I often wonder at how the first thoughts are fragile. Probably because the vessel holding them is fragile. My first thoughts are ones that acknowledge how hard it is and yet how much an abject failure a life can turn out to be, the disappointments of finding one's own faults, of being stuck with the legacy of a foolish juvenile's sense that life should be of pleasurable experiences. That sort of stuff as the body rises stiffly and sadly to make tea and breakfast and clean the dishes from last night, recycle a few things. Well, at least I've made it to a day off. I guess I'm not doing too badly. Some foil cuts here and there on the skin, and maybe the depression came of watching a strange movie based on a Cheever short story called The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster who's making an increasingly horrifying trip home stopping in the swimming pools of affluent Hamptons-like mansions, being stripped of illusions at each turn in each pool, late after work last night as I cooked rice spaghetti and drank my wine to sooth the hum.
So how to disentangle the thoughts you might have from that sense of a completely inadequate means of making a living, should have been a scientist, one that drags you down nightly into the wine, which is the same sort of pleasure-seeking that got you there in the first place. Is this one of the peripheral meanings of Yeats' Second Coming, the "rough beast" that slouches toward Bethlehem? I can't imagine Miss Emily Dickinson feeling so roughly as she cleared away some space to write a line or two. Pop another astragalus, keep sipping your tea.
But why do the depressing thoughts come on the first day off? Shouldn't you be happy then, cleared at last on the runway to catch the seeds of musings in bottles? Why the return of hauntings, as if they too were cleared as the subject does not have to go make a wine tasting or a jazz night and dinner happen, not much to do but brood over a rug that needs the vacuum and the laundry pile? Fragility of thought, fragility of mind, fragility of body and life's fires. The illusions lessened, the body feeling punk, no wonder why we're drawn to pictures of Lincoln as he dramatically ages in the course of five years.
What is the wheat to be cleared from the chaff of such, of wishes you'd gotten down on your knees years ago and asked for help. Some lifting thought on the nature of existence and on suffering, some enlightened transcendent thought that then becomes the guiding light? When the golden light of evening is higher up in trees of heightened color…
Maybe the point is the symmetrical fragility itself, that each time we write out our thoughts we're making an inner journey quite similar to a Chekhov story. In writing a poem we are bearing a pain, sweetly, privately acknowledging it, too stoic to share it but on the back of an envelope.
Where is happiness,
nay, I would not know,
and so I am
Perhaps it is, ultimately, the reflexive seriousness inherent in the task of any higher form of communication. One doesn't write to present a pleasing image on Facebook, but more to address serous stuff, like, say, being an outsider, feeling like you have nowhere to belong. A Huffington Post list of great literature pertaining to the outsider puts Camus, L'Étranger, at number one. That's where at least the work aspires toward, even if it never gets there, hiding out, not coming to terms with it, escapist fantasy.