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#Love (is Z)



#"Habitation" by Margaret Atwood


Marriage is not

a house or even a tent it is before that, and colder: the edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

                the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn the edge of the receding glacier where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far we are learning to make fire


One of my favorite panoplies of light occurs around now, with a moon like a round feather and the sun setting over the river in a blear of blonde and burnt crimsons and the house lights below me twinkling through the trees like a Welsh village in a Dylan Thomas poem. I was standing in shirt sleeves, watching this when Lynne, back from meeting a friend, came tip-tapped down the stairs that lead to our front door, appearing like a silhouette barely darker than the air around her, trailing her own aura in this cosmic chancel of rivers and moons. Such is love, and its reflexive joys, that I found myself happier than I had been all day.


Much that we may say about habitation–and I tend to say a lot–may be said about love and #marriage too. As noted last week, the Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen views our homes as sanctuaries, cabinets of recovery and sense in a world of storms. A place where courtly order un-dishevels the hourly upheavals outside. One may say the same about love. The furniture of love is the arm of an embrace.


Love is a #house, an old house that contains the edges of glaciers, forests and deserts. There, in time, one may stumble upon the making of #fire. It is an elegant image. On one hand, fire only comes at a certain advanced point in our development, a signal of our capacity for self-civilization. In the myth of #Prometheus, the gift of fire places us on a footing with the gods themselves. On the other hand, it is a savage and incendiary force that would seem to have little to do with even primal courtliness.


The poet Sharon #Olds, in her new book, #Arias (while far less romantic than I am about love), employs a satyr image: horns and a tail and hoofs. I revere this too about love, a #savagery, a freewheeling #insubordination that #Yeats embodies in his #Crazy Jane poems. The Olds poem in fact is about blood, and the ruthless crucifixion it nearly was to ‘lose’ her virginity.


I’ve written pretty explicitly about #sex. (I won’t here.) In the broadest sense of #life force, what an ally it is for an artist, for any of us–a taproot to the most sedimentary moistures of the soul. Conversely, the suppression of sex in America has led to grotesque compensatory lusts for wealth, prestige, security, food. In Asheville, it shows as a flaunted, tragic, infantile #masculinity that drives around in trucks the size of small mountains.


It’s still a theory, I know–that life is a long, complex ascension toward some eventual apotheosis or #individuation. To that end we attend our synagogue, go to school, read books, cultivate friends, learn how not to overcook carrots, emulate people we revere. Some aren’t so sure, wondering whether our concept of the self itself is wrong. Others point out that most of us end up dumber and greedier at death than we ever were at birth. Me, I’m optimistic. We make our existence by slow, marvelous, conscientious steps.


I get high on #conversation; I want others to change my mind. So much lies beneath the surface of talk, like those networks of fungi by which trees communicate underground. By just such a superfine network of communion love builds and chastens and rustles the mosaic of all that we believe and prefer. Beneath a handful of words as simple as darling, those socks don’t match, there may pass a ludicrous anniversary of joy. As Wislawa #Szymborska says in her lovely poem, #“Possibilities”: I prefer, where love’s concerned, non-specific anniversaries that can be celebrated every day.


She goes on to say: I prefer moralists who promise me nothing. I prefer conquered to conquering countries. I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.


Worth saying again: I prefer, where love’s concerned, a non-specific anniversary that can be celebrated every day . . . .


Just add an emerald ring from time to time.

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