Thursday, January 29, 2015

Memoir To Madness Part Four

 By Christian Weaver

To read Part Three, click here


You'd be surprised by how thoroughly you saturate my writing. You're an icon, a symbol, a style and a theme. In addition to your dominance of my "private mythology," what you are and represent as a TYPE is overwhelming. It disturbs me like a ghost, like old Marley in chains. You're that sinister double.... you're the Quiet Twin, the Jealous Twin, the Crazy and Damaged and Terrible Twin. You embody violence, the id, the shadow, the brute. You symbolize the link between brilliance and madness. But there is also great courage and a passion for justice. It's the origin of your name. There is Justin the Just, the Defender of the Weak. You run like a thread throughout my poems and my stories. You appear unannounced, looming vast and ferocious... then you plunge into the depths like the wicked white whale. I wonder if you suspect how many poems you've inspired? I think I’ll annotate a few and let you see what I was thinking. I wrote the first at fourteen:

Laughter in the Rain

I saw you once as a true person
When I was young and bold
But you became a fleeting shadow
A phantom to behold.

I saw your face through the mask you had on
I saw you were afraid
I chased love with reckless ambition
But you stood in the shade.

You know your smile never hid your anger
I saw you bleed in rage
The world with me was blessed with many dreams
You only saw the pain.

And even through the hills of sadness
Even through the rain
In my mind I saw you coming
But you never came.

And even through the shadows of sorrow
I still watch you from afar
Even through my traces of madness
I still wonder what you are

And I hear laughter in the rain...

Notice how the speaker ties his growth into fear (no longer "young and bold") into his brother‘s declivity (lines three and four). But this "fleeting shadow," "phantom," and "mask" is itself caused by fear. But here the brothers cope differently: whereas the speaker seeks love -- or romance and friendship, a running toward humanity -- his brother turns; inward and avoids human contact (line eight). But the speaker is not fooled by this mask of shy smiles. He sees the angst and the rage, the mutilation, beneath.

As the years roll by the speaker loses all hope. Through his bouts with depression ("hills of sadness," "rain"), he clings tenaciously to the prospect that his brother will recover -- but it never happens (lines fifteen and sixteen). The speaker’s ordinary sadness becomes grief or despair (shadows of sorrow"): he no longer knows his brother and they slowly drift apart. This affects him in two ways: 1) he grows obsessed with his brother and starts to follow and stalk him ("watch you from afar"), and 2) he battles mental illness ("traces of madness"). As the tragedy concludes it is raining heavily; he has trailed him from a distance when suddenly, like lightning, a peal of laughter breaks out. It‘s the cackle of insanity.

Note the parallel elements: the brothers unearth fear in the beginning and mental illness in the end. Though they suffer and deal with them in ways that differ greatly, they experience them together. Note the change of the title's meaning using nothing but the context. "Laughter in the Rain" denotes gaiety and lightness. One reads it at first and thinks of couples or children -- or perhaps some fun seniors -- as they frolic in the patter of a cool April shower. This is innocence, the ideal... it‘s the speaker and his twin before the entrance of fear. When the phrase is used again in the final line it means precisely the opposite of what it did in the title.

And did you notice that the poem seems to know that we'll go crazy? It's instinctive and unconscious, like inspiration itself. Any poetry I write seems to work like a dream; it uses images and symbols to reveal my own psyche, who I really am, to my conscious mind. It's so familiar with my nature that it predicts what I'll so many years in advance - even down to fine detail!

“But poetry is prophecy, as I shall soon make clear. It is especially self-prophecy. I have never seen it fail to guess the future, the fate, the self-becoming of its author. The unconscious (or the instincts) is what creates it fully formed inside the mind of the poet. It is closer to transcription than it is to creation. That is why the poet, like the reader, is perplexed by its contents. He too must interpret!"

