It’s no secret to me that travesty has followed me around all my life. It’s been my shameful little “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” I’m reminded of the time my mother convinced the courts I was crazy for a while and asking to be beaten, so charismatic she was when it came to convincing others of a representation that wasn’t true, they closed their books and showed her the way out of the hell she probably mostly and secretly wanted to burn in instead of send her son to.
Maybe that’s where I get my poetry from, I sometimes tell myself when after feeling unwelcome by the world for too long it starts to feel normal to demand belonging to something or someone other than myself.
Come to think of it, my father too wasn’t a stranger to using me to craft another travesty that would diminish me while serving himself. Like the time he tried to convince himself while drooling in his chair that I secretly wanted to remain poor so he would have to take care of any future wife I might be lucky enough to convince to stay with me.
That one always hurts to remember, I can still see him imagining one of my girlfriends as his fourth wife in bed with him, and the way he looked, well let’s just say it’s easy to imagine him a father in a plague who just murdered his sick son to save himself. Well, anyway, that look of jealousy isn’t anything new. And poets too aren’t immune to travesty.
For a little while, and for probably centuries in past lives, some poets I once wrote alongside as part of a writing community and still love deeply, grew to tolerating my unexpected emotionally sordid and unpopular writing and aesthetic choices, while they consoled themselves with the false validation that some really intelligent and talented poets manage to write themselves away from poetry and into professions that, like their now unpoetic poetry, reject a like button, and must learn to be something more important than literature. Yeah, that sounds serviceable.
So, what’s a person to do with all this ugly? Well, they start to live for what they receive no validation for is what they do.
Which is to say I think it’s possible for a person to live for the process of self-discovery, while remaining constantly invalidated, misrepresented, and sabotaged by their particular community, when and if that person can learn to internalize and imaginatively reframe betrayal into an aspect of their own personality they can find something life-affirming, generative, creative about.
Some of us, and yeah, I’m projecting here, can even live our whole lives inside ourselves like that, hour after hour, day after day. Some of us even learn to prefer breaking off limbs of everyday acknowledgment inside ourselves to relying on others, like the asexual sea star during fission that after being destroyed grows back into a second self to find a rock that’s nothing like it to attach itself to, and that in its own little starfish way at least knows to be there.