Uprooted by Wind and Madness

Last night, I heard heavy rain slam against the composition shingles above my head. I wished I were a child again, the sort of child who would go outside to experience that cold anger of the winter sky. But I’m no longer a child. I avoid walking outside in the cold, looking skyward as frigid raindrops pelt my face. In so many ways, I hate growing old and inflexible, chained to my comfort like a man in bondage shackled to an immovable slave-auction oak. Fear of discomfort, I guess, bars me from the experiences I wish I wanted. If I had courage, I’d have walked outdoors into the bone-chilling wind and luxuriated in the experience, a testament to my strength and stamina. But I lack courage in the same way I lack vigor and endurance. Ach, what happened to that brave young man who wanted to experience everything?

I watched the last episode of the second season of Good Behavior last night. I relate too well to the character of Letty. She and I are water brothers, soul spirits, keepers of the ugliness that binds together broken people like glue. As I watched the episode unfold, I drank my glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend and thought to myself:

“If my internal life weren’t such a tragedy, I’d share it. If my reality weren’t such a cruel story, I’d use it as a lesson. If people who know me realized how empty and aching I am, they would avoid me like an acrid wind carrying sarin gas and the seeds of bubonic plague.”

Yes, I get just a little dramatic in my self-pity. If I had the stamina and the intellectual strength, I’d turn my thoughts into drama and heartache worth sharing. But I can’t keep my mind focused for more than 15 minutes at a time. I get bored. Even with fascinating things. Something, methinks, is awry inside my head. If it weren’t for my ADHD (or whatever it is that keeps me from completing tasks like shaving or finishing breakfast), I might have been an esteemed linguist or an internationally famous detective or beekeeper. But, my thoughts ricochet like bullets inside my head, never staying in one place long enough to mean anything more than an echo.

Yesterday, I wrote about an “art inspiration” event at which writers viewed the work of an artist and then, using that art as a trigger, wrote something inspired by the art. I included the post that was “inspired” by that art. This morning, I’ll include here the piece I was inspired to write from the second piece of art.

As I explained yesterday, “The…painting shows two very colorful but very frightening clowns, one of whom is baring sharp teeth behind what I read as an evil grin. The other clown suggests, to me, an expression of insanity. The artist calls this piece ‘Clownopin.‘” I had a hard time with this one. It inspired several narrative fiction vignettes, but the piece that I finally read to the group of writers involved in the inspiration exercise was this poem, if that’s what it is:

I knew a man who thrilled young children with exaggerated
antics, a man with painted clothes and a maniacal wig,
who drew laughter from young throats and love from
tender minds, gently scaring children into delighted squeals.

I knew a man whose heart was woven from sunlight and love,
a man whose perpetual smile was painted on his face with
brushes made of compassion and adoration , using
pigments mined from quarries filled with lavender and lilac.

But I knew a woman whose personality was stitched from
weather-worn steel and braided brass, a woman whose
compassion dissolved before birth in a caustic bath of
corrosive, acidic amniotic fluid and palpable hatred.

I knew a woman whose disdain for empathy was etched
on her face like dates carved on a granite tombstone,
her sickeningly luminous derision as impossibly bright
as a deviant neon peacock preening for a public execution.

I knew a woman who cackled at others’ misfortune, her
throaty laugh riddled with phlegm and the odor of stale
tobacco, a mist of spittle spraying from her lips with
every vile cough and every shrill, convulsive chuckle.

I knew a woman who cared for nothing but herself,
a woman whose emptiness was as wide as the sky, a
woman who smothered sympathy under an air-tight
blanket of cruelty and scorn before it was born.

Still, I knew a man whose whimsical costume and silly laugh
hid sinew and force, sculpted muscle and a booming voice
with the strength to rip through barriers between
mistakes and madness, misdeeds and malefaction.

I knew a man whose depth of compassion was surpassed
only by his capacity for unbridled rage and whose thirst
for retribution could be quenched only by blood and whose
sense of justice was stronger than any legislative panacea.

That woman made a mistake, mocking a child at a town
circus. She made a mistake by failing to look behind her
as she walked home that night, a man following her, a
man with sharpness in his pocket and a mission in his mind.

That monstrous woman who spread misery with abandon,
who reveled in causing pain and whose happiness grew from
sowing seeds of sorrow in her wake—that woman is no more, thanks to a straight razor and a gentle man, Clownopin.

I wish I could have posted the two images with my two posts, but I didn’t bother to ask my artist neighbor before I started writing these posts. Maybe later.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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