Inspired by Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red, recommended by Kári Tulinius.
The style and format of this poem is modeled after Appendix C of the book: "Clearing Up The Question Of Stesichoros' Blinding By Helen"
1. Either poetry can change your life or it can not.
2. Heather suggests to Dean that he should read Anne Carson’s Autobiography Of Red with the same tame words that I recommend. Should. Enjoy. Narrative. Story. Sexuality. Island. Family. Volcano. Red. All these gentle things that flow toward you at a pace that, when compared to the way work and relationships are constantly crashing you against the surprisingly giving rocks of your everyday, seems reasonable.
3. When the book is returned with no new pages folded or creases on the cover, Heather asks how Dean enjoyed it. I have no speech in me.
4. Dean says It was ok. It didn’t change my life or anything.
5. Things that have changed my life are not the death and everyday unfairness of the current police state, but a free granola bar from someone who doesn’t want me to adapt to their religious beliefs, or a train that shows up when expected, or poetry. Every poetry changes my life in some way, even the poetry about how flowers represent grief in ways I have no context or wikipedia for. Poetry about help-me is the hair of someone you love brushing against your neck when you forgot you weren’t alone. Forced rhymes about politics are a parade route shutting down my way to work, and standing in a detour is someone I have missed and can talk with for hours instead of inventorying books or pouring whiskey.
6. How does a poetry not always change your life?
7. Heather because I am speechless says Changing your life is a pretty high bar for a poetry collection. I just meant did you like it?
8. Of course I love the man who suggested I read Autobiography Of Red but not in a manuscript full of unrequited lust way. When we met, I confused his native origin for his sexuality, being Scandinavian and being Queer being similar mosaics when being squinted at through LSD. The confusion was barely an hour and reached the bar of changing my life.
9. Odinn and I met of course through poetry as Heather and I met through poetry as Dean and I met through poetry as Heather and Dean met through poetry and what is life but a series of friendships forged by an art you sometimes hate?
10. Dean shrugs.
11. My father lives on an island I hardly ever visit. Heather has been there with me. Dean has been there with me. Odinn lives in Iceland again, which is a different island.
12. A drunk also student asked Odinn what language people speak in Iceland. Icelandic he said. Right said the drunk and I speak Americanish. Do you speak German or Dutch?
13. What does it take besides a common language to change a life? In high school, a sort of friend came out as gay a week before his graduation. I was a Sophomore who knew men’s bodies existed but not how they felt or tasted. I invited myself to his room with no logical pretext and we flipped through our yearbook pointing at boys we found attractive before blowing each other, each of us coming into portions of brown paper towels ripped off a roll he’d stolen from the men’s room. We didn’t see each other or talk again for thirteen years, when we friended each other on Facebook, pretending the only thing we had in common was singing tenor in the select choir.
14. Sex is a language I speak fluently but barely understand.
15. In Autobiography Of Red, a dragonishboy falls in love with an older boy whose love destroys him which is a modernization of one of the Labors Of Herakles, which is also every relationship I’ve ever had, except that sometimes I am dragonboy Greydon, sometimes I am Herakles, but often I am merely the cattle or the dog destroyed trivially so that Herakles can get at his actual target.
16. No character in a tragedy deserves more sympathy than any other character. Everyone in a tragedy has been deliberately placed in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person so that misery or jealousy or a volcano of misunderstanding can wipe out the victims and let the survivors suffer their continued existence.
17. Everything I’ve ever read or experienced is a form of tragedy.
18. Tragedy is a form of poetry and poetry is a thing that constantly changes lives, or poetry is a form of living that is in a constant state of tragedy, or some Tuesday you will be in a car blasting Paul’s Boutique and eating soft pretzels with someone you care about and one of you will probably die before the other one and is all this singing and driving worth the eventual grief?
19. Of course it is. What’s wrong with you?
20. Grief is what’s wrong with me. And it hasn’t even happened yet.
21. When you take someone to meet the island of your family make sure you love them. Do not let your family see your indifference. Better a stage fight. Better a Thanksgiving Dinner of upturned gravy and who you Know they were fucking when they told you they were going to a science fiction convention, than the uninteresting silence of reading Buzzfeed articles with someone you can’t even bother to dislike.
22. Where does the red come in? My hair when I was younger and more certain what I wrote would never hurt anyone? The fire engine I thought I could becoming. The impending middle aged convertible that might loom had I not surrendered driving so I could live in a city with an art I barely recognize and people constantly leaving? Something as trite as anger?
23. A split watermelon on this July porch is more pink than red and faster to disappear than misplaced emotions.
24. Saying Nothing is as laborious as living is both melodramatic and an undeniable truth.
25. I’d rather read about someone’s horrible adolescence than listen to it or watch it unravel in front of me.
26. I am a volcano reaching out to a city of people I love, not understanding why people are running from the obvious destruction of my arms.
27. #26 is the stupidest, most egotistically ignorant thing I’ve written in months. Someone will identify with it. Someone will laugh at it. Someone will nod their head, pretending it even makes sense.
28. My favorite stories are ones I should identify with but don’t. I love what I mistakenly think I will eventually understand.
29. The train I take to work is red. Does that count?
30. The fence around my third story porch is painted red and has successfully kept any of my friends or roommates from plunging to their injury. I have talked with Dean on this porch. And Heather. I wrote a letter to Odinn on this porch but never mailed it. I want to believe we are all safe.
31. Life changes poetry and poetry changes life and even a Taylor Swift song is a type of poetry and even what I am doing with my only day off from work this week is a type of life. I didn’t set this bar but I guess I should thank whoever made these changes so attainable.
32. Heather asks me if The Autobiography Of Red changed my life as I haven’t actually said anything for this whole discussion. And I say something that I immediately forget.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.