Thursday, January 03, 2013

...pain-unveiling truth

Does a ship going to scuttling go forth full dress,
Battle pennons a-flutter, brave against the breeze?
Did Cleopatra defying Octavian, wear her best jewels,
Correct each fold of gown and wave of hair?
She reached for the poison in beauty?
Does so go the old year, into the freezing night?
With showers of fireworks, bold in the darkness.
And so go I, in knowledge and silence?
The wreck on the rocks garbed in glitter
Of music, drums and soaring voices.

This week I have looked about and found sorrows all around me.

Not the great sorrows of public mourning, the sort that are shouted at us from the broadcast news to stare upon with uncomprehending pity, the sort that are evermore the daily business of the electronic infotainment industry.

These are, instead, small, personal sorrows, great only in the weight they press down upon the hearts of the bearers.

But I know of them, too, and I am grieved for the grieving.

All good things do end, it’s said,
And so, also, all doomed and broken things,
Marriage pitted with bomb craters,
Hearts lashed with scars and bruises,
Mercy is in such endings?

Hope was the heart-breaker,
Luring us again and again onto rough reefs,
At last, clarity with declaration:
Intent to defy reason and healing,
His love is his dysfunction, not me.

One is an epistolary friend whose husband's unhealed hurts from a war long lost have turned gangrenous from too-long denial. She has tried and tried to help him find his way back to the safety of CONUS and has been denied over and over. Finally the cock has crowed thrice: " more gas left to escape the gravity well of Dyson suckage..." she says.

She is all but finished, finished with this part of her life so long hoped on and so hardly used.

Regardless of what happens in the end, no matter what it took to kill her caring, that past is and still will be there like a house gutted by fire. Every time she looks back she will see the ruin of what she spent a lifetime building.

Even though it is no longer her home, even though she understands that it is time to move on and find new shelter, the ruin standing there will remind her of all that life she put into the building of and the caring for it.

I am overthrown, defeated…
Hopeless at last before the singularity,
The black hole of rage he will not drain,
It devoured our life, feeds on him still,
He names me traitor for refusal.

I cannot love that hole of loss,
I cannot embrace the bomb ticking,
I am for life, love, health and future,
I am for pain-unveiling truth,
I am for reconstruction.

The other is a woman friend close to hand, a good woman, a good wife, and good mother who has simply hollowed herself out for her family and having reached her ends has found not the lavage of companionable love but still more arid demands.

Today I sat across from her in her hallway and listened to her speak of herself as if she was describing a stranger's sorrow glimpsed from far away.

Her pain and loss mantled her slim shoulders like a cloak, her head held stiff because in her struggle against her own life she had damaged her own neck.

It made her look as calm and grievous as a Renaissance madonna with her crown of thorns.

Pale and slender in her pajamas as red as a regret she spoke of her struggle with the soft, slow cadences of one that has been sorely wounded, who feels the hollowing of the lifeblood draining out and yet sits motionless, speaking quietly but in despair of the brush of hope.

He is for wrapping despair in lies,
For tiptoes around destruction,
He is for “never going there”…even to heal,
“I know where it is” he says;
Oh, but we can never know!

And thus, forever at risk we live,
Of coruscating fury at a simple word,
At acid voice, glowering face, hulking rage,
At which he demands we back away,
Resuming a false calm and smile.

Why does it seem so common that we men, so brashly confident in our own worth, make of our pain a weapon to harm others, often others most dear to us, while women whether by nature or through the way we mold them fashion of theirs an implement with which to rend themselves?

I do not know.

But I remember being that heedless husband, that uncaring helpmeet who was blithe and carefree so long as I could have my way and stroll on untroubled. I was the man who had no idea how thoroughly he had killed his love until she sat down in the chair across from him in the airy office of the counselor, looked about her, and said;

"I really have no idea why I'm here."

And looking back I cannot but pity that fool but pity more the woman who tried to love and care about him, tried to build a life around him, and finally wore out her heart and soul trying endlessly.

Who hollowed herself out only to find that in the end she had only made herself into a windchime; an hollow thing whose speech was disregarded as empty noise by the very one who should have been listening with all his heart.

So my own heart goes out to my friends, both in their own ways trying to rebuild their lives, trying to bind up their wounds and refill their well of souls.

And in my mind the vision lingers, of the pale woman on the hard bench wrapped in crimson sorrow like an exiled queen; proud and undespairing but her eyes deepset with her vanished dreams like the ghosts of her years-dead soldiers lost in battles long ago.

Swallow our tears in private?
That is the demand he o’er simplifies,
Mask our fear, our horror, our grief?
Our missing of the man we glimpsed,
Once upon a summer’s eve...

(and deepest gratitude to Syrbal whose beautiful and grievous poem this is)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kindness, Chief. I well understand the "arid demands" phase...and it happens in both directions now and then. I am re-grouping, doing what I do, putting one foot wearily in front of the other.

But also, I am gentling myself, like the spooked 'horse' that I am presently. I am reminding myself about vows pertaining to sickness and health; and of the necessity of firmly grasping one's own "oxygen mask" before assisting others. And sometimes? You simply let go...and let others find their own depth of loss.

It has been a rigorously trying New Year's week. But I must focus on the "new" more than on the "weAk", right?

FDChief said...

The hardest thing I ever had to learn is that loving someone isn't enough. That if they were bound and determined to wreck themselves that they would. And that finally my choice was to cling to them and go into the fire with them, or let go and watch them burn.

Neither is a "good" choice. One destroys two lives, the other, only one.

And when you're in that deathspiral the only hope is to keep trudging on and hope that things slowly improve...

Anonymous said...

Yep. I will trudge so far and no further. Because there is a point at which a continual presence...even one to be a argued with target is to enable destructive behavior and provide companionship that masks the isolation.

A year and then I pronounce the marriage dead if I don't see a new pattern of changing behavior. A year to say goodbye, perhaps, to all I have known since 1987...the home I built for us that I will likely leave.

Until then, I live in my little Haven....the secondary building, alone and mostly silent to him. So he, too, gets a taste of what it will be like; and I hope he will see that the picture he insists is his reality is a mirage.

Lisa said...


Your compassion is boundless. You are correct: Love is never enough.

Per your ex, I wonder of her words of unknowing to the counselor; those sound like the words of the uncaring partner, brought unwillingly. It seems you are taking responsibility for her "turning away", but can we ever really know another?

So often people ask, "Was there ever love?" "What happened to it?" The unconsidered is the quality of the partner -- what is or was his/her motive for the marriage/partnership? Did he come willingly? Was she a stop-gap to meet some need? While people should never be used as tools, we humans are great tool-makers.

Your poet has written an impassioned piece, but when she writes,

“I know where it is” he says;
Oh, but we can never know!

She is in the game, too. I know about those two emotions practiced by some men, "anger" and "withdrawal". Some women find power and seduction in tending to such an "injured" man. It is a pas de deux, beginning to end.

When you say, "men, so brashly confident in our own worth, make of our pain a weapon to harm others," I cannot help think that it is not confidence but the lack of it which allows one to lash out in anger. Pathologically, it can also be borderline behavior, and it rarely goes away, sadly.

I have spent much time searching for origins and solutions, and the only approach which brings me any peace is the acceptance that "it is"; doesn't matter the why's or wherefore's, or how powerful my intent or lifeforce. I will never change someone's life strategy. They are still alive after all, so it suits them. It keeps the tigers at bay, see?

Depending upon your sex, gender affiliation and mental health, men or women are "the enemy"! Enter such a one's den at your own risk.

Lisa said...

p.s. --

and syrbal, this really is a lovely lament.