The ember in my core seeded
my body, as if blue flames reached like trees
from the stubble along my neck, spinal ridges,
the crests of my shoulders. I am a land
of fire, again relishing the sensation of burning
as I stare into backyard flames — flashing
orange in the company of friends. I intuited
myself and the subtle shift, so difficult to
render as art; its long-awaited combustion is
from the Inner Light of a prophesied Star
but late to arrive. This new medicine could
make the difference between lightning-beetle
and lightning in me, the crucial difference
between an almost-on-pitch versus truly-
tuned piano: fingers lick and crackle my keys
as if I am covered in accelerant. The fires
kindle memory, ignite hisses of Hope
as sap and gunk immolate, offering
lessons as incense from the flaking rings of
my trunk: my long history rendered ashes.
My friends and I feed the fire; I speak with
forgotten warmth and appetite as I
bask in the waxing, then ebbing, blaze
of sequestered energy– its vitality
locked in stiff matrices of self-doubt,
a lignin of lies. Yet my soul within was
both a bulb and a buried coal, living and alight.
The next incarnation will be brighter, heartier,
and propped high as a promise against winter:
logs stacked to burn through the entire night.
— but I am also like a house-fire
extinguished: the damage already done
and reconstruction beginning slowly.
* * *
When I was sixteen I went away to fine-arts camp; I dreamed of Laura. She and I ignited a passionate teen-romance the spring before; I dreamed we were engulfed in a column of purple flames– flames of her favorite color– and lifted up into the sky, out of the atmosphere, to a world where we could be together. I returned home. There was drama between her and my family, between her and her own family, between me and friends who thought I was losing my self. I called her my “Lady of the Purple Fire”.
“Not even her mother and sister know what happened to her,” said my childhood friend, Chris; he’s supported me through hard times since I was ten years old. “Like I told you more than five years ago,” he continued —but I remembered. The night after I talked to him, I dreamed Laura was laying in a bed, in a basement bedroom. I glanced around nervously for her mother, then climbed into the soft, warm darkness and searched for her with my arms. As I awoke, I realized the basement bedroom belonged in N’s apartment… my most recent lost-love.
My poetic unconscious sometimes does cruel things. Several weekends ago I dreamed I was walking the streets of my tiny hometown when I saw Laura — were we getting back together again? A bake-sale appeared and Laura stood over ‘her’ creations — the pies, cookies, breads: everything was N’s. I have no memory of Laura baking, even cooking. Once I dreamed that Laura and I had reunited but as I awoke I realized that she had never spoken or behaved as the Laura I knew. My unconscious is either laundering Laura or, more likely, smuggling N past my frontal cortex.
“It seems like Laura is the symbol of all things unresolved?” posited my new therapist. Though Laura will remain an unsolved mystery, the unresolved issue is that when N and I parted company I descended into an even darker stage than the one which caused her to leave. I hid from her while I completed my trial with the old medicine, a failed solution. Now that I am coming alive again, have a better chemical tool, my unconscious is looking for N but its semiotics are rooted in an older sense of loss — I was in N’s position, trying desperately to rescue Laura from her circumstances and herself…
“—last I’d heard, she had checked into an institution, man,” Chris concluded.
How uncanny to know she could not be saved, that I needed to be saved too, and that I am being saved at last… for my own sake.
* * *
The fire re-kindled in me a little less than a week after my 32nd birthday. The sensation that emerged from within reminded me of my summers as a camp counselor over ten years ago; uncertainty was emulsified by the reassurance that I was barely twenty, thus had copious amounts of time. Some of us, though, fall victim to more subtle eccentricities — if they were factory flaws, they would appear after the warranty expired, the product of repeated use — dirty little mental algorithms. At twenty-three I did not want to waste a moment tampering with chemicals when I believed I could untangle my neurons by myself.
