Et in Arcadia Ego

Poetry is an art of imitation... that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth--to speak metaphorically,
a speaking picture...
--Sir Philip Sidney, The Defence of Poesie

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Saturday
Apr182009

THROUGH A MASK

 

Cross wondered, often, if his heart was black because it was charred or black because the poison had done its slow, relentless work. He didn't like to think it was only black from all the ink, but in the moments of honesty that piled up, week to week, like newspapers on the porch of a haunted house, he had to admit the possibility.

Why was he so reluctant, so resistant? Because that would mean it was all still a state of being mediated by words and nothing more, Cross replied to the mirror that refused to show him anything but his own reflection. Cross didn't want to feel literary (isn't that why nothing would come of late, no work, no matter how insistent its tapping at his--ah, can't resist--chamber door?). But Cross didn't want to feel literal, either: as if something really had been altered, fundamentally, and wasn't just a hostage to the time that healed all wounds... except the wound made by time itself.

Cross kicked himself now and then, like Dr. Johnson kicking that stone, and refuted his own sense of abstraction. He didn't want to only be alive in words, but he didn't want to be dead to them... Thinking of Johnson made him think of Beckett, of course. Language was indeed a veil, and he was tired of veils, tired of the perfect logic and reasonableness of veils, the Grand Unified Theory that was a veil upon a veil upon a veil...

One must speak through a mask, through a persona. Was that Yeats? Cross could have looked it up, typing the words into the magic window that seemed to bring all of existence to him while simultaneously holding it at bay. Instead, Cross looked out again through the mundane window, the one that gathered darkening blue in the still bare branches of the tree outside, and the sounds of cars hissing by the reservoir that was now too black to admit any light. Language seems a poor revenge, thought Cross, but he'd had that thought before. Thousands had that thought before; hadn't done them a bit of good either.

Cross looked at the scattered thoughts in his notebook, trying to move forward while something within (surely not his heart, whatever it's real color) just as insistently held him back. Seriousness is often mistaken for pretentiousness, the way you mistake the face of a distant figure for a mask when it is indeed their face, their only face. Cross looked out the window again, and sat still for a while. He had only to switch on the light to see his own face, strange and comforting, peering back at him from the oncoming night.

Reader Comments (3)

To the Cathars black symbolized perfection.

Sometimes the only sense of freedom to be ourselves is through the sheltering concealment of our masks. Which I think is all right so long as we don't confuse the masks with ourselves. Best to think of them as we do shoes.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Your words in the end will be what liberates and heals you. Words have power and I think that what stops them from flowing is perhaps your reluctance to feel their pain..your pain. Will it swallow you up so that you can never find your way out again? No, it only feels like that sometimes. I get the sense that perhaps your writing can be like the rope was for Theseus, a guide to help you navigate your way out of your Minotaur's cave. Don't "think" so much. It is easy to hidout in our heads and deny our hearts. Speaking as one who is a master at the head hidout game.
(Of course you could be completely happy and I could be way off base.)
Your work is brilliant.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMontana Black

In the above comment, I referred to the Minotaur as being in a cave and ment cave as apposed to the labyrinth with its 1300 compartments. The labyrinth suggests to me something almost impossible to get out of - with or without rope. The cave is still difficult but not so impossible.
I am just babbling anyway, pay no attention.

June 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMontana Black

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