There are very few men that deserve to have poems written about them. This is just a fact. Swooning love songs, yes. Movies of the romantic comedy variety, yes. Romance novels, yes. Autobiographies on love affairs like that of Ella Fitz and F. Scott, yes. Poems, very rare. Looking at a man under that fine tuned microscope, the small specks of dandruff on the shoulders of their suit coat, the way their voice cuts off with hesitation at the most important moment because they filter their arguments, the voice of October for me forever being the slip of a sliding glass door and that hard push at the last few inches. Now, women though, those beauts can be written about all day.
I won’t get into the logistics of this.
I’ve only written poems to two men and one is almost a mystical creature so he doesn’t count: God and let’s call him, scar tissue. I have heard my words on the lips of neither of these men. The physical man was written about in college and I think I was so determined to figure him out as a victim or a survivor that I couldn’t fathom his abilities to be neither, just pity.
Sometimes, I’m an embarrassment. Like that time in English 101 when I made faces at a boy across the room because, let’s be honest, hot boys rule over the technicalities of research papers. He walked me home in the rain and progressed to not call, the way boys play the game from the start. When he did, I was holding heels in my hand running across the street with a girlfriend in heavy winds at 1 am. He and a friend picked us up. The friend had a collection of thongs hanging from the rear mirror. This should have been when I said, “No, darling, don’t write poems about boys like this. Their words are left in the strings of bikinis, if they even have words small enough to tie together.” But, there I was. I didn’t do anything that night, this isn’t a story of lust gone haywire. We talked, I walked home before it was morning enough to be called shameful.
Two years later, he was stabbed and died twice on the table, woken, a new man, but not a fresh one. He was damaged in more ways that human connection can fix. I hope he doesn’t google me and read this. I still wrote him poems because he lingered, and some men are just good at that. In advanced poetry, he lingered. At the teen center poetry class, he mulled. Teaching students creative writing, I remembered chopping up and dicing through a terrible poem he wrote when he thought he could be a poet and I made it “sexy.” My words exactly.
My point is, I’m telling this story, because few men are capable of this.
A woman looked at me at work today and told me that if her husband packed his bags and walked out the door tomorrow she would say, “thank you.” That was the end of the conversation. Thank you, period, silence. He wouldn’t endure. And I wonder if this is how other women look at the spectrum of men in their life. (Let’s talk about it).
Then, there’s Anne Carson. I feel like I’m getting drowned in memories at the same time that I’m getting a literary education when I read her books. Keats, that distant lover of mine, molded together in a fictional unloved story between women and husband. I say woman because she never really had him anyway.
This woman, this Hilary Clinton, sticks by her man until there is no man to stick with. She is mesmerized by his beauty. Completely unfurled with his crumbs of love. She is the Anti-Beyonce. Living Pre-90s Girl Power. Not an angel of Charlie. There are so many ways to put this. This woman who has not the strength to even throw away his letters that just keep coming even after he’s married to someone else, and what is this skill that he has to keep her locked up in this cool, whispered place, linger. Linger as a noun. That white space where memory curls like smoke.
He has made himself impossible. He has proven that love can move, can finish, can spread through different fields, but stay buried in the first. It’s the compartmentalization of a man’s brain and the lack of understanding in this woman. Only Anne Carson can show you the despicable behaviors of both husband and wife, granted, I don’t know what it means to be husband and wife and the power that that sort of certificate and oneness has over people, but I can’t imagine staying with a man who takes me to Athens and calls the mistress from the bar phone when he goes to get me a drink. I’m just not sure that that would fly with me.
Then, there’s Anne Carson’s language. OHMYGOD, this woman. Can I request to be her in a next life, or be friends with whatever she comes back as. Lyrical genius. I was almost more on the side of the husband than I was on the side of the wife because of his words, their lack of words, the brilliance in their one word arguments. This book is written in 29 Tangos. It says on the back cover, “A tango (like marriage) is something you have to dance to the end.” I’m not even sure the end of this tango was the divorce, in fact, I’m more than sure it wasn’t. It’s that damn linger.
Using a mix of Keat’s lines, her own background in classic literature, and her wired notebooks full of words she’s put together to create a hypnotic rhythm, she creates a marriage that has fallen apart, but never really moved from where the pieces have landed. Each tango has a title that is even more beautiful sometimes than the tango itself. Each tango has at least one full line of beautifully, poetic literature. Each tango has lines that aren’t at all poetic, but make you immediately angry with this woman who takes this kind of shit from a man. At the end though, you almost forgive her. I wanted to forgive women everywhere actually. This is a no judgment zone. I couldn’t stay with someone who cheated, but maybe some women could and I would like to know their answers to that. How they solved that issue within themselves, not between them and the husband, but in their own gut. I want to know the equation for that.
My diary description of this book, “high school <3 story turned poetic intellectual instead of slimy.” <——-I have a way with words too it seems. Just read these quotes:
“We have this deep sadness between us and its spells so habitual I can’t tell it from love” (20).
“His letters, we agree, were highly poetic. They fell into my life/like pollen and stained it. I hid them from my mother/ yet she always knew” (37).
My mother and this fictional mother must be friends. My mother used to say in high school, “it’s like you wanted me to find out,” because I would leave notes stained with the inside of my jean pockets flopped around on my dresser, hidden in my underwear drawer where my mom’s hands would stuff my folded laundry, notes left washed out in the dryer. She could read everything. I never hid it. I once tried to hide something in my pillow case and I knew by the frozen form of her face when I came home that she’d seen it. The rites of passage in my life were immediately known to my mother, she felt the cells of my body change. Mother’s intuition is worth writing poems about.
“He can hear her choosing another arrow flow from the little quiver/ and anger goes straight up like trees in her voice holding his heart tall” (61).
“XVIII. Do you see it as a room or a sponge or a careless sleeve wiping out half the blackboard by mistake or a burgundy mark stamped on the bottles of our minds what is the nature of the dance called memory” (79).
“He still got his clothes at your house? / Some / Throw them out. / Can’t / You know what the rules are for this? / No / That’s because there are no rules for this. A ship passes, there’s a bit of wake and some spray then it disappears” (111).
I’m just not sure, Anne, that it ever disappears. I might have ability to leave a man that’s done an absolute wrong to me. I might have the strength to grab my 27 pairs of shoes, a clean toothbrush, and one bowl and one spoon and walk out the door (because my mother did and I have to live up to at least the totem of what I believe she is), but I’m not sure I’d be able to erase the linger. I might let it eat at me. I could so desperately want that man back that I wallow under a couch blanket for weeks. Where’s the strength in that, I’m not sure, but a little linger, might be better than a lot of stay.
Read this book, learn yourself.