On Writing…

Yesterday, I was asked about the difference between writing what I believe to be the truth versus writing something that can be independently checked. I absolutely think there are differences between personal truths and facts. I also think that there is a line between dramatic embellishment and wilfull lying (which is where Frey and others have erred). My truth doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate or verifiable, that is part of what makes it mine alone. So much of our day to day life is a subjective experience and is conditional event driven…the philosopher in me is quite comfortable arguing that there really isn’t one objective kernel that everyone can agree on, but the scientist in me knows there are some fundamental elements that we can agree on. This is what makes the particular art of the memorist so delicious in my mind, it is the rendering of the world as I find it. Nothing more, nothing less. 

On Neruda…


My heart races when Neruda talks of how he sees his lover, how his passion evolves because of her. My heart aches when Neruda shows the profound depths of his depression, how his dark internal world could be. He writes of the world he is experiencing with passion and he does not cloud the essence of his experiences with easy phrases or lofty metaphors. The result is breathtaking.

He once stated that he always returns to his work, “to the blank page which every day awaits us poets so that we shall fill it with our blood and our darkness, for with blood and darkness poetry is written, poetry should be written.” It is this linguistic alchemy that draws me in. His writing insists that I step through the fog of my disbelief and be present as I join him in the rendering.

A task I willingly perform.

I like for you to be still

by Pablo Neruda

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you.
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.

As all things are filled with my soul
you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.
You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,
and you are like the word Melancholy.

I like for you to be still, and you seem far away.
It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like a dove.
And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach you:
Let me come to be still in your silence.

And let me talk to you with your silence
that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.
You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations.
Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,
distant and full of sorrow as though you had died.
One word then, one smile, is enough.
And I am happy, happy that it’s not true.


On My Love of Rilke…


Rilke can utterly undo me. He has the ability to help me clear my mind — trust me this is no easy task. I don’t know if it is the sensual imagery, the stark mysticism, the rigorous language, or all three.

I suspect it is all three…

The Book of Hours, I, 17

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth—
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

-Ranier Maria Rilke

Silence Over Coffee

If instead,
I told you I had a cancer
would you still sit,
biding your time,
waiting for me to heal?
Would life carry on
in your view of us
as each day my body
was divided, conquered,
one weakened cell after another?

If instead,
I could show you spots
or unnatural shadows
on an X-ray film and say
here and here and here
that is where it is,
that is where I am slowly dying,
would you still simply
pat me on the head
and say “Now, now”?

But I can’t
fix my trembling finger
on a single point to tell you
this is where it hurts
and it’s not my fault
I’ve no black and white image
to prove
I’m being devoured slowly,
painfully being consumed
by my dis-ease.

And while what you say
may be true,
that “this too shall pass,”
any remission just means dormancy.
I must tell you
the fiercest storms
gather strength while resting
and nature’s cycles
prey on weakness,
they are meant to destroy first
and then, perhaps, rebuild.

For now we both sit
quietly sipping our morning coffee
you: appearing burdened
by my malaise
my dis-order,
me: feeling alone.

This was graciously first published by “The Healing Muse” in Fall, 2011.