I haven’t blogged for about a month now. I can only describe what I’ve been going through as a nervous breakdown. You don’t hear the term nervous breakdown that often anymore. It’s not clinical enough, specific enough, as a diagnosis. It’s not actually a diagnosis at all. We don’t have a pill to throw at nervous breakdown, though there are plenty to alleviate its symptoms. It’s a pretty taboo term in our culture, particularly as a phenomenon that nobody can quite put their finger on. The term feels very 19th century somehow, or maybe it’s a 1950s term? I will have to research its history, but it wreaks of weakness, fainting, smelling salts, spas with healing baths where you go to recuperate. Still, I’m calling what I’ve been experiencing for the last, oh, six months a nervous breakdown. Continue reading
So, there are things to work out, yeah? We all have things to work out. Deaths, breakups, awful traumas, stints of depression and anxiety. Here we are, friends, swimming in murky water. Here we are dancing. This morning I woke up and walked on the beach with the great blue herons and the red-beaked white ibises. I swam in perfectly clear, calm ocean. That’s one way to wake up. I’ve been writing a little. Looks like I have a new manuscript of poems on the horizon. In addition to actually readable poems, I had this batch of maybe 30 poems that I never wanted to see again. I printed them out and started culling lines from them. I took the first line or so from each and made a poem. Then I took the next line or so from each, another poem. Then I took random lines from each, a third poem. Three poems into this process, I remembered why I love to write poems: chance & mystery!
I had a really bad day on Friday. I’m talking full-on anxiety attack. Couldn’t drive, couldn’t think straight, cried a lot. And then I got through it, with the help of some dear friends. I woke up the next day a little better, but still panicky. I slept through the night, and woke up the next day a little better. Better enough to write poems again. This is important. You remember who you are when all the detritus has been stripped from you, but it sure is effing painful to be stripped down.
The epigraph of Clarice Lispector’s novel Near to the Wild Heart is a quote from James Joyce. It reads:
He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life.
I’m at a beautiful artists retreat. I look out my window at the ocean. I walk the beach. I work on poems and try my hand at writing short stories. I read Alice Munro stories. I do some editing work. I talk to friends online. My phone feels like a lifeline. Friends will visit. My mom and grandma and cat are nearby. There is one other artist here, and I hope we’ll crack open a bottle of wine together soon.
But mostly I’m alone.
Being lonely is different than heartbreak, but they’re inextricably linked. Continue reading
Just an aside: if you review books, you could still review Dust Jacket. It’s a book of prose poems. I will send a copy to any takers…
Tonight I had make a stand of sorts. I had to stop hoping for reconciliation with Ben. In the process (maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done or will need to continue to do), I had to stand in the mirror and say, Who are you, and what the hell have you been doing?
Part of this is trying to understand what it means to be a drifter. My dictionary tells me a drifter is a person who is continually moving from place to place, without any fixed home or job. Apparently, it’s also a fishing boat equipped with a drift net. I could construct countless metaphors on that front. Synonyms are wanderer, traveler, transient, roamer, itinerant, tramp, vagabond, vagrant, hobo, bum.
I guess being stranded by my love/partner, without home or job, without any plan, has left things pretty effing raw. Continue reading
This poem is from the July/August issue of Boston Review. You can also see it online here. God, that last line kills me.
Where My Body Has Been
by Regina DiPerna
I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother
and argue what a kobald is, and is not. I am nine.
Behind the oblong dresser in the basement
is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider
crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.
When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.
The gas attendant has a gold tooth.
Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.
I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.
A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.
I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.
No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car
across the ice, no witnesses.
Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally
across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me
he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters
across the stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,
gulp milk from a glass bottle.
There is nothing left for me to do.
My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:
a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.
See, he is not here to dispute this.
This is what I think when the lover asks why I am
so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.
My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.
I miss everything.
Well, I’m back in Englewood. Reunited with my beautiful cat, who has just launched himself onto the bed, purring like a maniac. I’m so happy to see this creature that I could burst. He feels like the one solid thing in my life. Everything else is a movie happening underwater.
Every time my phone beeps, I look for Ben’s name on the screen…