Here is the eleventh poem in my 52-poem sequence (one a week) for 2013, followed by some illumination and reflection:
crumbling world what have I to offer
you who ask for small change
fuel for addictions of the gutter?
this meagre body honed like a knife
a loaded gun or primed needle
put me in your arms and I will heal you
this string of tarnished words
like the pearls of a cheap necklace
will adorn but never choke you
these vacant hopes and remnants
second hand and easy to wear
might stem the chill of Winter
step into this dark and aimless gaze
these eyes like rivers glimpsed at night
can carry you to morning.
Much evidence of urban degradation in this one, reflective of the area in which I was living at the time. I passed a fair number of down-and-outs, drug-addicts and prostitutes on my usual walk home, the latter of which used to offer to “dae me hof price” then say “have a nice day” when I declined their offers. Somehow I never fancied any of that jive, although I felt sorry for the women concerned, and still do. Perhaps that last remark will solicit some corrective comments from the sex workers and porn stars who follow this blog. In Glasgow in 1992, the women in question were mostly heroin addicts putting their lives at risk as creepy kerb crawlers drove past the top of Glasgow Green. Somehow those men have always worried me a little. Why not stay home with some paper hankies?
This poem speaks for itself I suppose. I was lonely. I had just learned to admit it, then taken the next step: to wear it as a crown rather than be ashamed of it. I believe that all human beings are profound, it’s just that society drives most of us to behave as if we’re shallow, out of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule. The arts, creativity, are a means of awakening us. The truly awakened man or woman is no longer afraid of anything, and then profundity, the ability to communicate at a deep level is regained, because there is nothing left to lose. Charmingly, one of my young nephews asked me a few years back “how did you get to be so funny, Uncle Dougy?” I laughed then answered from the heart: “desperation”. It’s not a shallow answer.
An introvert by nature, I nonetheless taught myself to talk to strangers, hundreds of them, otherwise I would have died.
Well, no one paints urban loneliness like Edward Hopper, possibly because he was painting around the time of its first true appearance in our world, at the point of death of the old communities and traditional rural ways of life. But he is ambiguous to say the least on the subject, enthralled by the enigmatic atmosphere of life in the big city. Loneliness is melancholy and even dangerous, his paintings seem to tell us, but it is also loaded with potential, fraught with an angst that it is ultimately spiritual, metaphysical, as if in contrast to all the shallow materialism, the flashing neon signs, all around it. We want to know the people in a Hopper painting, we relish their incompleteness, how their loneliness makes them beautiful. A critic once wrote that Hopper’s paintings are about “the marvelousness of life and what we fail to make of it”. But maybe that critic missed the point. Hopper’s paintings are eternally paused single moments, after which anything can still happen. No final disappointment has happened yet, nor ever will.