Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do not go gentle into that good night

It’s amazing how different I feel after being away from the computer for awhile, and how much I enjoyed being without it. I suffered no withdrawal. Rather, I eased into a period of intense reading that refreshed me in mind and spirit, and inspired me in ways that only books and reading can. At the same time, the sudden change in my daily pattern made me feel, also, that I was rehearsing for my death — that time when, in all likelihood, I will no longer write, or even feel the need to do so; that time when I will sit, finally, and read to my heart’s content in a silent world of my own bright imagining.

As luck would have it, on the very day my computer went down, I received another shipment of books from the generous poet Gerry Boyd. Back in June, you might recall, Gerry kindly sent me around fifty titles. The new shipment was more than double that amount, ringing in at around 120 books, a fair portion of which contain poetry and criticism. Also included are wonderful novels, biographies, plays, and anthologies. This picture reveals only the tip of the iceberg:

[click to enlarge]

I quickly devoured John Malcolm Brinnin’s Dylan Thomas in America, in which the author recounts the great poet’s reading tours in America in the early 1950s and his tragic last years. Since then, among other things, I’ve been reading aloud my son’s copy of Thomas’s Selected Poems, the edition released by New Directions in 2003. The poems are so musical, they really must be read aloud. For me, they ring like a prophet’s lament.

While the bulk of my time was spent reading, much was also spent thinking — but not in the form of writing, as I usually do. I did purchase three new back-to-school notebooks that were on sale for fifteen cents, but I hardly used them. Instead, I just let my mind drift, as if thoughts were clouds.

The first time I checked email on my son’s computer, I learned that an old family friend my mother’s age had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Healthy, he simply went out like a light.

The second time I checked email, I learned that another old friend from our hometown had forgotten how to walk and is now in a small nursing home about a mile from where we used live. Contrary to his generous character, he has also become belligerent and unreasonable. I also learned that his wife has advanced lung cancer and that her grandchildren take turns spending the night with her.

That same day, I learned that another poet friend, who has battled serious health problems for the past year, has been struggling of late, to the point that his doctor was unsure he would pull through. But I’ve heard since that his condition has stabilized somewhat. Through his sister, he was even able to send his regards.

Here is a drawing I made on August 8, and my last to date:

“Canvas 73”

[click to enlarge]

Do you like it? Is it silly? Appalling? Does it communicate anything at all?

It’s funny — I feel I have so much more to say. And yet, at the moment, I’m far more interested in what you have to say. That’s something I’ve really missed. Your thoughts. Our exchanges.

Note: As I typed that last sentence, an email arrived saying my sick poet-friend had another seizure yesterday, and that his last hospital stay “took everything out of him.” He stays at a care home; they aren’t taking him to the hospital this time.

In the Forum: Howl cigarettes.


ALeks said...

When I was thinking of you without your computer I thought,ha,maybe he will dig up some more shelves to build,read like then when the computers were not existing :O)
ride his bike or whatever....
Hi William,Im glad you are back,welcome and bye,bye!

Woman in a Window said...

He's chewing a caramel and he's quite content. I was reaching for it. He beat me to it. He will eat it slowly and look at me often. I will salivate.

I'm sorry for so many hardships. I'm sorry life is so hard. It's funny, as young people we so often complain with all of our energy about us about how difficult it is. And then in the end when the energy winds down and those around us become still we learn to not complain as much. Instead we hold fast to what remains.

Hold fast, William. And enjoy my caramel:)


Denise Scaramai said...

William is all true!!
the computer is good, but we need to know the right dosage ...
I feel that when we're at it, the minutes are precious to us, are unwittingly - is the devaluation of the 'now' that quickly becomes past ...
but thanks to the computer to exchange ideas in real time
is so valuable, as we would never have imagined a few decades ago!
as always 'balance' is the solution!

a hug and good Sunday!

Elisabeth said...

It's good to read you are back, William, and sobering to consider your thoughts.

I'd like to think I'm not frightened of death, but that's not true. I don't feel ready for it yet and yet it could come. It might come any day soon and maybe before I have finished all the things I'd like to finish, including the raising of my children.

Such gloomy thoughts, William, but important thoughts, nevertheless.

RUDHI - Chance said...

Hi William, every body will die as if he was just born, I think EPIKUR said that... And reading is timeless joy; you must have 30-hours-days to read all you got? Your face today looks like an nature ghost, not mattering, what rushes by, just waiting for nothing to be free... So long, my English is kike a Swiss-cheese full of holes I assume or I'm afraid of...

William Michaelian said...

Good-bye and hello, Aleksandra! Lately, my bicycle is jealous of my books. I really must give it more attention....

I’ll savor it, Erin, because in its caramel glory it melts so slowly. You’re sorry for the hardships; I’m grateful for them; how terrible it would be if our faces and hands were to pass through this world without a mark or trace of trial.

Denise, you are so right, especially about that word, “balance.” Thank you. Good wishes!

Elisabeth, thanks. Gloom, of course, was not my intent, as much as was a recounting of the past days. And yet we do live with these thoughts, whether spoken or not.

Rudhi, don’t worry about your English. Your meaning passes quite clearly through those holes. And anyway, I can use the cheese in a sandwich! A “nature ghost” — I like that idea....

Woman in a Window said...

Yes, you are right, but the impulse is always for me to take the weight and for others to be light. But it is a relief for me and my shoulders when you and others can find the value, the gift really, in that which marks us. Be well. Gentle thoughts.


-K- said...

I'm sorry about your friend the poet. It, along with your reaction to having no computer, makes me realize once again that acceptance of what comes is sometimes a very effective tool.

William Michaelian said...

Erin, thanks again. You are one who understands that a burden, gently, lovingly, helplessly shared, is a gift.

Thanks, Kevin. And at other times, there’s nothing quite like a good vocal, cleansing anger.

Artscapes said...

William I am glad you are back refreshed in one way however weary from personal losses. I'm happy Erin let you have the caramel, a simple pleasure to savour, an unexpected gift.

Artscapes said...

I cannot help but think of your drawing in the context of what you wrote. Nor can I ignore my own reflections on living a life. I wonder how my life will proceed not in the immediate future but say in 10 or 20 years. What kind of "free will" will I possess.

The face is etched with experiences. Each mark a remembering of something past. There is no feeling of regret. The person is comfortable in his or her skin. I like it very much.

In response to your readings I looked up Dylan Thomas on line to see if there were poems to read. I found a few and read them aloud and enjoyed saying and hearing the words. Thank you for sharing, it sends me in directions I would not have noticed.

Thanks for sharing. Warm wishes sent your way.

Crissant said...

So good to be away from computer....i needed it.
But i`m back....well, i`m trying to be back.
I missed your words and works, so i come here to tell you and give you a hug!

Good see you, William!

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

:-) yes I tought also that you have sure a writer machine heheheh

but seriousely, I understand what you say, and whitout pc for a time is not so bad
all this leave me thinking about how our lives are changed... pro e contro (pros and cons)

... I'm happy to read you again and to see you again

William Michaelian said...

Elizabeth, I appreciate your thoughtful notes. Past, present, future — they change so subtly as we change, and there’s no firm dividing line between them. Seen in this light, the drawing is a kind of map. I’m honored that you would take the time to study it.

Regarding Dylan Thomas, with little trouble you should be able to find a recording of him online. When you do, it will be easy to understand why his readings were greeted with such enthusiasm.

Crissant! It’s nice of you to visit. Even though my computer is fixed, I’m still not spending as much time with it as before. We’ll see what happens....

Laura, thank you — and I hope you’ve had a good visit with your family. All the computers in the world can’t replace that beautiful time together.