SOME OF THE BEST
3 September, 1998
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A Thought for Today
Every line's a highway from the past in the faces of the old.
AND TO EACH SEASON
The Japanese poet Takubuku said, “Every man keeps a prisoner groaning in his heart...” "And To Each Season" is a book I wrote in an attempt to free such a prisoner - or more than one - from mine. I am not sure if it succeeds. No one of us, I think, can name, let alone free, those demons - friendly or otherwise - that keep us from being the kind of men we’d like to be.
My childhood, before eleven, remains elusive. I’ve yet to get it down on paper the way it was. New York is easier to write about and San Francisco writes itself, but Elko, Alamo, Ely and Caliente hardly come at all. Even when my memory has a favored day, some prisoners refuse escape.
My mother, though her death was recent, is hardest of all to fit into words, though she’s crowded my head and heart more than anything or anyone this past year. Physically, in later years she got heavier, mentally, she became - even at the end - more alert. Emotionally, we touched bases without admitting there were bases to be touched. I could paint her, but I cannot yet frame the way she was or is for me in words.
I believe, increasingly, that man is now essentially alone. Irrevocably so. Whether that is good or bad, or can indeed be categorized other than for each case individually, I’m not prepared to say.
For myself, I am grateful for the transients in my life, whether they be Sundays when the phone’s not ringing or the odd stranger who happens by and leaves behind more pleasure than my concentration on my own needs quite deserves.
Some of the lines in the book were written nearly twenty years ago and never published; that I loose them now means I find them true today. I am more and more concerned with truth, having lied my share within my life, and lately having been a good deal lied about.
I am not convinced the truth can make men free, but I believe it a beginning and a final resting place. Tomorrow, though, I might believe in lies. What I want is not to be held accountable for what I said today, or yesterday, so that my tomorrows can stay open.
Poetry is fact, even in its imagery. This is a work of fact. Any disguise is a defense not known to me as yet. Clouds where clarity should be were not intended. I have not written for every man but I want to write for Everyman, because I wish to be one and the same with all my brothers, yet remain an individual.
That I write so much on love must mean that it is paramount to me. It is. I have come back from a long tour just now, having loved nobody and everybody. This is for me a new beginning, or at least an end.
-from the author's introduction to "And To Each Season", 1972
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