For No One Else
I do not want you
to read my poems any more.
You see only the words
and not the mysteries.
But what is worse is
you don't want to see.
28 September 1986
I was surprised to see this poem crop up here. I would’ve sworn I’d written it about my first wife because there definitely came a point when I stopped showing her my work. I don’t remember getting to that stage with F. but maybe I did or maybe I was thinking about my first wife when I wrote it. Hard to tell. I’ve definitely not got to that stage with Carrie and her opinion still matters. I take that as a good sign. It helps that Carrie’s a writer. No other woman I’ve been involved with has written and so they could never understand how important it was to me. I might as well have been showing them a new beer mat I’d ordered online. They always treated writing as a thing I did and it’s so much more than that. I talk about this in the new book:
My wife used to read all my stuff when she was alive. She would check over everything I gave her whenever I presented it to her; it was never a bad time even when my timing was off which, as I recall, it often was. She read it and then passed comment on it. Customarily she would make notes in the margins, circle certain words or recommend alternative punctuation. It exasperated me no end when she handed the pages back and there were no such addenda. It used to grate on me. I was never convinced that the work was perfect so the problem had to be she had not read it deeply enough or carefully enough or she had only understood it superficially, only read it as a story, an arrangement of plots and subplots, text and subtext, dialogue and description. No, those were merely the strings to my bow, not the music; that was something intangible, something beyond crass notation. It is as good as analogy as any. Perhaps one day that will find itself interred in some godawful book of quotes but hopefully not. “Did you not like it?” I would say and she would say it was “fine”—that was her go-to word—but I would continue to interrogate her: what about the character development? did she feel my hero grew or shrank as the case may be? did he have his own voice or was it merely me mouthing off?
“No, dear,” she would say (it was the only time she ever called me “dear”). “I think the voice was fine—very… not you.”
On and on I would go, whittling away, but never asking the key question. I never said, “Did you get it?” did she know what I meant. I never hinted at things like that for fear she might say, “I guess not—sorry,” and I would have failed. I did not wish to fail.
I should be done now. I had one last block of minor changes to make before passing it over to Carrie to read and then my laptop froze during the latest Windows update—damn you to hell Microsoft!—and I’ve had to reinstall my laptop from scratch. So guess what I’ve been doing for the last two days. Which is also why I’m writing on this at 10am on Wednesday. Normally I do not like to leave things this late.