They cut off my right leg last month.
It was gangrenous –
but it was still my leg.
And there's something wrong
with the left one now.
I don't believe in fate
but I do in déjà vu.
27 March 1984
Good as new. Good as new. It’s a marketing thing, a positive spin. A divorced person is not a single person. We say some’s “single again” but they’re not. Single people can marry. Divorced people remarry. When I came back home after my first marriage fell apart I told people I used to be a whole person but when I married I gave up half of myself and I never got it back in the divorce. And that was true. Solitude became loneliness—I even write a poem about that in 1989—and I didn’t like being lonely. There’s another expression kicking around for an ex-married person: “damaged goods”. Well, that was me. What was left of me wasn’t right.
I don’t often write commemorative poetry—it’s never my best stuff—but this was a poem I made myself write and, of course, the end result isn’t my best work but my poems were for the longest time my diary. That seems to have fallen off in recent years.
In 1996 I wrote a poem called ‘Shadowplay’. The last stanza is:
No, I don't believe in destiny
but I do in inevitability.
I hadn’t realised until now that I’d used a similar expression before and, inevitably (sorry), the thought gets developed a little further in my new book:
JIM: So there’s no such thing as destiny.
JOE: If by destiny you mean predestination, no, but there is probability, predictability and inevitability.
History repeats itself. People forget and, oh, so quickly. When I was a kid one of the books I was devoted to was The Public Speaker’s Treasure Chest. I pawed through it for years but only one quote sticks in my mind: “The one thing man learns from history is that man learns nothing from history.” I have no idea who they attributed that to but George Bernard Shaw said, “Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.” George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and André Gide said, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” We all think if we got a second chance we’d do things differently. I wonder how many of us actually do. The title of my new book is The More Things Change and I’ll leave you with this quote:
The more things change the more we go out of our way to stay the same, to stare the future straight in the face even if it is through rose-tinted glasses. It’s nothing to do with an extant Destiny. It’s all to do with the irresistibility of the self, that we get to be who we should be and woe betide all who willingly stand in our way.