I’m shocked—pleased, but still shocked—at the positive responses I’ve received for bits out of my journal. I mean, when I try to write well and thoughtfully, the response is, “That’s nice,” but when I throw stuff out from long-ago journals, I get praise. Go figure.
I suppose the lesson to be learned is, “You make it way too hard,” but that’s a double-entendre not even worthy of Michael Scott.
* * *
When I drank, I had lots of transitions just like that. I’m sure you’ve heard of blackouts, but you may not have understood what they are.
Normal people, if they drink too much, PASS out—they lose consciousness and go into a sleep-like state, waking up hours later with a huge head and a nauseated stomach.
Alcoholics of my type, if they drink too much, may pass out, but once the disease has progressed to a certain point, BLACKouts are much more common. Instead of having the good sense to shut down, the alcoholic continues to function as normally as a drunk person ever does, with one fairly major difference—he has no idea that he is alive or is doing any of the things he’s doing. I have spent entire evenings in a blackout, where I stop remembering anything at, say 7 p.m., but know by reconstruction of evidence, that I didn’t sleep until midnight. That evidence might be the testimony of people I encountered, dirty pans showing evidence of cooking or unexplained credit card bills. (In one summer, I blackout-bought about five-thousand dollars worth of stuff online—including a large-screen tv that was delivered a week later, much to my surprise.) One thing I know: I’ve never heard of an act of charity or a selfless action committed in a blackout.
In addition to blackouts, almost as scary (or more, in some cases) are GRAYouts, where the alcoholic has vague memories of what he did the night before, like seeing randomly-selected clips from a movie—no direction, no plot, just snippets. Even worse, he has interspersed with these memories all kinds of things that never happened—and he can’t sense the difference between true and imagined memories. Wow, I don’t know what got me going on that. The words just started flowing and wouldn’t stop.
* * *
Sometimes, and now is one of those times, my brain forms “poems” that are nothing more than silliness broken up by spacing. As Robert Frost would say, “Free verse is like playing tennis without a net.”
Not Saying What You Don’t Mean (and writing about it)
A. Conan Doyle never wrote, “Elementary, my dear Watson!”
B. James Cagney never said, “You dirty rat.”
Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam.”
P. T. Barnum never said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.
Please write five things you never said.
Don’t say them. Just write them.
Now choose one of these things.
Write a poem, story or essay to explain why you never said it.
Read your work out loud.
Now tear it up because you’ve said it.
* * *
Poetry Awaits—Just Add Inspiration!
Thank you for applying.
You have been accepted
The Clara Barton School of Battlefield Medicine,
Once your check has cleared.
Below are the pieces you will use to build your first poem!
This is an exciting moment for you.
Now, remember to breathe.
Use each of the following sentences or phrases in a single poem.
Feel free to add other ingredients
1) Flying pigs used to be rare. Before last Thursday no one had ever seen one.
2) Sorrow flowed, along with blood.
3) The bones that weren’t crushed in the fall poked through my thih.
4) Dying’s not so bad, except for having just dial-up internet.
5) I’d never liked the way Felicia looked at my baseball-card collection.
Submit your completed poem,
Stapled to a fresh 50-dollar bill
To Clara Barton . . .
And await further instructions
* * *
Three Ideas in Search of Structure
The very first bomb
dropped by the Allies
on Berlin during World War II
killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
What were his thoughts
When he glanced up
And saw that lion-sized
Black metal tube?
Please number and write 25 completely true things about yourself.
Tell no one of your task.
Carefully, very carefully, tear the truth into 25 slips
Hide them throughout your town
Hide them throughout your house
Hide them throughout your pockets
How many of them return to you?
These are not the truth.
How many of them remain hidden?
These are not the truth.
How many have you forgotten?
Stretch. Breathe. Burp. Whatever it takes.
Try to say the alphabet
without moving your lips
or your tongue.
Every letter sounds exactly the same.
How can you use this information to your advantage?
The disadvantage of your enemies?
Why do you have enemies?