Before page-views were king, before influencers was common jargon, before the time of 5 Reasons my Words are Important Enough for you to Click, I might have opened a tab and written —
you’re impossible to me now
in a sea of lost Novembers.
the periwinkle fog has settled
over Paz, and the velvet chair.
the same black-winged bird who used to announce the dawn
in step with time
leaving his tiny-lined footsteps behind.
i never saw beauty
in everything dead
in flattened grass, swollen rivers
and bridges, rusted red —
— when, of course, none of that was true. I saw all the beauty in the world, tumbled up with all the pain, in that breathtaking crumbling bridge.
I’ve been blogging for more than 15 years, and now, times are different. Now, they tell you, you have readers, and your readers don’t come for you. They come for themselves. Your readers are busy. Don’t waste their time. Don’t write unless you have something to offer. Your readers want suggestions, tips, lists. Don’t add to the white noise.
Sometimes, I can do that, you know. Sometimes I can deliver you an orderly Q+A on math or a list of resources for learning Chinese. I can even tidy up the thoughts I’ve collected about morality and epiphanies. I know how to sort my SEO and double-check my keywords and optimize and make it easy for you to pin and share and upvote and print.
But sometimes, I can’t. Sometimes I just write about death.
Sometimes there’s no pinnable image, no list of reasons why, no problem I can solve for you. Sometimes there’s just a tiny glimmer of light I want you to see.
There are two warring worlds here: the world of all the business-savvy ways to make my personal brand soar, and the other world where I quietly scratch my letters in the sand. “Perhaps I write for no one,” Margaret Atwood said. “Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”
Perhaps I, too, write for no one.
Like Elinor Wylie, there are days I have nothing to offer but a set of scrawling words.
I cannot give you the Metropolitan Tower;
I cannot give you heaven;
Nor the nine Visigoth crowns in the Cluny Museum;
Nor happiness, even.
But I can give you a very small purse
Made out of field-mouse skin,
With a painted picture of the universe
And seven blue tears therein.
I cannot give you the Island of Capri;
I cannot give you beauty;
Nor bake you marvellous crusty cherry pies
With love and duty.
But I can give you a very little locket
Made out of wildcat hide:
Put it in your left-hand pocket
And never look inside.
“I think that almost everyone in the world is looking for something”, Lord Derby tells Michele in the award-winning book Red Sails to Capri. “I had come to Capri in search of beauty….But [the ugly things] — if I have made you see a bit of beauty in them, Michele, I am very happy.”
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) says he’s noticed “unembarrassed joy is getting rarer“. That’s sad to me. Isn’t joy of just as much value — of more value — than all the other things we come to blogs to find? Isn’t beauty and joy in in the middle of the ordinary worth it all?
I’m not crazy enough to think my words matter to the everyone. But maybe, these words matter to you. Maybe you saw a little peek of joy in the mist of the mundane, exhausting ordinary.
And if you saw a little ray of light — shining just for you and for no one else, then my words are enough.
“…tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her, barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor. She will look in at me with her thin arms extended, offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.” -Billy Collins
Won’t you take this cup of light?