I never thought he might have been in pain.
No one told me there was pain in not understanding.
They said ignorance was bliss.
Once I let him touch me and then I saw it in his eyes.
And he ran off screaming as if I'd burned him.
29 June 1988
This is the third of The Drowning Man Poems. Like all the rest meaning is just out of arm’s reach. At least that’s how I feel about these poems and I wrote them. And, oddly enough, that appeals to me. It keeps me coming back.
The girl in this poem is Hot Stuff. I know that’s not clear from the title, especially when viewed as a standalone piece, but in the next poem William calls the doctor ‘Honey’ and so I feel it’s implied that the narrator here is Hot Stuff. I have no picture of her in my head. I have no picture of William or of most of the characters I write. I’ve always wondered about why this is. When my wife reads a book she often tells me who she’s cast in certain roles. She was reading an Ian Rankin novel a wee while back and said that she found herself picturing Rebus as Robbie Coltrane rather than John Hannah or Ken Stott. Of course he works but that’s not what would happen if I read the book. There are exceptions. Randal P. McMurphy is Jack Nicholson and I don’t care who else plays him—my daughter said Christian Slater did an excellent job when she saw him on stage—but I can’t move past Nicholson. That said his Joker has been surpassed but, of course, when I read the comics the Joker is just the Joker irrespective of who draws him.