heart?
As if I would allow you to speak at my funeral.
I think I understand what happened now. When your feelings fill your lungs like tar you don’t know what to do about the slow pain of drowning. You wheeze about your selflessness and sacrifice and the undying love you bear others and never manage to cough up what’s eating you.
Lucky for me I’m not dead and I only miss you like this when I’m tired and hungry. Maybe that’s what drove you away. I smother the things I love when there is no clear line at the start of no man’s land.
First come the smiles, then the lies- last is gunfire.
Here we are. Alive and full to bursting. Me with cheap metaphor and you with unspoken tar.
Tell me, how does your freedom taste?
You are wondering whether or not you will have to punch a Nazi. You are wondering how these Nazi’s got so much political power in the United States. As always, turn to the Lorde. Audre Lorde responded to Nazi violence in the streets and in the legislature in Germany at the end of her life with protest and passion. This is an alphabetized oracle (proper nouns mostly excluded) from her poem “East Berlin.”
For a longer article that contextualizes this within my research on Audre Lorde see my piece over at Bitch Media: https://bitchmedia.org/article/andre-lordes-abcs-fighting-facism
To activate the oracle think of your question for this political moment. Choose a letter of the alphabet that you associate with that question and scroll down to the relevant letter. Meditate on the words, create your own poem prompted by them, do what feels right to you. If your letter has no words in this…
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Sometimes I write about her directly, sometimes less clearly, but I write about death as often as I pick up a pen it seems. Death is even a major player in the scifi-fantasy epic Moira and I are writing, turning up as two separate characters with two distinct, vital roles. So what gives? Why am I so obsessed by death?