I was passable as totally normal until my circumstances started to feel like the end of a game of Tetris: pieces falling at break-neck speeds and eschew of my goals (piling on my chest). The medicines which worked for the truly and clinically depressed made me worse. Why? Without lapsing into biochemical jargon, my brain never had a warm-fuzzies problem; I always felt the endorphins that accompany love but there was never enough love to replace holistic vitality. The old medicine could not ignite me but I need a core on-fire.
Lapsing into medical jargon, Bupropion is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor; it keeps my excitement about life from ebbing too fast — it has no sexual side-effects because it works in a different way than typical antidepressants. Bupropion sounds like a Pokémon (which radioactive stone should Eevee eat to become Bupropion?). Even among depressed people, I am not neurotypical and, in the long-run, that’s better. If I can accept a slow-start, there is always a chance my momentum will shift. In the morning I am like a wet campfire, steaming and smokey, but by afternoon, as the delayed-release tablet releases more into my system, I feel as if every space I enter is irradiated with my determination to grow, to overcome, to reconnect, to…
…then I remember: I’m missing someone…
Where once there was a slimy, cold despair in the belief that I didn’t deserve better, there are now flares of grief and frustration knowing that I could have made a better showing if I’d just had, well for lack of a better term, a “Firestone”…
* * *
The speed of my evolution in June out-paced my written reflections– this blog.
I am trying to know and embrace the parameters of my mental wiring, now knowing that I will always be eccentric. I haven’t a ‘deficit of attention’ but rather Interest-Based-Cognition-Challenges*, to use my own words. Being neurotypical was impossible.
When my mentality drifts far ahead of my notes, I tend to procrastinate writing on topics or scrap outlines. Initial sketches loom as large as their expansive potential, to me, as if I must mentally lift the full-weight of their explications. So, a whimsical experiment is best. I lifted the outline from my iPhone to tackle what is overwhelming in prose, using poetics instead. Phrases I wrote over the course of this month are in italics while phrases I wrote as I drafted this installment are in bold.
Training my brain as it is rather than as how it ‘should be’
is how I keep my essence, my manitou, the pith of my self
— the middle trajectory, the turn/twist/trope places me
in the window missed by going too high or low. Visit
the feelings of my ebb, my decent attempts to keep forward-ing despite
the knowledge of what was lost while I struggled;
a happy birthday message for her —connects to wanting/expecting more and better;
other thoughts could attach BUT… avoidances
of various kinds. Anthony Bourdain killed himself
and parts unknown; flipping my shame
to continue his
values of intercultural encounter. I knew
there was a choice: I could
believe that someone greater succumbed to darkness and I would too
or that the world lost an interculturalist and I needed
to keep living, keep making encounters.
Chester and Mike: Chester who fronted Linkin Park
but could not transcend his darkness, and his band-mate,
Mike Shinoda, who chose to transcend with music
— he made an album to digest Chester’s suicide;
I will follow Mike’s example. Learning to look forward
again— the secret hidden in visceral pain, in need of
recalibration (she was my daily joy) and when my routine eroded
she was my only anchor, then.
Vague versus specific; neither totally bad/good
so that discernment matters. Damn. Alone with my thoughts
in the car — allowing myself to know and learn now that I can
expand to hold all these thoughts.
What keeps us from addressing it? Don’t answer this
entirely, even for myself; not able to simultaneously
believe I could be flawed and life still worth living…
“where is resilience?” I ask, now knowing
there is a certain lack of logic in resilience,
which hangs from unseen cables of faith
rather than resting on incomplete evidence.
