During each pregnancy, I go through this emotional time where I feel like I’m going to die. Fears begin to rise up in me – fears that I won’t live to know my children and they won’t live to know me. That is a large part of why I create keepsakes for them during each pregnancy – so that if I die before they know me, they can have something by which to know me, and to know my love and wishes for them. “Home” is a poem that expresses this fear. I wrote it while Elin was a newborn. I was sitting in our glider right after I laid her down, thinking about how I would feel if I died right then. While I knew the Christian answer was that my death would finally unite me with my God and my true home, I also knew that the Christian answer told me death was bad, the body wasn’t, and my family is to be cherished. In this poem, I try to create that tension between two homes.
I wrote “Life’s Demise” as I watched my grandfather gradually pass away over the course of a few years. His body slowly shut down and he eventually got to the place where my grandmother could not take care of him anymore. At that point, there wasn’t much option but to put him in a nursing home, as he needed constant attention. That was a difficult decision for the family to make - especially for my grandmother. As I saw my grandfather waste away, and as I thought about him lying in a bed 1,000 miles away, it made me so sad. When I thought of my grandpa, I pictured the 70 year old who was a former farm hand - still mowing the lawn, cutting down tree limbs, and attacking physical labor head on. I thought of the vibrant, jovial grandpa. But he hadn’t been that for a few years. And as the former grandpa was vivid in my mind, the current one slowly faded out of this temporal existence – in a way, forgotten and unnoticed. It was hard to see him in his state and it was difficult to see him when we did get the chance to visit because it was just so sad. In some ways, we withdrew from him. We began letting go of him while he was still with us because HE - the grandpa we knew and wanted to remember - didn’t seem like he was really still with us.
“Life’s Demise” tries to capture this process. It speaks from a first person perspective of someone like my grandpa who is slowly being courted by death. As the affair with death deepens, the living around him withdraw. In the end, it seems it would have been better to just die than to linger, for it is the continuing to live that destroys. To die in a car accident in your prime may cut off your future, but it entrenches your legacy. You will always be remembered in your prime, and you will leave with the exasperation of many. Such is not the case when you linger. I attempt to depict this slow wasting by gradually fading out the rhyme scheme. It is why, when you get to the end, it sounds so unresolved. It just lingers without a finality to the ear.
As Catalina has shared, she has recently battled depression. It was something that crept up on us. When it hit, we scrambled to figure out how to combat it and what it all meant. It was certainly unnerving for Catalina, but it was also unnerving for me. Catalina seemed to be a different person. I wrote "Moonstruck" as my way of trying to understand her. I took her descriptions of her feelings and actions along with my observations and put it into a poem. I asked Catalina if she felt it was an accurate portrayal, and she said it was. I'm sure everyone's experience with depression is different, but this is my take on it.
In the poem, I describe how depression changes people and their perspectives. It is a deep darkness that overwhelms, though at times there are glimmers of light. But I equate these glimmers of light with moon light. While moonlight may be beautiful at times, it is a relatively worthless thing. It doesn’t warm you, like the sun. It doesn’t provide you with enough guidance to prevent you from stumbling, like the sun. And while moonlight beams down all of this teasing light that reminds you of the warmth and guidance you don’t have, it is just what the predators need to hunt you as they stalk under the cover of darkness. Your fears and your demons hunt best by cover of moonlight, and any shimmering hope that exists seems to slip further and further away. That is depression. This is “Moonstruck.”
I have been blessed with not experiencing much death amongst my close family and friends for most of my childhood. It wasn't until about two years ago that death really began to creep into my life. "Lucidity" was written in light of the beginning of my experience with death. While as a Christian I have hope through death, my first taste of it left me very put off. There really is no beauty in death. It is perhaps the one thing in this world that is pitch black, with no good residing in it at all. This is one of my favorite poems that I have written. Part of that is because I like the sound and flow, but I also like the deeper messages. You’ll have to read my footnotes to get more of those, but I essentially bring up questions of the basis for truth and human value on materialism, and the purpose of life if death is not defeated.
My response to "Cynicality is "Acts and Dogs." It's a play on words, obviously. It is also why I entitled the last poem "Cynicality" rather than "Cynicism." It's a play on the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat," and rather becomes "Cynicality killed the act." The argument is essentially that cynicism is not an appropriate viewpoint, though for different reasons than one might think. I never argue that optimism or action will fix the problems the cynic points out. In fact, altruism rarely fixes systemic issues - at least not in the immediate future. But what altruism does is to change an individual’s heart - the individual performing the good act. Were I to embrace cynicism - poverty, racism, and the like may be no worse off than if I embrace optimism and altruism. But I would be worse off as a moral being if I were to throw off those things. Hopefully I desire to do good and please my Heavenly Father, and I trust that he will use my obedience to him and his values to change this broken world and these immovable hearts, beginning with my own.
I remember having a conversation in college that revolved around poverty or some sort of undefeatable social ill. I essentially asked "what's the point of helping when we're never really going to change anything?" I think it's a good question to ask, but I think it's a terrible place to end. How one answers this question is the crossroads between cynicism and realism. I prefer to think of myself as a realist, not a cynic, which is why tomorrow I will explore my response to this poem. I entitled today’s poem "Cynicality." I know that the correct word is "cynicism," but I changed it to "cynicality" for reasons I'll explain tomorrow.
The last seven days focused on the topic of love. Over the next seven days, I want to explore darker matters. "History's Humor" begins this section with a little dark humor. One day in class, after a string of plane crashes in the news, I had a student make an inappropriate joke about one of the events. Another student made the comment "too soon, bro." It really made me wonder why - if human life is so valuable - it would ever be “too soon” to make jokes about someone's death. It seems like such jesting should never be ok. Yet we do it all the time. Here is my cynical approach to death, and the joke that will be played on us all – our forgottenness.