Tonight, my teaching staff and I packed up our summer brood and took them to a literary reading, where a number of lines caught my ear ("pain's roar blasting my body," read Maurya Simon, in an exquisitely sad poem of mourning that perfectly capped off my viscerally sad day with Beloved and the film Osama, a day that left me wondering what we do, we humans, with all this loss and this pain that get showered down upon us not only in life but even in our art, inescapably in our art, in our art so that our lives do not simply end, but why, but why; "the horse is meant, like us, for madness," David Baker told us, later suggesting that "madness is its own mythology"; Rebecca McClanahan spoke of the courage of dailiness; I thought with some rue of the small, spoiled courage of holding one's own in the face of no real danger). By the end of the reading, I was meditating on words of refuge, in a day when language has seemed to do nothing but make me raw and exposed, a theorist of pain, a lecturer on sorrowful horror that simply leaves me empty, paying homage to suffering I cannot explain and cannot abate and cannot imagine. I am in a thin-veiled week, I fear, and to do anything but look the suffering in the eye and call it by its name and make my students call it by its name and sing together the sad sorrows of these vast human lives--to do anything but that would simply be wrong, immoral, points for the wrong side, the battle lost, the war over.
When I walked out of the reading, what had been a hot, still day had gone lively, spectacular, the last kind of beauty I'd have sought: grey stormclouds roiling, a cold breeze dropped in, rain biding the last of its time before starting, first the slow drops, so slow that if you keep moving they will only graze you, then the hard patter, the rattle and slap, the coming of more water. Usually I do not like to be damp but not wet--I am all for immersion--but this evening, I broke into a smart run across the road, from the car to the post office, and upon returning to the car, wanted nothing more than to stand, to get drenched, to catch that other silver that the rain becomes at dusk, molten half-light, accumulation of liquefaction and need. Halfway back to the car, the thought dashed across my mind that I could run and keep running, could run despite dress and dress sandals, could run on into the night with the rain and the wind, could stretch my legs and just keep going, never breathless, never tired, never my old self, simply a running rush of motion under earthbound waters.
When I reached home, I claimed my fourth poem.