What's in a name? that which we call a word
By any other name would drive us just as mad.
Sorry for taking liberties with your immortal lines, Will, but I have good reason. As a few of you may know, the one creative act that I've made a concerted effort to explore - because I'm that much worse with everything else - is poetry. And as all of you should know, the building blocks, the soil, the rocks, the clay, add your own cliché, of verse are words. The meaning they hold - literal, personal, abstract or, as is usually the case, a dash of each - the way they look on the printed page - or the screen - the way they sound to the ear, both by themselves or in relation to the words and lines embracing them, all of these linguistic, visual and aural textures come into play when writing, and for those of us not gifted with genius, we have to work all the harder to hopefully rise even a smidgen above mediocrity, trying our damnedest to avoid the syrupy, the maudlin, the mundane.
Often, a phrase or an idea will pop into my head out of nowhere and without thinking - if I'm lucky enough to have a notebook or any piece of paper nearby, though the skin is always present as a last resort - I'll transcribe it, not giving its quality a second thought. Just get the words down now and worry about the rest later. Even more often, as I'm lost in daydream, something will come, something is borne on the images and colors and sensations that filter through that hallucinatory mist to become words. Those too will be recorded on paper.
There is one final, broad category that I must address, for it is the most troublesome, nerve-wracking and sleep-depriving of all: the solitary word. Sometimes excised from verse I am working on, sometimes manifesting out of the blue or chosen with a purpose, a lone word can be the perfect starting point to a wonderful piece or a tough, thick vine twisting around my feet keeping me from moving any further. Perhaps it's broad enough in sense and meaning to be the quotidian seed from which a rich bouquet will grow, a clean palimpsest of cultural or personal experience that hides secrets, seen if only I'd look closer. Maybe I simply like the sound, the way it appears to the eye. In each instance, the word is insistent in its continued existence, in the same way a disdained melody or song throbs in your head without cease, no matter what remedies you apply.
But this? This is much worse. You know that in time, that godawful music will disappear. This word will not until it is transformed into the root of a creative act and nothing you do, not ignoring it, delving into another activity, putting up a blogpost full of scantily-clad ladies, writing an angry letter to your Congressperson, nor drinking heavily can hope to change that universal truth. This beautiful, maddening seductress cannot be sated. There is no protective circle, there is no crucifix, no silver bullet. There is no escape.
So what are you waiting for, fool? There's the discarded word. Write.
Most would be hit with visions of the mysterious, of the dead upon seeing or reading that word. I've woven patterns of the former in some of my works, not too much of the latter, save the occasional vampiric metaphor. But only in an alluring, come hither kind of way, not with a 'I vant to suck your blut!' I very much dig the old Universal and Hammer Horror flicks, but those aren't all that romantic, now are they? I'm certainly not aiming for things associated with a crypt, at least not in a motif of dark, dank limestone slabs housing rotting corpses. Though something is indeed sleeping, a feeling long dormant, or long searched for and found - possibly - at last. Here's where the mystery comes in.
Mystery. What does that word conjure up? Or the penultimate word of the previous sentence? No, despite the apparent ease of A linking to B bringing up C, the verse itself remains unclear. Yet there is a definite accumulation of related concepts: mystery, ambiguity, conjuring, magic, sorcery. Not in a cheesy, MMORPG sense, though many would no doubt interject a "hey, Randal, the other way is just as cheesy, you dumb fuck." You're right. To you, probably, it is. But being a big sap who won't write about my cat or my job or doing the dishes or strangely attired passers-by or existential problems or politics no matter how much I may want to because I simply cannot regardless of how hard I try, I'm stuck with, aside from the occasional nature poem with impressions quietly pilfered from John Clare - shhh, don't tell anyone - the emotion that, above all others, drives humanity fucking insane.
Thus, I build around that word floating in a sea of reverie, waves of consonance and assonance and rhyme battering, smoothing out the rough edges, leaving jagged those that need to be sharp. The word itself, with Greco-Roman roots, has a whiff of the Anglo-Saxon, not exactly ponderous, yet still heavy. A disruptive sound in need of softening. Both literally and emotionally, another word beginning with a hard C fits as the perfect suffix: caress.
Cryptic caress? How fucking stupid, no? Yet, find opposition between ideas of death and life, of the unseen obscured in the dark and the tactile feeling of a lover's hand on your flesh - another word that will find place in a line in time - all which circles back to the shadows in twilight, the red of the setting sun flush with the imprint of love, both won and lost, despised and longed-for, the shock of that touch, soon soft, then gone. And what is more mysterious, more damning than love itself, a sentimental ouroboros that we hope will protect us yet can just as easily be nothing but a prison? In my mind and heart, at least, I know and feel what this one word, now two, means, so it must be moved from the first line to the last of the first stanza. The foundation, though remaining visually so for these four lines, becomes the emotional denouement, the pinnacle, the spire in the clouds, before le deuxième acte.
Yet, the lines that lead to this climax remain unknown. They must be uncovered syllable by syllable. So many structures of antiquity were shaped in stone; they were permanent, both a guardian and a barrier. Thus,
Raising the stoneremoves the obstacle and permits the passions to be free,
allows the fire to roam,forsaking the sleep, the hibernation that maliciously dulls the senses, that lulls desire to become dormant, creating emotional inertia -
leave the void of velvet slumber behind.Now awake to burn away the veil that deadened our perception, that left a placid heart beating unfulfilled; a perception true for so long begins to melt with that fire
Spreading throughout the nightmare of the soul,returning with a gentle fury, the inflamed hope of our being, welcoming the turbulence one can only find with another,
in spirit and flesh, your cryptic caress.The entire piece remains in the dark, but there, where I could not see very far, was dappled with the merest light whose spell began to break through, pushing me to write further, capturing the unspoken that offers the gentle illusion of you, the cause of this joy lost in the firmament. Stormy, unstable passions you give to me, those barriers crumbling to dust as does my strength, my resolve. Cursed with the inability to handle the ideal, my pleas collapse as your fire vanishes, the last chords of your grand symphony, along with the terminal sounds of my feeble verse, fading into silence. The stone is replaced, shutting out the final strains of light, your imagined caress now my crypt. Through the course of twenty-eight lignes en decasyllable I am brought to hinted-at ecstasies far too short in duration - and the inevitable return to the precipice, the plunge back into darkness where I hope that another perfect word in the days ahead can gift to me one more moment, however fleeting, of love.