"I'm going to EAT YOU UP!" Why do we say
such things to babies and children and lovers (and
Readers? No, never to readers...)? And why does it
convulse them with glee? Because it combines love
and danger, being the verbal form of tickling;
because to play, one needs a game, and a game
requires the possibility of loss -- that is,
danger; for what could be more dangerous
than letting another become part of one's life?
Remember kids grabbing one's hat, knocking
one down, pinching -- and then, one day,
one lets someone else a few years from the playground
grasp one by one's [fill in body part as is
gender-appropriate], tug at it playfully,
rub it, stroke it; doesn't warn "Remember,
it doesn't come off!" -- thrilled by the
danger of it. The danger in it tells the baby
or lover how safe he is. Mere endless security,
like too-long nakedness, is no game at all;
We must teeter on curb-stones, then on walls,
then on the edge of the garage roof, then
on the high wire to make our safety meaningful.
Any game must reach and withdraw from safety,
from risk. Terror is fun when (like teenagers
screaming through a scary movie or anyone
snuggling up to a fireplace with a horror novel
or kids delaying sleep in a cabin in the wood
by exchanging tingly tales -- "GIVE ME MY BONES!") --
when you think you know you're safe...
but how could this play a part in a poem?
You, reader, how could a poem, words on a page,
threaten you? We poets aren't Stephen King surely?
So enough talk of play; let's get back to the stuff of
harmless poetry, all about how when you die, you're alone,
and you're dying right now and always, so
you must be alone now (did you think
someone was here? Spooky!), and you always will
be alone, dying, in pain, in the dark
(in the rain -- the importance of being Earnest
Hemingway, when dying alone),
and there is no game, never was, never will be --
I don't know about you, but I'm scared!
Note: I don't recall if or where Ernest Hemingway said "dying
at night, alone, in the rain" (or something like that), but
if he didn't say it, his ghost does or his many parodists do. (Aren't
they ghosts, too?)