Soul

Yesterday was an extraordinary day. The pain has eased, not that in my body, but the soul pain that was driving me insane. I can breathe again, the phrase was like heart beating in my mind, over and over. Monday is art college day. We always learn something, no matter how sick or exhausted or in pain, no matter the occasional tutor who drives me up the wall, or the frustration of ‘concept development’ invading every class I have loved. Today I painted with oil washes for the first time, creating a likeness of a small creature I first crafted from newspaper:

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I’ve never worked with oils, inks, and charcoal in the same painting before. I like him.

In photography class I talked with my painting tutor about our project topic – identity. I had been exploring pain, disability, illness, public and private selves. We talked openly about being multiple but that we did not want to explore that in a crass way for the project. The reductionism of the assumptions about identity grated, people were making their sense of self down to lists of attributes, to collections of likes and dislikes. I am not these things, I argued. The tutor said self is a synthesis of these things. I said no. If you ask me to photograph my self, I want to photograph my soul.

We switched, away from madness and suffering and despair, away from the futile rage. Tonight Rose and I ate dinner on the beach, watching the planes fly in over the water. My heart cane back, my dark heart, my poet, my one who eats pain and is not driven mad. All the world shifted and there was no despair any longer, no anguish. The night sang, sweet and wild and beautiful. I thought about so many people being driven mad by pain, trying to learn how to eat it. I thought about how the life that distracts me, the pain that prevents me from making art is not a distraction but is the subject of art, something I understand intimately. That things of which I’m ashamed, like my need for wrist poems, are places where art keeps me alive, where art gives me unscarred skin. And here, on this blog, it’s where I tear down my public image, over and over, before it crushes me. Where I search constantly for the truth of my own story, for my humanity.

Tonight the shackles fell away, and I was alive, and free as anyone can be. It won’t last, but then, what does? I don’t need it to. It is enough to drink the night and hear the ocean and breathe the stars and smell the skin of my lover, her hair like jasmine and her mouth like roses. Everything can be broken and wrong and heart full of grief and body of pain and still there is this place in the night, beyond fear, where something within you can fly if you remember how. I hope you know it too.

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