Posted by: scintillatingspeck | March 30, 2014

Taking a walk, then sitting down.

It has been a long period of molting and transmogrification, loves, and my little human impulses to observe, narrate, and make sense don’t wish to be quelled.  I go through periods of contraction and expansion.  This latest contraction pushed me to seek out a sheaf of old poems I’d written, and along the way, I also discovered a self-portrait I’d made with a pinhole camera, years ago.

pinhole self-portrait, circa 1985

I think I made these images in 1986 or thereabouts, in 8th grade—it must have been shortly before I turned 14.  I had made the pinhole camera in an art class out of a cylindrical oatmeal box.  We were then instructed to go out on campus and create photos; the exposure time was several minutes, if memory serves me.  I had set up my camera on a side windowsill of The Castle, the iconic building of the prep school I attended for six years, Noble and Greenough, a.k.a Nobles.  (Don’t get me started on the implications of “nobles” and “castles” right now.  I know.)  The exposed photo paper when developed showed the negative image that appears on the right; I then used the paper negative to create the image on the left.  Here it is, closer up:

self-portrait outside of the Castle, Noble and Greenough School, Dedham, MA

I don’t know what it’s like for the uninformed viewer to see these images.  For me, looking at this picture brings back the residue of intense loneliness, rage, confusion, and alienation I felt.  Re-reading my writings from that time, I can’t believe that nobody seemed to notice how much suffering I was going through.  I remember exactly how I felt, huddled on that cold stair, holding perfectly still so that the image would come out right.  I spent years like that, holding my breath, trying to portray the image of achievement, while inside I was seething and falling to pieces.

Why do I seek out this stuff?  Why can’t I just leave it in a box?

It was the poems I was after, though.  The poems, my raft, all that floated me far downstream.  I found them.

I’ll be posting some of them here on this blog.  It’s how I let go.  It’s not rumination or clinging, loves— it’s the opposite— I let these parts speak their piece, and I release them.  I’m releasing so much.  They fall off of me like feathers that will never help me fly.

Here’s one, dated March 29, 1989, a few weeks before I turned 17.

Taking a Walk, Then Sitting Down

I fall into the prickly bramble wild
Because, oh haughty one, I am a child
Who steers around your infuriating mild.

The tennis girls stand surefooted and tall,
Carefully swocking the brand-name ball,
Not thinking of anything at all.

Dead dogs with forlorn tombs.
The trees are too close; the mausoleum looms
Over.  Bleary, windy, I patter through that gloom.

The baseball boys dash gruffly in the field,
Throwing balls nonchalantly.  Their route is sealed
Between bases.  Masculinity preened and peeled.

I stand like Jane Eyre on the craggy rocks,
Listening to how the trees swish and knock,
Wishing I were wearing socks.

The library is solemnly modernly dead.
I wish I were asleep instead;
There are a billion volumes in my head.


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