marie howe's affliction

The Affliction
Marie Howe


When I walked across a room I saw myself walking
as if I were someone else,

when I picked up a fork, when I pulled off a dress,
as if I were in a movie.

                                    It’s what I thought you saw when you looked at me.


So when I looked at you, I didn’t see you
I saw the me I thought you saw, as if I were someone else.


I called that outside—watching. Well I didn’t call it anything
when it happened all the time.


But one morning after I stopped the pills—standing in the kitchen
for one second I was inside looking out.


Then I popped back outside. And saw myself looking.
Would it happen again? It did, a few days later.


My friend Wendy was pulling on her winter coat, standing by the kitchen door
and suddenly I was inside and I saw her.
I looked out from my own eyes
and I saw: her eyes: blue gray    transparent
and inside them: Wendy herself!


Then I was outside again,


and Wendy was saying, Bye-bye, see you soon,
as if Nothing Had Happened.
She hadn’t noticed. She hadn’t known that I’d Been There
for Maybe 40 Seconds,
and that then I was Gone.


She hadn’t noticed that I Hadn’t Been There for Months,
years, the entire time she’d known me.


I needn’t have been embarrassed to have been there for those seconds;
she had not Noticed The Difference.


This happened on and off for weeks,


and then I was looking at my old friend John:
: suddenly I was in: and I saw him,

and he: (and this was almost unbearable)
he saw me see him,
and I saw him see me.


He said something like, You’re going to be ok now,
or, It’s been difficult hasn’t it,


but what he said mattered only a little.
We met—in our mutual gaze—in between
a third place I’d not yet been.

i don't get angry, i get sad

‘For years, I described myself as someone who wasn’t prone to anger. “I don’t get angry,” I said. “I get sad.” I believed this inclination was mainly about my personality — that sadness was a more natural emotion for me than anger, that I was somehow built this way. It’s easy to misunderstand the self as private, when it’s rarely private at all: It’s always a public artifact, never fixed, perpetually sculpted by social forces. In truth, I was proud to describe myself in terms of sadness rather than anger. Why? Sadness seemed more refined and also more selfless — as if you were holding the pain inside yourself, rather than making someone else deal with its blunt-force trauma.

But a few years ago, I started to get a knot in my gut at the canned cadences of my own refrain: I don’t get angry. I get sad. At the shrillest moments of our own self-declarations — I am X, I am not Y — we often hear in that tinny register another truth, lurking expectantly, and begin to realize there are things about ourselves we don’t yet know. By which I mean that at a certain point, I started to suspect I was angrier than I thought.’

(..)

For a long time, I was drawn to “sad lady” icons: the scribes and bards of loneliness and melancholy. As a certain kind of slightly morbid, slightly depressive, slightly self-intoxicated, deeply predictable, pre-emptively apologetic literary fan-girl, I loved Sylvia Plath. I was obsessed with her own obsession with her own blood (“What a thrill ... that red plush”) and drawn to her suffering silhouette: a woman abandoned by her cheating husband and ensnared by the gendered double standards of domesticity. I attached myself to the mantra of her autobiographical avatar Esther Greenwood, who lies in a bathtub in “The Bell Jar,” bleeding during a rehearsal of a suicide attempt, and later stands at a funeral listening “to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” Her attachment to pain — her own and others’ — was also a declaration of identity. I wanted to get it tattooed on my arm.

(..)

It took me years to understand how deeply I had misunderstood these women. I’d missed the rage that fueled Plath’s poetry like a ferocious gasoline, lifting her speakers (sometimes literally) into flight: “Now she is flying/More terrible than she ever was, red/Scar in the sky, red comet/Over the engine that killed her — the mausoleum, the wax house.” The speaker becomes a scar — this irrefutable evidence of her own pain — but this scar, in turn, becomes a comet: terrible and determined, soaring triumphant over the instruments of her own supposed destruction. I’d always been preoccupied with the pained disintegration of Plath’s speakers, but once I started looking, I saw the comet trails of their angry resurrections everywhere, delivering their unapologetic fantasies of retribution: “Out of the ash/I rise with my red hair/And I eat men like air.”’

uit Leslie Jamisons I Used to Insist I Didn't Get Angry. Not Anymore.

//

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