Saturday, August 23, 2014


It wasn't so much a leap as a step, a movement so subtle that even I barely registered it. But it's true: at some point in the past year or two I'd simply stepped off the edge, consigned myself to space and gravity -- a demotic into thy hands moment -- an anti-Icarus gesture lovingly prepared along with my face before its birth. Of course, one seldom gets away with such half-assed leavetakings. Transparency ? The most I could muster was a mottled translucency. 

So when the Calle Verde rose up to meet me, it was as if I'd finally broken through the bottom of a green Jello mold which I'd mistaken for something sheer and no-man fathomed (GMH) and through which I'd been slowly sinking. And now that I've showered off the the green quivery bits and had the most of the red squishy bits sucked out of my head, it's time for the inevitable Apologia Pro Vita Sua. You've been warned. 

An apologia is not exactly an apology, a verbal act of contrition -- it is, rather, an explanation, a rationalization, a justification of something. I am, I must confess, caught between the two genres of apologia and apology. My hardwiring (oh poor, battered brain) includes introversion, shyness, reclusiveness, retreat, social anxiety. The permutations of these are endless: scorn, contempt, groundless boasts of self-sufficiency.

The nocturnal excursion that led to my tryst with the sidewalk was fueled, in part, by a need to avoid small talk with people I barely know, the old self-consciousness that has been my shadow for as long as I can remember. Standing behind this persona and clamoring for position is its antithesis: the self that longs to be admired, loved, on display, praised -- a very old self I used to, in poems, call Dancing Bear. 

And crouched, trembling, behind these two unsavory amazons is the wraith who longs for connection, intimacy, love. Whose attempts at giving these have often fallen short. Whose attempts at asking for these have been even feebler.

So apologia, then; but also apology for my manner of being-in-the-world.

Lithocardia, as the prophet said. A heart of stone. Dense as a black hole. From which no light can emerge.

This is not a blinding, new insight, and I'm not saying that I haven't loved or cared for people around me. But I could have succumbed less readily to the cold gravity of retreat and withdrawal, could have ventured forth more from my hermitage, anxiety notwithstanding; could have been less self-centered; could have returned love more generously, could have reached out more, or reached back when love was offered. That's the apology. The confession, the hope for absolution, for the mercy which by definition is unmerited, gracious --

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round 
As if with air ... (GMH)

If only I could believe it.

So in this sunny, mercifully cool end-of summer -- in this forcible, temporary retreat from the world --

I attempt to scale the walls the narrow crevasse between apologia and apology into which I appear to have fallen,

clawing toward something that might be called  light.


tristan said...

you bear witness to the light whenever you write so beautifully for us and show us these lovely pictures ... what more could we possibly ask ?

christopher said...

I too know the difference between writing and other ways. So I will reach out now too. To you. (0)

Paula said...

Tristan -- thanks. I'm always trying to make a break for the outer darkness. The nature of the beast.

Christopher: reaching back, gratefully.

gary guetzlaff said...

not a black hole, certainly. The light instead emerges with a hardly recognizable lucent beauty.