The art-house project is back on. Proudly, I have enlisted the help of someone far more artistically talented than I to help execute what I have in mind to do. The effort necessitated me to creak open the folder on a dusty flash drive and peer inside at all of my poetry. I explained the experience to a friend as if I was reading through a stranger's work. I found the fellow talented, but most disconcerting was that I couldn't remember when I wrote the things. Like an delirious grandparent, once I stared into the faces of my progeny, touched their ears, I remembered writing them, remembered their base elements, but that was all.
And events recently have inspired me to try and track down one of those decedents. Unfortunately, a mentor of mine told me once that professional writers burn their juvenalia. Don't ask me how people separate one thing from another (In a conversation I had once with a poet friend, he revealed to me some wisdom that he had gleaned: a mark of a poet's work taking a turn for the better is when he or she stops writing about him or herself.). But this one that I was looking for pointed to a particularly difficult time in my college career when I was trying to negotiate the procedure of letting go a particular dream affixed to a young woman that had beguiled me with her smile and laugh.
I can't recreate the work, except that it featured the Hemingway's "Old Man" as its central theme. That and, as I said, letting go. But maybe it's for the best; this allows me to refer to something much more tasteful. I've often wondered at how the play came about from Langston Hughes' burning set of questions about dreams deferred. I read the poem first, when I was younger, and then upon seeing the stage play, the movie, the made-for-TV movie, and the remake, I thought that maybe the resulting ideas went a bit far afield of the man's original focus. Because, after all, we never really find out. Like the poem, we have to decide for ourselves.
This past week, I discussed with a co-worker that very thing. He was thinking out loud, about a friend of his who had found himself in a terrible situation. A career centered around a passion he thoroughly practiced had not materialized as he had hoped, and in the meantime he had gotten married, and had a daughter: not one but two pairs of eyes staring at him, demanding that he be a better provider. My co-worker made the statement that he was going to talk to this friend about progressing as a man. So I asked what that meant, what did it mean to further oneself as a man. My co-worker worked his way through my barrage of questions and eventually we came to "progressing as a person" coming down, mostly, to being able to produce money. I wanted to talk about our society and how it socializes people into conflating material wealth with the metaphysical gains, but I didn't.
Because I'm in the same game, playing by the same rules as both my co-worker and his star-cursed friend. It might be accurate to say he and I are similar; it might not. But this week, I sighed some, and hoped some. I pinned another rejection letter to my wall, and sent off a handful of query letters. I drafted. I edited. Just now, I realized that I, also, was not courageous enough to answer Hughes' questions.
I think mine might explode.