There is no suffering if you do not want anything.

               Please forget me. I won't forget you.


You were right about poets.
How right you were. Poets are liars
and obsessive.

Always trying to excoriate reality
into something aesthetic

and effortless
and love into something 
digestible at all.

You were right. They shouldn't do that. 
It isn't possible

and they shouldn't carry on
like it is. It is true 
that I went too far. 

Something simple about boundaries
and delicacy or discretion

had begun to elude me. 
You may continue to blame me and
I can live with that but—

according to a very famous play
(which I'm sure you've heard of)

Blanche explains that the opposite of desire 
is death (death!)
Asked Mitch: So do you wonder?

I don't wonder, or really 
we didn't have to wonder, did we?

It was the easiest thing in the world to do
but very distressing and painful
to have done.

I mean, physically painful.
Like a stomachache.

Like sleeplessness. 
Sometimes desire
is it's own death

and has no opposite.
No one ever battered me

quite like you. 
Early on you told me
about a set of mathematical proofs

which show that two curves
with infinite length

can have a finite area
between them. 
Koch's snowflake. 

Gabriel's wedding cake.
But the converse is never true.
I don't know why 

you told me these things,
but I did want to understand them.
Poets are always trying 

to manufacture metaphors
even from mathematics.
I did try

to understand you.
I shouldn't have told you 
that I wanted to know you

and I shouldn't have wanted
to know you. This is another character flaw

among writers. The general inability 
to let things go
unsaid or unknown. 

I still don't know 
what happened between us

or what any of it meant, although
I am starting to feel 
okay about that. As every day

it became harder and harder
to measure 

any finite space between us.
To even understand what counts
as a thing.

One can claim 
they don't acknowledge 
unspoken subtleties, but

isn't unspoken subtlety 
the only way anyone can distinguish
something viable and breathing

from all the pointless sediment
floating along with the rest of the river?

I'm not making that up. I think
people discovered this 
all the way back 

in the sixteenth century.
With letters and glances

and common sense.
I'm sorry for falling in love with you. 
(Really, I am.) Even the idea of you

is revolting and obscene
like eating food off the floor.
I'm not suggesting

this could have ended
any better. In general,
I'm okay. In general, 

I think solitude 
is a good thing. It's just that
your message was perplexing

and took a long time to sink in. 
Because you spoke in opposites.

So yes. Your moody distractedness
began to unattract me. The way
certain words can create a story

but aren't the story itself.
Eventually everything you said

ceased making any sense at all.
(At all). So I stopped trying
to understand anything.

I think the problem is that this 
went down really deep. 

Well, for me it did
at least.
Deeper than I wanted. 

(But then you snap out of it.
Then you realize that the well is deep
but empty. 

So you throw in a cigarette.
And the whole operation 

bursts into flame.)
Do you see what I'm saying?
I'm sorry that I fell in love with you.

That was where everything collapsed.
I started to sense 
that you didn't really want to know me

anymore or know anything at all.
You just wanted to wander around
and pontificate and sulk

as if things couldn't be knowable
(only you called it brooding).

Well. At least I know a few things
about you now. Who you really are.
It stung but I couldn't unknow.

I said I wouldn't write you anymore,
and I didn't. And that I didn't love you anymore.

And I didn't.
I had thought it was a pretext
until I looked you in the face

and said it out loud. 
Then I knew it was true. 

You know, sometimes
words can do that, actually.
I've realized. Poetry can do that

to a story 
between two people. 

Make it into something, I mean. 
And then into nothing. 

Salt

Libraries, for example, are good places
to escape the viciousness of people
when they try to get

inside of you.

Between the shelves
there is plenty of space
to lick your wounds.

This is something I do often.

My first twenty years weren’t easy
I was always busy
with the important occupation

of dismantling myself—an exhausting
and ungrateful enterprise.
I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact,
convinced 

I had invented the vocation.

I just kept carving
and carving.

Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean
the rind.  in turning myself
inside-out.  What is left?
after such a thorough cauterization.

One raw little soul.

I can still taste that grief
in my mouth like champagne, icy
& no hint of sweetness.

I could have stayed inside all day.

Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl
walks her small white dog
across the grass & shadows
sprawl across the perfect lawn

with their splotchy memory.
Although memory, I am learning,
always give back much more color
than what was there in the first place.

I look back now, and I want to feel 
that grass 
on my skin.  But all I can remember
is that I hated my life

and I hated my life.

The feeling comes
and goes, but at least I find
a quiet absolution in my landscape:
the restfulness of books
and sunlight in an empty room
that transforms the isolation
into something else entirely.

Dear Astrid

Loneliness is the human condition.
Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you
allows your soul room to grow.

Never expect to outgrow loneliness.
Never hope to find people who will understand you,
someone to fill that space.  An intelligent, sensitive person
is the exception,
the very great exception.

If you expect to find someone who will understand you,
you will grow murderous
with disappointment.
The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself,
know what it is that you want,
and not let the cattle get in the way.

Moo.

Image

Excerpt adapted from White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.