My early poetry was dripping with little omens and hints. Remember "Sad Poetry"?:

Of weeping eye and paper face:
This hand, this pen, this thought, this trace
I want within your mind to waste
These feelings born inside of me.
Battered and twisted, in disgrace:
This heart, this mind, this soul, this face
I want within your heart to taste
The killer born inside of me.

I am the bitter, Silent Boy
Lost in the land of the social toys
My feelings are shattered easily
So I just write sad poetry

I compose sad poetry.

Note the intense inferiority, which approaches self-hatred (lines 3 and 4). This is counterbalanced by a dawning awareness -- tentative at first, then dramatic and bold -- of my purpose in life (lines 12 and 13). I have found a new calling. Lines 10 and 11 are another self-prophecy, in a way; I was talkative in my youth (obnoxiously over-social when inebriated or stoned) and wasn't diagnosed with social phobia until my twenties. Line 8, "The killer born inside of me..." anticipates a crime that was eleven years distant. What's foreboding about this line is that I, unlike you, was not vengeful of violent. My anger was self-destructive. When I was arrested for murder there were people who thought that I was covering for you. As one of our friends said, ‘Nobody thought it would be you.'"

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote about the poem's hidden meaning. The attitude's rather pompous but it makes a good point:

"Finally, it perceived what only I -- and perhaps Hitler and John Gacy -- understood: the inverse proportion between violence and art. Or rather, the direct proportion between violence and unactualized artistic potential. That poetry/art was in the same poem as murder/violence implies a relationship, no matter how latent. Many years later I would clarify this bond with a maxim so brutal as to wield a blunt object: THE GENUINE ARTIST, IF HE CANNOT CREATE, WILL INEVITABLY SEEK TO DESTROY."

Of course you recall "Angel Flesh," which I wrote at 16. The images of death, of demonia, and gobbled upby evil, of the rabid desperation of my final few years (before I plunged into murder), are quite clear to me now. 

Emaciate my haggard form
Till even the bones become well-worn
And Anoxexia admires me
Sweet Jesus on the skeleton tree.

Shaky hands and powdered stones
Bleached cow skull and pile of bones
Reminds me of something...
Reminds me of me --
Ageless principalities!
Celestial cities carved from ice
Where human kaleidoscopes entice
The immortal beings to sacrifice
A little divinity, and love
And some angel flesh and angel blood.
From wounding words to crushing stones
Angel flesh -- wrap around these bones
Slipping surrealistically...
Diabolic spirits cover me.

The more I eat, the thinner I grow
The more I study, the less I know
The more I destroy, the more I see
A demon incarnate -- known as me!

Line 5 ("Shaky hands...") was scribbled several years before I'd tasted hard drugs or was familiar with their properties. I intuitively used "stones" (close to "rocks" -- i.e., crack rocks, rocks of cocaine) to describe the drug's texture. All the images of atrophy meant nothing at the time, for I was healthy and stout. But then I moved to New Orleans and started losing weight rapidly. In the span of 6 months I had lost 40 pounds. What was weird is that my appetite grew larger, not smaller: I actually felt like I was starving. I started thinking I was cursed like that lawyer on "Thinner" (the Stephen King novel) and I could physically feel the presence of anxiety and fear; they would burn through the calories that were meant for my body:

"A soul that's on fire treats the body as fuel."

Finally I fell into neurosis, paranoia, hypochondria (I believed I was perishing of some loathsome disease) and the first of several stages that would end in psychosis.

The story behind the poem is sort of Icarus-meets-Faust. It‘s about a young man who grows obsessed with immortality. This supra-human lust is not a matter of degree (quantitative superiority) but of type (qualitative superiority). He wishes to transcend the human race altogether. By the end of the poem he is turning into something -- but it is certainly no angel. He's an imp, a demon! I guess the moral is much closer to King Midas than Icarus.

In the next few letters we'll discuss your own poetry. I will anyway, you bastard.


To be continued...

Christian J . Weaver 271262
BCCX - 24B - 202
1045 Horsehead Road
Pikeville, TN 37367