Letters To Live Poets (Vi)
Pain, the problem of, not answered
by dogma, orthodox or other-
wise. The only problem being
how to bear with. You may have an
answer ready.I, only the
long-winded question breaking words
up and down the crooked line,
the graph of pain. Burns got it
in the neck. That’s where it gets me.
Coleridge wrote “My sole sensuality
was not to be in pain!”
Some of us are supposed to sing
when it’s bad. Old Graves says he
whistled once with it white-hot.
Beethoven maybe wrote the “even”
symphonies when he was at odds with
feeling. At midnight Nietzche's eyes
turned red with it. Valéry cracked his
knuckles, succumbing at mid-day.
Freud chewed aspirin,
his cancered jaw half-plastic.
Whatever else it isn’t, pain’s
feeling. Maybe the most intimate experience
we’re capable of.
Tonight my head’s clamped and hearing’s
affected. Rheumatism’s in the
neck. We knew it was in the air
today. All day the surf roared
till the spray was thick as fog.
Everything’s salted down. I like it —
the primal salt-lick in the air.
Both of us like the old sea breath,
but she with her sinusitis, I with
rheumatics, ache and gasp, winded
before the big crass statement of pain.
And its talent for metaphors:
it piles up a tide of breakers
then subsides leaving pools
full of little twinges. But there’s
this much to be said for it:
there’s no falsity in it at all.
There’s no ambiguity to pain.
You’ve got to fight it to the death —
its own, or yours. You don’t relieve
yourself of it, you use a pain
killer on the understanding
it’s born and reborn again.
Pain shows eternity as hell, but
without it you’re dead. How does it feel
to be without any pain?