Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The gulf of night--

I wake up, three hours after I fell asleep. Someone is snoring, and one of my children has gone to bed with all the lights left burning. It is the bottom of the night, the beginning of day, the place where unease is stored. Lying in bed, I worry about all sorts of things I cannot compass. I worry about whether my husband will be eaten this fall by something that sneaks around the tent platform at night, far off in Mozambique (even though he is still here) or by some trampling or lurching creature in the day. I worry about my several grown or nearly-grown children and my youngest, soon to start tenth grade. Then I worry about whether my latest novel will survive a launch without ARCs and about the familiar craziness of publishing's luck and error. (But I don't bother worrying about the new book of poetry because the book is so beautiful and because these days poetry is always doomed.) I worry about various invitations to speak far away and whether I can manage to take them. I worry about whether I will finish reading 316 novels for my judging stint by deadline, and whether I can juggle reading those books plus being mother and father to three at-home children when my husband goes wandering.

I had forgotten how one feels unease at the bottom of the night, just before the birds wake and the sun hauls itself up over the horizon. Were it not for the details and the aches that tell me my age, I might be roaming the dark places of my 20's.

All of this sweeps through me in moments. Then I give my worry away to the air that drifts through the window. The unease floats away, upward, seeking after heaven like strange incense.

15 comments:

  1. "Forget your perfect offering," as Mr Cohen said. All you can offer is what you have :-)

    xo

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  2. "There's a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in."

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  3. Luckily, I rarely worry in the small hours.
    I leave the worrying until there is nothing to be done about what I am worrying about - and then it's too late... so I relax : )

    But... good comes of thoughts that go around in circles, I'm sure.
    At least, I hope so! Yikes!

    Tonight - sleep through it all!

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  4. No doubt shall dive into sleep a bit early.

    I never talk about my feelings much--think I was i inspired to write a moody piece because of Dale!

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  5. Wonderful comment blurb. No gulf of spam for me, I hope.
    I love the way you say, with a toss of your virtual head and perfect equanimity, that you won't worry about your book of poems because such books "are always doomed."
    Feed the fire, I guess. The better to foster fuel.
    Sleep. Don't worry. It was no doubt the report of the wandering husband who was partly eaten by a bear in Alaska that set you off.
    Take it from a born worrier that this sort of sleepless night never helps to solve problems, only to make more problems (now you're xeswq! tired on top of everything else.)

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  6. "It is the bottom of the night, the beginning of day, the place where unease is stored."

    How true. So true. And appropriate for me, as I begin to work with a campus chaplaincy that holds a program from 10 pm to 2 am, just at the cusp of the bottom/beginning that prompts so many of us to unease, and in our youth, anxious wandering. Thank you.

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  7. Robbi,

    Husband eaten? Whah?

    Just kidding..

    Actually I think "The Foliate Head" will do fine, as it is limited and also beautiful. So that was a bit of poetic exaggeration...

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  8. Oh, Seon Joon, best of luck to you in that work! No doubt you have an interesting year ahead.

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  9. As a raging insomniac, though not too much of a worrier usually, I just love your words about this 'bottom of the night', and will think of this the next time I'm awake, no matter what time of night. Sleep well tonight for you've been working too hard, my dear.

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  10. Ah yes, the wee hours... when I get up to wee, then lie awake going over all the things I need to do.

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  11. Marja-Leena,

    I noticed that you are sometimes insomniac! Frustrating, isn't it? I'm not normally a worrier. although at the moment seem to have an awful lot of concerns and deadlines. Oh, well...

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  12. Dave,

    I appear to be afflicted by puns this week. Thanks for helping out! XD

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  13. I am sure your book of poems will do well. Wish I could assist. It will have to wait till I have some sort of job lined up.

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  14. 'The place where unease is stored'. Mmmmmm, that certainly hits the spot for me. (And for Peter too, I suspect.) I must try to learn your trick of letting it float away on a breeze, because right now it's lodged in my chest like a hard stone of indigestion.

    I like too your notion that it takes a crack to let the light in. (Arrows into roses.) Dear Marly, you are so good at pointing ways to view difficult things in alternative ways. You recently wrote to me... and I paraphrase here, but the gist is right... when assailed by the fears and doubts of dark times, recall what you knew to be true in the light. That really cuts through it for me. Every time.

    Love
    C xxx

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  15. Both of those things are essentially religious formulations...

    The idea of offering up all of life, even uncomfortable and distressing and shameful bits...

    And the business of remembering in the dark what you knew in the light: I'm not sure who said some version of that first, but it has been said by many in many ways, and I think that--again, like many simple formulations--it has wisdom and power.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.