April 30th, 2005


As I spend the afternoon sorting the insanity of our loose CDs -- Kim is to blame, certainly, but so am I -- I've been listening to records that make it easier to maintain a balance between diligence and deleterious fixation. Right now we're coming to the end of The Stone Roses' first album, which one of my Canadian LJ friends mentioned approvingly a few months back. It has been a long time since I listened to the whole thing. But, boy, does it hold up. As Kim said when I first put it on, "It sounds so fresh." Fresh like 1989. Fresh like falling over and over again until the weight is carried outward like debris in a vortex. Fresh like making eye contact in the muted red glow of a distant heart.
  • Current Music
    Fools Gold - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

Representing Our Daughters

This is interesting. Kim and I periodically write stories about Skylar's insights. I wonder, sometimes, whether we err on the side of over-representing her. But once one has created a character, inertia tends to have its way. Anyway, I got a random e-mail, not exactly spam but also clearly not to any "me" I know, from someone who also represents his daughter:
One rainy afternoon I was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick.

Suddenly, my daughter, Aspen, spoke up from her relaxed position in her seat. "Dad, I'm thinking of something."

This announcement usually meant she had been pondering some fact for a while, and was now ready to expound all that her six-year-old mind had discovered. I was eager to hear.

"What are you thinking?" I asked. "The rain! ;" she began, "is like sin, and the windshield wipers are like God wiping our sins away."

After the chill bumps raced up my arms I was able to respond. "That's really good, Aspen."  Then my curiosity broke in. How far would this little girl take this revelation? So I asked... "Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming? What does that tell you?"  Aspen didn't hesitate one moment with her answer:

"We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us."

I will always remember this whenever I turn my wipers on.  When forwarding this message, you will probably not send it to some on your address list because you're not sure how they would feel about receiving it or what they will think of you for sending it to them.

Sad isn't it, how living in today's world has caused us to be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us?
I'm not going to be forwarding this message to anyone on my address list. Still, I think it's worth thinking about. See, I can imagine Skylar saying something along these lines. She is given to the profound insight. And she talks about God a good deal. Her reflections certainly take a more heterodox tack, but the underlying "profundity of the child" that Kim and I discern in them is structured similarly to the sort that this Christian man discerns in his daughter.

I selected the past participle "structured" just now because I'm not sure who is doing the bulk of the structuring. Are we merely slotting our children into narratives that are like a foreign country to them? Or does their desire to bridge the gap between themselves and the adult world impel them to say and do things amenable to our narrativization. The will to represent demands closer scrutiny, not least because it goes hand in hand with the imposition of limitations on the will of the represented.

Fishing For Ourselves

The last few days have been extremely intense. I knew that when I posted my entry juxtaposing paragraphs from my "Hotel California" essay with Kim's school photo from 1975 that the collision between them would generate some energy. But I wasn't really prepared for the surplus. I've been moody ever since, like someone who has gone overboard in his love. Call me Werther. Still, I think it will ultimately be for the best, since Kim and I have been able to have incredibly rich and revealing conversations on every topic from the angel of history to sexual congress. It's hard to find spaces to have a truly deep conversation with one's partner, so I suppose I'm glad that I did something to clear one.

One thing that I realized, in trying to explain myself to Kim, is that I'm really attuned to the way in which representing another -- see my previous entry -- constitutes a power move and that I have therefore tended to avoid it where she is concerned. I go out of my way not to explain her, not to give her away, not to speak for her. I sometimes fail in that pursuit, surely, but I keep trying. That's why my decision to appropriate her photo and recontextualize it seemed out of character for me and also a major reason why she was so taken aback at first. I needed to do it, though, even though I recognized that there were pitfalls involved.

During our conversation Friday on the way to Raging Sage I mentioned that the poem "Meat" that she recently posted on her blog always stood out to me because of the way in which I am represented within it:
We don’t
want to know
what’s inside just
touch the
outside. Don’t

like wet things
red things
about the womb.
He is

coming now making
We blow
out the candle
drive to Denny’s.
While it wasn't obvious to anyone else who encountered the poem, I always knew that I was the one who kept suggesting a drive to Denny's after sex. Sometimes I was happy to witness my reflection in the surface of the poem. Sometimes I was troubled by the view. These days, when I get explicitly represented by her in public it's almost always in a favorable way. And on those rare occasions when she discusses her sex life I also make an appearance as the negative space of her description, also favorably for the most part. For all that, though, the experience of being represented retains a degree of strangeness. I trip on it from time to time.

That was definitely one of the motivations for my turning the tables and representing Kim. My entry was intended as an act of love, certainly, but acts of love often double as acts of aggression. As the two of us continued to talk out the intensity and diversity of our feelings about my entry, I recalled what it was like to be represented by another on a steady basis. My first long-term relationship -- I'm on my second one right now, in case you're counting -- was with someone a year younger than me but worlds older in aesthetic sophistication. In our first months together, I got to experience the full force of a phenomenon that a number of her subsequent intimates were also acquainted with. In addition to the poems she was writing for other purposes, she wrote many poems to me, for me, and about me.

This was my first sexual relationship. Due to being an outcast for much of my time in junior high school and high school, I had developed a poor self-image that I had only partially finished discarding when I met her. I was seeking new ways of understanding myself and therefore particularly receptive to the ways in which she characterized me in her poems. Indeed, I felt myself changing to match her language, though my initial impression of it often highlighted the discrepancies between her image of me and my sense of how things really were. Not all of this was conscious, but I do recall thinking on a number of occasions that there are worse things than refashioning oneself with the words of a passionate, talented poet.

As I reflect on the last several days, I find myself thinking hard about the mixed feelings I carried with me after this first girlfriend of mine stopped directing poems my way. We were together as a couple for a year and a half after that watershed and remain good friends, bound together in ways that are hard to pin down but palpable nonetheless. Once the stream of words to, for, and about me trickled down to nothing, though, I felt a tremendous void that I struggled to fill with words of my own. It's no accident that I started writing poetry shortly after she stopped writing hers for me.

When I met Kim, who declared herself to be a poet on the night we met -- the ex-girlfriend was present, incidentally, and came along on part of our honeymoon too, believe it or not -- I pondered what it would be like to have her words directed at me: "Say you're sixteen and never seen a gun. I mean a real gun..." Luckily, I largely avoided that fate at first. I'm not sure I could have withstood the force of her inchoate rage towards a world that had done her wrong. By the time I did make an appearance in her poetry, we had been together long enough that I could take it. Still, when I heard "Meat" for the first time I couldn't help but wonder whether I should reject the representation of me inside it or embrace it.

The night before last, my moodiness and the morbid state of our beta fish inspired me to write a poem confronting all the suppressed feelings that are rising to the surface in my life. Today, I rummaged through my box of especially special memorabilia looking for a poem by my first girlfriend with which to ground the entry I'm writing right now. I had a few specific ones in mind, but when I saw "Charlie's Fish" I realized that it was the perfect counterpoint to the poem that Kim posted on her own blog today. She watched Old Boy without recognizing the way in which the film traversed sensitive psychic territory relevant to her present state of mind. I wrote a poem about a fish having forgotten that I was once driven to conceive of myself in relation to the word "fish." And, just as Kim feels better for realizing the blindspot that had prevented her from making the connection between her own situation and Old Boy, I'm calmer now that I see why the plight of our fish resonates so richly for me.