Can I have it
when so many of my ‘betters’ haven’t? Or
must I have it
on their behalf? Survive for them.
let’s search for the word
in ‘meta’, that abstract notion of things-about-things
which aren’t concrete. Trying to transition
from the up/down modus to incremental strategies
of being: forsaking sudden revolution for gritty
evolution. Embarrassed by Pokémon analogies? But
there is a richness & this is the Internet,
where such niche extrapolations are appreciated,
where the audiences have Infinite permutations, and
I like the idea of being Vulpix who must learn
everything she needs before consuming the Firestone
to become Ninetails, cherishing the skills and
lessons learned but while suffering through lesser-states
or even worse… everyone different…
voicing/denying/recovering/damning/internalizing/externalizing/risks & timing/
prophesy effects of different kinds, especially
the self-fulfilling kind— I believed
if I couldn’t get a job she would
walk away, then I couldn’t and she did —
I believed I was too pathetic to
meet her eyes and so I looked away, which is pathetic
—these strange tensions that change, that manifest differently
for all in contemplation, liturgies, ceremonies…
higher-power moments that elude or arise!
I rummage through my fermenting thoughts, trying
to find new flavors where freshness is gone, and
reconnecting to the fire, the other elements, slowly
transition back to poetry to escape the self-imposed
limitations found in my reflection, perhaps
foil the dark-matter that prevents me from writing fiction
— the unknown substances of depression illogical;
fair to fight with non-sequitors: “firestone:
evolve don’t die”
make this part of a poem? Form exceeds content…
the shape of my words shaping.
I was once a brush blaze, now a
furnace capable of channeling
the energy needed to fire, to cure, to finally temper
the Earth entry to follow? Thinking
‘past’ my parents to my grandparents.
Whatever people get out of that mash, let me know. I didn’t want to get lost in all of it; I’ve already waited too long to write. I needed to give these thoughts some life without feeling as if I have to dedicate all of my life to them.
* * *
This piece feels like ‘too much’ and ‘not-enough’ blended together. I am adjusting to this sensation. There is a long journey ahead but also sufficient time, less copious than in my twenties but perhaps richer for the temporal perspective. The mass of what is left unsaid is like all of the dry, fallen limbs still in the woods while the mass of what is in the pile, next to the fire, is still immense. I wrote a paragraph that tried to demystify the conundrum in my personal life, accidentally lost it while copy-pasting, then realized the thoughts belonged elsewhere…
I must come back to myself.
If I am the dreamer of purple-fire, then I am The Man of Purple Fire. So many of my loves have embraced the outdoors: the moist green spaces, the tightly compacted power of tree-trunks, the watching eyes of potato-colored stones, and the hot necessity of fire. At a time when everything reminded me of someone, the fire reminded me of myself. House-sitting for my friends, I made a grand blaze in the backyard to enjoy solo. I’d originally planned to haul my laptop outside and pour my exhilaration into text. It was better to be present with the fire, to pore over its power and make voice-memos to myself. Not because those fine ladies couldn’t build fires but because building fires is something I’ve done for the kids I counseled, for my Father and friends, and especially for myself. It wouldn’t work so well as an antidepressant if I didn’t appreciate how skilled I am at it: “fire-mage” I murmured to myself. “Man of Purple Fire, self-contained apparition of beauty and power.” In another time or dimension I could have been…
Take a deep breath and return to the present. As the weeks advance, I find more billowing power in my breathing. Like the bellows of a steam-engine, I can summon the melting power of yellow-hot coals in my belly. Years ago, I pretended that every note on my trumpet was the tiny blue flame of a single gas-jet. Come into my body with me and sense that the emotional strife, as massive as ever. Yet the blaze is growing bigger; the emotions from which I fled now upon me and (if it is afternoon or evening) I turn my palms upward and draw a huge breath. The flames grow around the emotion, getting hotter with every gust of oxygen, melting the contents of my thought into my core. My arteries carry it into the rest of my body, let the power of difficult emotions mix into my fibers, and veins carry back clear, cool perspective.
I want to continue writing on this theme: how are my new powers manifesting? How am I using them? What do they FEEL like in my body? How are they changing my story? For a moment I think only of isolation and disappointment but then I remember that I have many MANY stories to tell. For instance, on two occassions I was the consort of a Disney Princess at Social Justice Marches… TBC
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