Saturday, December 5, 2015

Borges’ “The Poet’s Creed”

Borges in his lecture "A Poet's Creed," said, "I think of myself as being essentially a reader.  As you are aware, I have ventured into writing; but I think that what I have read is far more important than what I have written.  For one reads what one likes -- yet one writes not what one would like to write, but what one is able to write."

If I am simply writing what I am able to write, then I would agree with Borges, but that hasn't been my experience.   If I am writing my best poetry then it is not I who am able, it is something else, and I write what I must write.  My "ability" is submerged or set aside -- at least that is the way it works -- or feels -- just an image or two comes to my mind and my "ability" is to not turn away from it.  Beyond that, where does it all come from?  Was it all there in my mind, jumbled up, needing to be sorted out.  That is what Susan used to tell me, and yet . . . consider the image that began my last poem, a poem written on December 1st, 2015:

    I marched a long while
    Near the edge of town,
    Looking out, having no
    Place to go and no reason to
    Stay.  I checked my weapons --
    Getting dark as it was and night
    Was when it could be --

And then the last stanza

    Their boots and the clank of
    Their gear.  I saw their gleaming
    Teeth and smiles.  I held my
    Rifle in my left hand.  They came,
    Knowing we had no steadfastness.
    Having lost my own,  I drew my
    Colt and pulled the hammer back.

If I were in truth (rather than in metaphor) to march along the edge of town, what is beyond that edge is a lot of open area, desert and mountains and the Loma Linda Medical Center that a few months ago determined that Susan could not be saved.  On the next major street over from the Medical Center,  on  Waterman a shooting took place on December 2nd that killed 14 and injured many more.   My son lives a very short distance from the facility where the shooting took place, and my grandson was working at an facility, heard the gunfire and was there when his facility was locked down.

So I was metaphorically walking post at the edge of my town a short time before the shooting took place.  Was my poem prescient, describing what was shortly to occur, a militant attack?  That doesn't seem likely; so was it mere coincidence?  Perhaps.

Had I been writing what I as able to write as Borges said, I would say it was undoubtedly a coincidence, but since I was writing what I must, I have doubts . . . sitting here thinking about them . . . waiting for the next unbidden thoughts to sound in my mind.

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