Fireworks on Display

I am a body of light / let this be my cocoon

Sometimes I want and sometimes I need and sometimes all I can do is smolder. I once wrote a poem (and it later became the first I’d ever perform) called “Waiting for Exposition“:

It’s like watching fireworks being / launched into the sky / on the Fourth of July. / I know well enough to expect / explosions // // I know I’m no firework / no explosive / no lightshow / yet I still feel the fuse / burning down my crown like kundalini / I can feel the altitudes fall around me / as I soar higher from this drug that / sane people call oxygen and / psychiatrists call life.

If it’s possible to overdose on life without dying, I’ve done it. I think of this poem every Independence Day, think of this stormy silence, this smoldering, this slow burn that isn’t dying but isn’t living, this same soft inferno that’s been warming me for months.

I’ve been doing what I can, to fend off this depression, taken pills and talked to people and shared and listened and played an active part in training my mind to think better, brighter, happier thoughts. And to a distance it’s worked, is working, but I’m still caught in the fumes of these flames, these fires licking at my shins and petting my fur-worn body.

Sometimes I think we’re led to believe depression is water. That sadness of any sort is the product of rain and hazy fog and the leaky faucet as painful as water torture as it lassoes your dreams and keeps you from any sound sleep. It’s an easy connotation: the sun shall rise, represents hope and happiness, and rain blocks it all out. Ergo sadness.

Except rain is rejuvenation, healing touch and cathartic tears and morning dew catching the sun just so. The ocean roars in its mastery, it’s mystery; even an indoor swimming pool cups its cold hands around you and holds you up, try as you might to sink, to drown.

Nor is depression the heated fury of passion, the driving forges of creation, that lightning spark of neurons in the brain, that simmering gunpowder blasting rockets into glorious light displays.

Depression isn’t the unlaid earth, standing against the storm, patient strength biding its time, wherewithal and determination. Neither does it seem a spring wind bringing pollen and spasms of love-strewn breaths, a storm wind belting the majesty of the rain and lightning as if they were mere children’s toys, nor a gentle breeze caressing your face in the morning light, reminiscent of sleep, yearning for a greater dawn.

Depression is none of these things.

These things are manifestations of vitality. Everything depression is not.

Suddenly, in the midst of all my elements (my longest stories, eldest of my inner myths, bleeding through), I’ve become the dank puddle festering with mosquitoes, the choking wind that leaves dents of ice pockmarked in our faces and blistering sores on our hands, the infertile earth unable to bring forth new boughs, and smoldering, spent coals.

Each is its own special brand of lifelessness: miscreation, destruction, the inability to create, and worst of all, the yearning to live when no life remains.

The fireworks have all burst. The colors, bright and vibrant, momentarily transcendent, have faded from the heavens. All I am is sparklit smoke as the storms blow me away.

I spent twenty minutes in the car yesterday trying to adapt an idea to the day, but in the end all I had was an empty title, the husk of a firework long ago misfired or still yet to be made. I felt guilt and shame and misery, a gentle touch, coarse and tart, a whisper just too far to fathom.

I set my phone aside and played on my 3DS, read a book, chewed some gum.

In the hot tub beside the hotel pool–the latter an iceberg forgotten how to be frozen, the former a firm hand soothing a constellation of bug bites on my legs–I returned to poems written and poems unwritten, wondering if perhaps the lethargy in my words came not from a lack of inspiration, but in misplaced connections.

Earlier this semester I went through a carnival ride of depression before all my senses were swept aside by other duties, life become a mere distraction. I had scrawled a poem, it had led from one thought to another, and that other hand became its own voice.

Offhandedly, without cause or caress, I called it Antigone.

Some time later, a rushed burst of writing, words like orgasm. I named him Hamlet, again without cause, another distraction. Nearly a week later arrived Perceval, then Miriam immediately afterward: so far the adventure had been earthy and physical, then resoundingly wet. Another week passed, the water evaporated, and finally arrived Ghandi.

Now, and only now, did this subtle symphony seem complete. It was, in five poems, the perfect arc of creation or destruction–conflict, climax, and denouement.

Peel away these layers of cotton / and candy veneer / shave my skin / and scrape away the flesh

It was catharsis in twenty-two lines culminating in my own reincarnation–or revelation that all these flaws of my bodies were merely the outer layering of something minimally infinite.

I’ve reread this quintic repeatedly, intent to serialize or publish if possible, but while it reminds me beneath all this dying is a shred of living, it hasn’t hit any pages other than my own, no audience other than my empty eyes.

So there I was, wondering if this unfinished poem, hardly only a single line / let this be my cocoon / could perhaps belong to a greater whole. But what is a body of light?

At first I had thought it meant the spirit, and perhaps as an ending it does, but as a new beginning it may be something else. It may be the sodden reflection over a torpid flood plane, its murky brown waters swallowing yet another roadway, yet another driver too self-assured to turn back. Or maybe it’s a bit blacker, more charred, that white ashen skin atop a hot glowing core–a body of light grown dim and deficient.

It isn’t really living, is it, to let the light go out?

But how do you stoke the flames of a firework after all the colors have burst?

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