I have finally gotten back some yang - maybe just a temporary blip in the extreme serenity I've been feeling since I began taking valproic acid a couple of weeks ago to smooth out the waves and troughs I'd been in since a different doctor gave me a different medication, a steroid, in January ("It's just a local shot. It won't hurt you"). I was wondering if I had gotten enlightened, to use the language loosely, and hadn't realized it until my chemical sine wave was calmed down. But here it is, I am back, the old me, busy mind, desire to get something done. Then frustrated. I'll tell you from experience, it can be nice, not wanting anything very much (if that is not caused by depression or suppression or oppression, as it often is in yin creatures). Yesterday I was still there.
Yesterday we went to the health club in the late morning, planning to come back home, where I intended to work on my poetry. I had a project in mind. But when we came out, Tom saw that one tire in the van was low, and wanted to take it back to the Discount Tire place, where the tires are still under warranty. It should only take twenty minutes, he said. I agreed, it was important, and I wasn't comfortable asking him to drive the opposite direction to take me home first.
Outside Discount Tire there is a huge field, part of the OSU ag complex, with a lavish display of barns and cows and horses, though they were not visible from where I sat. What was, was a section of plain old wire fence, not barb wire, just square wire intended probably to keep the cows in. One panel of this fence was sort of bent and blowsy, with dried up small vines curling up it. It was just like a fence at Grailville, where I went on retreats for so many years as if I was a drowning person. In free time on those retreats I would sometimes stand by that fence, which in late fall would always have a little late wild honeysuckle blooming on it. And it seemed like the most beautiful thing in the world, putting to shame all manmade art.
Well, I often have this feeling about Art. With poetry . . . maybe it is the most intimate art, expressive of our own selves. Speech is what we humans can do. But what to do with a poem? You come out with it in a sacred space, like giving birth. If you then want to Be Published in the only place where poetry is published, the literary journals and small presses, you put your precious little poem on a conveyor belt and off it goes. It is in a huge factory now, being treated like - a product.
I had admired a certain poet, and then looked at a journal that published him, and then got infused with the desire (there's that word) to get published there myself and then, like him, to have a perfect-bound book come out. Down the road, of course. This was all born in the left brain, which is so good at schemes and plans.
And so I was working on that (at last!) this morning when something contradictory and cowlike set in. I had thought a particular poem was something they would like, tight and emphatic. But I had several versions of it, so I called them up into my word processor and set out to compare them and select a final draft. My poetry file looks like an artist's studio must, paintings leaning against the wall in tiers, twenty things all in progress, rags and paint and stuff everywhere. This file is where I work. I don't entertain people there.
I really. Didn't. Like. This. Poem. All of a sudden. A week ago I liked it. I'd put it on the short list because thought it was the kind of thing they'd like. This week it's too angry. Instead I found myself thinking about the wire fence and a poem I wrote with honeysuckle in it. It is one that refuses to get into shape, and I don't know where the first draft is - I wrote it at Grailville in pencil. I probably have it somewhere. My filing cabinets also look like an artist's studio.
While as a professional I have discontents with this poem (and your comments are welcome), I like it. It makes me feel soft, recalls this priceless experience. It is not the sort of thing they appreciate in literary journals. So I will just paste it in here.
In the Zone of Silence
by Jeanne Desy
In the time before dawn
the morning bell clangs.
Figures walk toward the zendo,
hugging themselves. Stars. Silence,
except for the clatter of the screen door,
of shoes nudged off. In the dark,
motionless figures wait.
One candle burns on the altar
before the great window that will fill
with fog, then meadow, then cows.
For now the particular is lost.
Midnight fevers subside.
Out beyond the light, the Teacher
catches an elusive scent:
a few late honeysuckle blooms
in the tangled vine on the fence.