It’s 10:30 on New Year’s Eve. You won’t make it until midnight. You’re tired and achy and your head’s swimming. You feel like throwing up.
The moon’s bright, and clouds sling tracks across the sky.
You’ve been thinking tonight, which is ever-dangerous, about why you sit down to write every day. Why do you do this thing that has very little return in the free market? That few people will ever read? That some will hate?
Self, you are too sincere, not nearly ironic enough. You are way too un-cool: hipster-with-a-fannypack-for-a-purse-uncool. Self, I know what you’re thinking—you’ve got books strewn around you on New Year’s Eve, you look drunk—but you’re thinking about urgency, the deep and monstrously incoherent need to believe in something against a backdrop of post-postmodern self-conscious irony, gluttony, and emotional vacancy.
Self, I’ve been reading over your shoulder. You think you do it because
“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost…”(Dante)
“one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.” (Yeats)
Because you want to say,
“I believe in you my soul.” (Whitman)
or because a shut-in had the gumption to write,
“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –”(Dickinson)
when girls weren’t doing that sort of thing.
Or because a man walking around town one day thought,
“I do not want to be an inheritor of so many misfortunes.
I do not want to continue as a root and as a tomb,
as a solitary tunnel, as a cellar full of corpses,
stiff and cold, dying with pain.” (Neruda)
Because you want to know
“What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?” (Keats)
Because there is always someone
“laboring over a single word, almost
redeemed by what he tried to say.” (Komunyakaa)
Because you want to feel the burn:
“If you should dip your hand in,
your wrist would ache immediately,
your bones would begin to ache and your hand would burn
as if the water were a transmutation of fire
that feeds on stones and burns with a dark gray flame.” (Bishop)
Because of the chant,
“Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.” (Levine)
Or because of swimming,
“In this immensity my thoughts all drown;
How sweet to be wrecked in seas like these.” (Leopardi)
Or because of prophecy,
“and the wind whipped my throat
gaming for the sounds of my voice
I listened to the wind.” (Ammons)
Because someone asks,
“Is this the proof god’s been looking for
that we exist, what makes up this world
we are in flight from, amniotic
chimeras of the past tearing at
the shrink-wrapped future?” (D. Young)
Because another imagines the end of the world as
“The blaze of promise everywhere.” (Strand)
And another challenges,
“Let’s see you find the world now.” (Popa)
But I know the truth, Self. In the words of someone’s pop-punk heroes, Chixdiggit, if you don’t sit down at that computer every day and hack something out of your sorry-ass self,
yeah chupacabra gonna reach, gonna reach, gonna reach right out and grab ya.