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Page 234

It's not subject matter or an emotion or a stylistic gimmick
or being postmodern (words meaning only themselves,
whatever that means) or surreal or realistic – none of these
trump the wordiness of words, their absence of mass,
their susceptibility to being usurped by voices not
your own. (Look how the words "your own", as the
dress designer says, become you.) Automatic writing
won't do it. Your (or The) Un-or-unconscious doesn't know
anything you don't know. (Your Unconscious wears army boots.)
It is as mysterious as the dull stare of the kid
a teacher always calls on (to the despair of the bright kid,
his hand waving in the air – I know! I know! Ask ME!) --
the glassy-eyed kid, like a sledge-hammered steer,
who sits there in stunned silence.

Having a listener won't solve it: Years of shouting
at a spouse or unraveling (or raveling) in analysis
will not make the blank page more inviting.

What DOES work?

Hey, what the fuck do you think this is? A self-help book?
A poetry clinic? (I blow my nose in clinics!) Do you see
any before-and-after pictures here? A young despairing me
curled up in bed, starring at a blank wall? A mature me
(graying urbanely) smiling in leather-patched tweeds
from a book jacket? (Jackets on books, sleeves on records –
books get a better deal.)

But, yes, this is a self-help book. So help yourself
Enough, I can't resist the urge to know everything
and share scraps of advice. You have come to find me
here on my mountaintop (a pain in the ass), O poet,
and I say unto you: Don't talk so much more than you listen.
Read. Take a walk, notice things, touch things, don't talk,
keep your day job. Neither a borrower nor a lender be – oops,
wrong voice.

Get a life. Know that you are you and no other,
for the more you know who you are, the less easily
will you slip unknowingly into being others. Be honest
(lie, but only for the fun of it), because lies, especially lies
about what you've done to others, make you withdraw,
which diminishes your ability to be in touch with here and now,
and makes you vulnerable to your old solutions to not being.
Always you must pay for borrowed – unknowingly borrowed – voices.
Know what words mean, lest reading itself induce little vacuums
that suck in anxious voices, a buzzing in the hive
or your not-there-ness.

Note: Stanza 4 – "I blow my nose in clinics!" – that is, in Kleenex. End of stanza 5: The wrong voice is Polonius in Hamlet, who pompously condescends to advise his son, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be...".

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