De Profundis: composed in Pattee Library, State College Pa, April 1995
The only reason I’m
writing this is because I have no fucking choice. I don’t usually use
expletives, but in this situation one is appropriate. It’s early April and the
clocks have sprung forward; it’s almost eight and still reasonably light. I was
outside a minute ago, but now I’m in this library sitting next to a brick wall
that I wish were a window. I could move, I could find another seat, but I won’t
because I’m a masochist and that’s how God made me. I believe in God and always
have. I don’t know if I like Him or Her or It.
I’m just counting the
minutes until I can sleep again. I do not know what is motivating me to write.
Eight tolls of the bell. I am not dead yet and I don’t know if I’m alive;
something in me lives but only because I wish it to. I want to be held and I
don’t want to be fatalistic. I want to kiss and be reinfused with faith. I want
to have fun, enough so that when life gets lonely again I can spitefully tell myself
You had your fun. It’s a habit I
have, spitefully saying things to myself. I constantly wonder if I suffer too
much or not enough. I am dominated by suffering but not time. Time is my clay.
I am determined to fashion a life of meaning, painful meaning, from it.
I could sit here all
night. If I sit here long enough, I could break through the layers of my
surface unrest to find the white round pearl of my suffering knotting my
throat. I may do so; I may not. A face, now a voice, passes through my mind,
and I am tarnished. No! Not her. I don’t know her. I wish many things. Wishes
hurt. They are not fun. Santa is a sadist. Do not tell him what you wish for;
he doesn’t want to hear it. I don’t put much stock in holidays anyway. Nothing
changes. Nothing is changing now, too; it must be a holiday. I declare this to
be Inertia Day 1995. We will all celebrate by complaining of our directionless
lives. Hallmark will bring out a line of cards; blank cards. Of course, no mail
will be delivered.
Enough of that; I’ve
carried the joke far enough. I’m sorry; I was just trying to stay amused. I
find that my amusement always seems to end much too fast. I’m dejected. There’s
nothing for me here or at home. I need a lover and I am 19, supposedly the peak
of my sexual capabilities, and my Mother still thinks I’m too young. There is a
female on this campus who makes my heart stop dead. DEAD! Strips me bare. BARE!
I think about her so fervently that I must use my hands as pacifiers. I’m
frightened of her, and vice versa. Circumstances are not extenuating. I’ve felt
this for months, and nothing has changed, and may continue not to. She has
shortly cropped blonde hair. How I’d love to run a single hand through it. She
sounds like Joan Crawford. She makes me think inarticulate thoughts. I want to
baby her. It would probably be advisable to meet her before I try.
What do I do about this?
Give me an opportunity, God. My dignity as artist and man is diminishing with
each whispered lamentation. My thoughts are not grandiose: a flaxen head, a
spill of blood, imagined moans. God, you sent me this plague. I demand an
explanation. If I am too young to make this manifest, what does it portent?
Madness? More loneliness? This could conceivably go on forever. I’m not going
to jump from a window. I live in a room that has a screen preventing me from
doing so. I am not sitting near a window now; I’m sitting next to a brick wall.
I’m going to have to live my life tomorrow, too, and the day after. Why are
eons encapsulated in a single cold April night? No birds are singing and she is
not here. Help me understand, God; why don’t I see myself in trees, flowers,
grass; why don’t these things reflect me? They are like airplanes or factories,
just points in the visual landscape. Nature kindles no joy in me. Nature is
cruel and very unusual. I am disgusted with my own discipline that binds me to
this pen and keeps me from relaxing.
I have not relaxed today.
I fear I’ve lost the talent. I used to be prodigious, then decided to be an
artist. Art is something, nothing else. That’s all: no presuppositions, no
posturing. I do know that if we saw ourselves adequately reflected by nature,
we wouldn’t need art. Nature is crude and unlovely. A branch does not amuse, a
leaf does not stimulate desire: we do. We are dedicated followers of no one. I
call myself Artist because it has more letters than Adam. Besides, am I Adam?
Nothing springs from my ribs but disillusionment. I don’t mean to be cutely
cynical. Lots of people are into cute cynicism. Cynicism looks cute because it
is babyish, it never grows. Now I’m going to direct my energies into the active
elimination of the memory of having created an aphoristic phrase. I feel better
already. I feel almost worthy to be loved. The lousy haircut I got today
doesn’t bother me anymore because I know that appearances are a ruse. Are
bullets and beer forms of wisdom?
I was once made fun of
for being fat. I am thin now but was not thin. I starved myself until my legs
buckled when I stood up on the bus. Those were painful days, as these are, and
I do not concede my right to complain. Creative self-pity is the basis of Art.
I love nothing more than my pity for myself. Nine tolls of the bell. It’s
probably completely dark outside now. Me and my brick wall are sticking together.
We have a healthy relationship. We are not mutually interdependent. We have
adopted a non-violent approach to our relative closeness. I’m too young for all
of this. I should be doing what young people do. This desk: a pirate ship! This
wall: a much coveted treasure! My loneliness: grosser than Hamlet’s!
I wouldn’t deny myself
the boastful privilege of saying I try to know how to listen, what to listen
for. Everybody thinks Art is supposed to be graceful. Everything lovely is
jagged and sharp. Grace is a myth. Content cannot be graceful. Who leads a
graceful life? The ones who slide by on surfaces, seemingly unscathed? I mean,
I always want to assume that all great artists are moralists, but obviously
that’s a false assumption. God, this is getting vague. I’ve got to go on. If
I’m too young to love, I’m also too young to stop. It’s demoralizing to think
about the time when stopping starts. The fantasy I’m having is of her reading
this and being so overwhelmed by my caustic wit and biting satire that she takes
off her clothes. Even the suggestion is painful. In fact, everything is painful. Does anyone remember what being
young is like? The fear, the continual fear, hanging on every moment, every
breath? Does urgency fade with age?
I have created tonight
and I am creating right now. I will continue to do so, even though I don’t know
where I’m going. I’m trying to listen for the next impulse and it will come.
I’m allowed to reject it if I want because another will follow. The most
inspiring thing for an Artist is that there’s always something more to be
afraid of. I will not repeat myself unless I feel the need to do so. I do not
feel the need to do so. I swallow.