Last night, Rose was sick and I was coming down with another sinus infection – oh joy! So instead of roaming around Pride March with most of our friends, we stayed home and walked TV. Rose admitted to being a captive audience so I put on one of my favourite movies, Cyrano de Bergerac – the version with Gerard Depardieu. I love it so much, it’s been a couple of years since I watched it. It’s part of my ‘cannon’ of books, films, and poetry that I usually revisit about annually. I wept and wept through it. I know parts of it by heart and yet it still moved me deeply.
It got me thinking about this ‘cannon’ collection and what they mean to me. After Cyrano, I couldn’t help but take up my pen and write a poem about it, about remembering that for me, poetry is the meaning of life. It is how I live and feel and breathe and experience the world! I don’t mean the act of writing, or the ability to turn a pretty phrase. I mean something else – passion, frailty, beauty, something more bohemian. It’s about speaking from your heart, living life large, stargazing, nakedness, joy, grief. I’ve gone too far away from these values. I kept trying to fit myself into a world I will never fit. I miss my pen, my ink, my heart.
So I wrote and remembered what it was to write, I thought about the philosophy of Cyrano that so speaks to me – him admonishing a character who won by secrecy and deception – that he had not won but rather “gave up the honor of being a target”. His pride, his enthusiasm for struggle, his understanding of the emptiness of success and the great courage it takes to love. “Winning’s not the point. The fight is better when it is in vain!” These ideas I cherish. They strengthen me. They bring me back to my own heart, my own ideals. I weep and am restored. I remember what I have been fighting for and why.
This is what my canon of art does for me: it brings me back to myself. I spend my life in a world that does not think or believe or desire what I do. I am small, I lose my way. I imbibe, like poison, ideas that would kill me, would grind me into the dust. Ideas about life and poverty and value. My canon are my defense, they restore me to my own beliefs. They wake passion and courage within me. They remind me that all the ideas of the world are only that, ideas. Little prisons made by the small thoughts of little people. Whereas my dreams, they open up my world. They inoculate me, rejuvenate me, restore my heart to the place where it soars.
This is the difference between believing I am ‘white trash’ when living in a caravan park, and feeling lucky for my gypsy life. I open up my heart and all the world floods in, all life blows through my soul, with such pain and such untempered joy.
So I come back to them, over and over, to heal myself from the wounds of a world that does not live like this or understand it. It is about being deeply alive. It is a way of living that I treasure.
Beautiful Cyrano, who failed in so many ways, and was yet true to himself, lived gloriously. To live a life like his I would be doing well indeed. We measure our lives by standards that mean less than nothing to me. Worse – we get only so little time, so few Autumns, which are eaten by lethal ideas like – death is something that happens to other people, like – I’ll have time to do that next year, like – I must achieve to have worth. We get so little time and it is so easily devoured by the philosophies of the empty and deranged.
In poetry I find my meaning and my hope. It is a philosophy I cherish and must nurture more. It takes me beyond the pain of failure, the prison of sickness, the wounds of deep loss. Beyond nightmares and despair, the pit, the black sea, the place where all the world becomes blood. It is breathing far under that water, it is staring into the face of the nightmare, it is a scream that becomes a song. It is joy at the edge of death. A flower worn close to my heart. Sunlight on my skin, rain on my mouth, lover in my arms. All things, embraced, the cup drunk deeply from. Authenticity over positivity. Honesty over comfort. Passion over an easy life. I have not failed, I have lived. For someone fractured by dissociation, who once walked as the living dead, left numb, deaf, blind by it – this belief in life, this desire to be alive and to experience it is the antidote to my private hell. Learning how to protect it, how to run from buildings on fire, from lovers who carry cages, from hands that trap and bind, that is my task. Burning brightly, I walk in shadow unconcerned. I speak of hope to other hearts. I can remind people that pain does not destroy life, it is a dark thread in a tapestry. That even our tears have beauty.
Always coming home, then, a dance – back out into the world, home again to these keepers of my heart – Cyrano, Bradbury, McKillip. The artists who whisper truths in my ear and keep my heart from cages. How I love them. Bless them all.