It was not a pretty sight
the way he fell to earth
his body racked with poetic spasm.
And I watched them jam
that thing into his mouth
but had to turn away as he screamed:
"Not my words! Please
don't take my words away."
But it was too late. It always is.
26 September 1989
There is a scene toward the end of the biopic Lenny where Dustin Hoffman yells out the following:
Please! Don't take away my words! They're just words! I’m not hurting anybody!
That’s where the title of the poem comes from. The body owes a debt to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the scene where Jack Nicholson gets electroshock therapy. Somehow the two ended up blurred in my head.
People often ask what you’d rather lose, your sense of sight or your hearing. But what if you’re a writer and you’re forced to have to choose between your ability to write and your ability to see or hear? What would you pick? I remember during those three years in the nineties when I couldn’t write I felt like I wasn’t me; I’d lost my sense of poetry. What was the point of seeing and hearing if you can’t write about it?