Allow me to examine my own work for a bit, as self-indulgent as that may seem, but after staying up all night working on some mindless work and most of my ask box being filled with writing questions and now not being able to sleep and enjoying a cool and calm California morning on my patio, I was reminded of this poem for the second time this week and had some thoughts I wanted to put down. [Fair warning, I’ve been up for quite some time now and this is very long with many run-ons and comma abuses ahead]
In the past year or so I came across a quote on tumblr by a writer I unfortunately can not remember—shit, maybe it was even a poem. The gist of it was that, although it happens in varying degrees when it comes to all types of writing, poetry is amazingly deft at rarely being written with a fully purposed message and how the truer meaning, to the writer, and hopefully sometimes the reader, is only discovered after it is written—sometimes crystalizing during the process, sometimes upon reading the first draft you don’t hate, sometimes even weeks, months, years later. That writer said it in a much more beautiful and succinct way but that’s the important thing I eagerly ripped from it. I had experienced it before but never was able to figure out why the experience was affecting or how to articulate it.
This is by far one of the top poems, according to the subjective writer, me, in what happens to be a very short list of my work that I like. Even some of my more “developed” and recent stuff I have come to hate, sometimes as soon as days after I’ve posted them and sometimes months later, late at night, sneakily going in and trying to erase their digital footprint and start forgetting they ever existed. I cringe like a motherfucker. Regardless, this is one of my favorites, arguably my best, and I began to wonder why that was. Or why my own work affected me in such a way that it almost seemed like it had been written by someone else, or a story I wasn’t a part of.
Now, I believe, it’s because it exhibited most closely the sentiment that phantom writer described. I wrote it after Memorial Day weekend in 2012 after experiencing a nearly year-long bout of numbing depression. Friends had come into town, I got to know a brilliant person through new eyes, had an amazing ever-present group of friends, and we all drank happily and went to our favorite bars and played games out our house and spent a truly wonderful day in Venice (Venice! Of all g-d places!). I was riding high on that weekend and my initial reaction to the poem was, “Christ, I’ve been so sad for so long, but look at these wonderful people, and man, how much do I love this city and it sure is good to be alive.” Which were all pretty obvious takeaways and those topics are no stranger to most of my poetry—Los Angeles, being alive, my friends who are in most ways more family than most of my family. Weeks later, I even saw a budding crush developing between those lines. After that it sat on its webpage and wasn’t visited often. When I read it at the Roaring Fits of Summer I was too nervous and drunk to be cognizant of what the words coming out of my mouth meant.
And now, just a bit under three weeks from the poem’s one year anniversary, I’ve taken another close look. This coming at a very scary and exciting bookend for me, as well, as almost to the day of the poem beingn written this year, I’ll be moving to New York City (I’ll discuss this another time). It still exhibits those original ideas and paints the same visual picture to me. But other, larger things, have grown from it.
I see that not only was I very sad but I was fucking damn near suicidal. I remember more clearly now how often that thought popped into my head the months leading to that spring. Never with intention but always just tonguing what that meant, the idea of it, in my mouth out of nowhere some days. And that poem now shows me how much of a transitionary season that was for me. I was becoming more optimistic and recognizing more and more, and so goddamn vividly, as if I had just been turned on for the first time, the simple, wonderful beauties of being alive. Which were constantly being found in small moments with friends and tiny, sharp images I’d come across walking through Los Feliz—certain graffiti, single mothers with polite children, a place that felt like home (a somewhat vague concept for me, carried from my military brat years). That weekend was the apex of that. I was hanging out, blissed out of my skull, without any worry and with amazing, talented and caring people in my very beloved city. And I was dirt fucking poor. I’m usually pretty skint but I was at an all-time low; I even made sure to have someone pay me back their share of a sangria pitcher. Humiliating shit that I extremely detest. And I was still out of work with no end in sight. But none of that depressing tangle weighed on me that week. Everything was enough.
Simultaneously, I was falling in love. Not all stories of “growth” need to, and rarely do, coincide with a love interest the way movies want us to believe. But hey, look at us sitting here having our cake and eating it, too. I didn’t know it was that big of a feeling at the time and when inklings of it did float up in me I brushed them off. That was so fast! What a foolish feeling! The seriousness of that feeling is preposterous! But the communication that proceeded that weekend stoked those small coals and six weeks later I told Futernick, on the patio I’m sitting on now, “this is silly but I think there are some major feelings growing here, bordering on, uh, like, love, dude.” How poetic!
So that was what got me stoked this morning, while returning to Alan is a dumb fucking name, and it made me feel like I urgently had to express that. It makes me so thankful for leaving behind artifacts, and enjoying even my cringe-worthy work for the documents they become, and looking back and tracing lines to that artifact to see ebullient kernels waiting to grow, unable to be seen that early on.
Sorry I just wrote so long about sucking my own dick but it’s not really the poem itself, or my supposed talents, that I’m crazy about, it’s what it meant to me, still means to me, and how it showed some growth from the past. Come at me with pitchforks.