Early Writings

Friday, September 27

Forgot to write that yesterday, in the middle of everything else — or maybe it was the day before — I got out some of my journal binders and started reading from the very first pieces.  I was mainly struck by the poems and also “The Journey.”  They are so bleak, stark empty landscapes, no color or softness.  Reading them now, I see the landscape of PTSD.  This is what my emotional life felt like.

Written some time during my freshman year (56-57) at the suggestion of a teacher that I try writing to music.  I was 14 years old.  The music I chose was the “Sacrificial Dance of the Chosen Virgin” from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  The Sacrificial Dance is the last piece.  Go to about 26 minutes.

The Journey

Gnarled and misshapen, the great tormented trees stand, their twisted limbs dripping with ancient moss.  Thick grey-green vines strangle the trees and lie seething in the underbrush.  The lurid rays of the dying sun drench the forest with their gory brilliance.

A man, lost and frightened by the greedy clutching vines, is trying to escape the trees which seem to be writhing horribly in the eerie glow.  A gush of low, blood-red laughter floats through the tortured branches.  A bat drops from the blasted vault of the sky, wheeling past his head, chilling him with a cold sliver of fear.  He plods on, terrified.  Another burst of evil laughter forces him to stumble down a bank of pebbles into a murky pool.  The slimy water stains his clothes as, horrified, he clambers out and staggers on.  The laughter becomes hysterical, convincing him that he will be imprisoned forever in this mad maze.

But then the din of a great swarm of insects tells him that there may yet be a way out.  Hope swelling inside, he runs toward the sound.  A bird shrieks a warning, the shuddering earth drops away before him.  At his feet is the edge of a precipitous cliff, a cascade of stones and rubble plummeting to the wide golden plain below.  He does not stop to wonder that now the sun is blazing hotly from the summit of the empty sky.  “Escape” is the only thought that flashes clear in his bewildered brain.  He begins the descent of the cliff, half-scrambling, half-running down a narrow ledge.  Suddenly the way is blocked.  Muscles cracking with effort, he begins the gigantic labor of scaling a mountain of huge rocks.

A moment ago a sunlit plain stretched level before him, now the ground ripples into primeval hills, the shattered arches of the sky close in on a strange, vague world.  Distorted shapes glide fiendishly in the unreal glow of bygone centuries; hideous, savage — their sinister forms whirl insanely about him.  Through these bizarre shadows a cave looms before him, stalactites gleaming like teeth.  His reeling mind cannot tell him whether he is running or floating, but at last he reaches the sanctuary.

A shaft of sunlight, quivering in the still air, and the exhilarating warble of a bird greet him.  His journey is ended.

Sometime in the spring of ’59

Whither?

From the utter darkness beyond eternity, past immense brimming spheres, and through the pulsing chasms between the stars, the tangled path was laid.  A solitary spark, adrift in the twilight depths, pursues its course.  Beyond the dark lanterns, across nebulous wastes it wanders under the vaulted cavern of absolute destiny.

A promontory awash with mists and liquid cloud, a tower with fettered casements, a stone webwork contracting — the shadow of the flame is flung into a windy hall.  The pillars melt, the marble floor, cold, polished, extends flat and dark eternally and beyond its endless end the sky is quiet with dawning shafts of light.

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