I was taught that poems are words made to remember. So I went into a café and wrote down the most profound things I could think of. I wrote commentaries, hypotheses, observations, longings, confessions; things sure to be worthy of the page, of human memory. I wrote reams and reams of the stuff. And I felt certain of my genius until I showed it to my friends. Of course, all I proved was how much my best ideas were asinine, my deepest feelings boring, and my ways with language contrived, my ego embarrassing. So much for writing.
Yes, I want us to live in beauty, in the places of our mind, but I have no idea how. I want us to leave this town, our stupid self-inflicted predicaments, and start fresh, right where we aspire to be. So what on Earth is stopping us? Remember how, with my head on your lap and your fingers through my hair, we once found the words for everything: for the salvation of the destitute and the perfection of the future, for the great inventions and works of art we will create—all of it just inches from completion, if only we had the time?
I’ve written our life out, also, words in my mind. We remain in perpetual amazement with each other, honest without the slightest loss of mystery, always at the top of our arcs, with all the time to dazzle the world, with all the time to spread out an idle picnic, just us. The words are too easy to find.
Where we live, however, they have not even bothered to give the rivers their own names. This city is named for a city it will never become, never even strive to become. It seems actively engaged in the suppression of the anecdote, the whim, the myth, the exception. Now, they say never to use the imagination in rendering art, that it distorts what the eye has seen correctly. But is it so dangerous to give a story to a sliver of water, to relate to it emotionally as more than, say, Civic Waterway 3?
Where we live, all our words fail us. They do not cause what we want to come true. But maybe it isn’t just here. Maybe you and I can never quite be together, never quite escape from our traps, never quite emerge from our failures, never quite rewrite our terms. Maybe, even at the end of the world, we will be exactly like we are right here: defeatist in our language, and, like actuaries or adjusters of romance, systematic in discrediting the best of our hopes, systematic in hedging against the worst of our fears, guaranteeing for ourselves only a flattened, plodding, and, above all, predictable future.
When I was a child, I hoped that later, ten or twenty years later, I would not know the difference between the things I had experienced, the things I had dreamed, and the things I had imagined.