This poem, this song, took 30 years to write.
|An introspective poem addresses issues brought about by the onslaught of age.|
It was conceived in my very late teens, when reverberations of imminent freedom had been rattling my soul to the point of distraction.
Breaking out of that particular township in which I lived, in that particularly repressed and disadvantaged part of the world, drove me. My family didn't want me to leave, and although they eventually accepted it, it didn't appear that fact would ever really change. Hence the poem's overall tone of guilt.
Then came my first and as it turned out only poetry teacher per se, Jewish Canadian great Irving Layton, now a living legend. He quickly became a guru to many of us.
A bit of a traditionalist compared to the motley lot I'd been following, he espoused the analogy of the pile of clay moulded by our poetic fingers. What the pile consisted of was "mental excretion." And he preached a fire-and-brimstone doctrine against allowing "adjectival rot" to creep into the mix.
I agreed with him in theory, but Love Song proves it didn't completely sink in. I did, however, attempt a lean and mean overall presentation. A stark, lonely feeling of resignation obviously lingers over the potentially frivolous verses. The years can be unkind, let's face it.
Through the next decade and into my career as a journalist, both above ground and under, I became acutely aware, if not obsessed, with the fact that my life would be, by default, untraditional in the most traditional sense.
It was shocking to wake up one day and understand that having a stake, saving for a rainy day, investing in the future, securing a family life insurance and minding a credit rating were not part of my repertoire. That made my survival tenuous, and although it was by unconscious choice, danger got invited. I invited it.
If Song seems dark, it's likely due to a deep-seated sense of displacement, which also, always, fuelled creative impulse. In effect I had to suffer, and gladly at that, the hand I'd been dealt, and forge ahead, despite hardships past, current and to-come. My life will remain childless, very much against my will. The poem was a coming-to-terms with that as well.
Although it may not immediately appear so, the main element of this poem is rhythm. Rhythms. They're cross-rhythms of various tempos to be sure. But the free-verse form, with its subtle-to-the-point-of-invisibility punctuation and its short, choppy lines stacked arbitrarily into kind of an organized chaos obviously reflects the author's state of mind, either in the past or in the present. It never becomes clear which it is, and I didn't care if it didn't.
Love Song, by virtue of its generic requirements, wears its emotions on its sleeve. I realize that it's far from silly and tentacles of resentment and regret sneak out from it almost annoyingly. But I stand by it as a piece, if for no other reason than it manages to capture emotion, if demented, and wordplay, if hackneyed, and I sort of half enjoyed doing it. The other half hurt, without a doubt. But if poetry don't hurt, it ain't worth a damn.
As far as I'm concerned, however, you could very easily delete the entirety of Love Song save the first and last lines. Life is a song, with a beginning and an end, and what happens in the middle, well, you fill in your own blanks. And if you must write a poem, or a song, about it, be prepared to open the floodgates, and don't expect a life-preserver.
Whatever you do, keep whistlin' that airy little tune.
Read Diego Jesus's poetry piece.
Diego X. Jesus is a Dominican-born American freelance journalist and associate editor of IN who makes Toronto his home approximately half the time. Otherwise, we don't know where he might be. email Jesus