Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Narcissus and Blogdom

You may think this is a photo of me taking a picture of me in the bathroom mirror. But look again: could it be me taking a picture of you ?

Blogging and narcissism had been the topic of a recent trans-blog discussion of some thoughtfulness and erudition. I chanced upon it via a link in Br. Tom's this journal blug.

Reading blogs sometimes feels like seduction. I wander deeper and deeper, link by link. Maybe leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs, maybe not. I succumb. Drawn by interest, curiosity, greed. Bright trinkets (or a glimpse of naked limb, or a glistening, ruby-fleshed pomegranite) beckon from the underbrush. I am the voyeur, the lurker. The shadow.

Can a voyeur claim to be seduced ? The seducer is unaware of the seduction. Oh, really ? There are little, imperfect bits of code that tell us who's watching. I am watching you watch me -- this is below the level of conversation, this is spying now -- and it feels corrupt, shameful, louche. I know that you know that I am watching you, following you. A contextual paraphilia. A game.

For me, blogging these past few months has been a, yes, narcissistic extension of my sunk-in-the-body, removed-from-the-world, self-absorbed convalescence. Do not mistake this for a "therapeutic" or "healing" enterprise. It's simply a response to a primitive bodily insult, a vulnerability. It's a description, a reaction, a display.

But I digress, in my usual moody manner. Mainly I want to note the thrill of reading so much thoughtful text and response. The writing, the commitment, the humor, the sheer generosity and grace is quite overwhelming. It's a privilege, for example, to be able to read Ron Silliman's ongoing and rigorous poetry and poetics blog, Henry Gould's more wry and affable but no less incisive HGPoetics, Meetingbrook's Christian/Zen meditations, to name just a few.

As "public" as this is, I've kept my blogs secret, anonymous. Even from DK. What would my Dad rthink if he encountered himself on the web as "Raul Stanati" ? I'm not particularly thoughtful or erudite, and, as I've boasted in the past, Robert Pinsky himself, circa 1973, labeled my prose style "turgid." Twenty five years of writing medical notes has not helped in the rhetorical elegance department. Case in point. Nonetheless, this is the ultimate democracy, and I'm glad to add my voice to the clamor.

And very grateful for all who have read and responded. So many beautiful voices !

On Display (1997)

My neighbor’s daughter pirouettes across
their luscious grass. Her pink regalia
is satin, Empire-waisted, decolletée.

She figure-eights the ChemLawn warning signs
so brazenly I can imagine her
imagining Olympic judges’ gaze
transfixed by her perfect ten point oh.

Her prima ballerina arabesques
cue the curbside sprinkler corps aloft
into quicksilver jetés and pliés .

She cartwheels in a gossamer roulette,
a blur of curls and sawtooth diadem,
then waves her pinwheel scepter to decree
that frisbees stall midair. She thrills at thrall.

She is cadenza, obbligato, trill.
Her world rhymes and scans. When she grows up
she wants to own a horse, and be adored.

My prayer for this round child: may a cold eye
of clear dispassion startle her awake,
and not a raptor’s icy estimate,
invisible with altitude, acute,

or a chill malocchio, unsocketed,
polished on a sleeve, and offered as
a peppermint, a cat’s-eye, a pretty bead.

And may the kiss of that indifference
dispell the dream that suits her so perfectly
since all benevolence burns off by noon,
and by nightfall hula hoops are Catherine wheels.

When display becomes displeasure, discipline,
when adjectives bleed down her cheeks like kohl,
her streets will choke to alleys, her sidewalks fail

first to outskirts then to a nakedness
that scorns eros and thanatos alike.
Let this be where she stops and listens.
Let this be where she begins to speak.

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