The Poetry of Story
Coming from a family where journalism was celebrated and books where not only a means of escape but psychological survival, the importance of “story” was something I internalized rapidly. Not because the facts needed to be straight or my voice needed to be heard but simply because it was interesting. People are interesting to me. What we do, how we cope with tragedy, our peccadilloes…
Most of all, our stories.
Someone who carries depression like a worker carries a tool bucket absolutely craves the color of life and it’s denizens. This may or may not sound like I’m saying what makes me a good writer is the fact that I am a life-long depressive. No. What it means is that I ached for something so very much more than the greyish existence of a middle-class suburban kid with one illness after the next, a less-than-exemplory school record and no real talents other than a way with animals, awkward friends and an amazingly good ear for music. I needed something that would in my soul make me know that being here on this planet, in this society was truly worth sticking around for.
I found it.
There was this certain something… it’s better that I illustrate:
The 4'11" uncle that had a sing-song gravelly voice that was built literally like a barell who was an amazingly graceful high diver of Pan-American Games quality. He made the shittiest children. Then there was my quietly gifted grandfather who was a Russian-Jew, born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and was working at eight years-old shovelling coal in the tenement basement where his family lived. He became an NYU graduate in engineering, worked on the George Washington bridge reformation and could do the NY Times crossword puzzle in under an hour COMPLETED. He had a weakness for my insane grandmother and animals. There was a cat named Topper(like the movies) who would stalk Steve every morning when he got up. My dad watched Topper stalking steve whilst he made breakfast, one hot summer morning, with no shirt on. Said animal bounded, leaped and with all four sets of claws landed on the man’s back and slid down, leaving blood and marks that would last for YEARS. My dad asked him why would he put up with this pain and then come home and pick the cat up every evening and hand feed him treats. Steve replied “I don’t know why I love that vicious bastard, but I do.”
Do you see it yet?
Allow me to illustrate further.
There was the girlfriend who was a Buddhist nun in the seventies who bred and raised horses. She was the sweetest, gentlest soul that had no compunction with kicking a threatneing horse in the chest.
Then there was my ex-wife the chocoholic. She would literally eat chocolate in her SLEEP. Many were the times I would wake up next to her with a splendid line of chocolate drool down her face and onto the mentally retarded cat’s head(yes, cats get that too.)
Or I could tell you of the time a genuine Texas cowboy truck driver gave me my trucker name of “Sparky.” (Yep, they tried to keep my fuse from gettin’ lit but I was already sparkin’ along.) Or the ongoing affair between me at the top of the stairs and a local cat and how we look at each other and she looks like she truly wants to come upstairs and get petted, but “I..I just can’t…"and poof she’s gone but I keep on trying because one day it could happen.
This is the poetry of story. This is why I stay. I love this color of life. And sometimes I just happen to capture that in words and get them published.
@ello @ellowrites #essay #personalessay #writer #writingaboutwriting