A friend texted me the other day: "I know what I want for my birthday. A poem from your soul!"
Bastard. I've put off the activity and tomorrow is his birthday. What am I going to write?
Part of me wants to write a version of Larry Levis' "The Poem You Asked For." This poem slowly takes on human form, beats up the poet, slicks back its hair, and heads off to the asker's house. Ha. There's something violent in a requested poem.
No. Rewind and delete. There's something violent in me these days when I face the task of writing a new poem.
Facing this particular request, I ask myself: Do I have a soul? And if I have one, does it want to write poems?
Hum. If I have a soul, it's a dark viscous material on the bottom of my stomach lining right now. It's black and sludgy. When I move, it lies inert. When I walk through a shopping mall, as I've been doing far too much lately, it hides from strangers' eyes. It doesn't stir as I pull out my credit card. It doesn't care how many pairs of black slacks I purchase, or about the expanding range of colors in my turtleneck collection. It's reptilian, cold-blooded. A kind of liquid parasite.
Does it want to write poems? No. Mostly, it wants to be left alone. It wants to hide in the recesses of my body where it's dark and practice complete stillness. It doesn't want a mind. It doesn't want to be roused into conversation. It wants the safety of TV, of superficial narratives with predictable plots, characters who are types, who change in the usual, seen-it-all-before ways, not the image blasting mind bending torsion of poetry. And it certainly doesn't want to create a poem designed to connect with another human being, one it cares about fundamentally.