Darkness Visible


I never liked Johnny Apple Jr. much,
too in the middle of everything,
neither left nor right, never salt nor pepper.
But I wouldn’t wish a death by auto-erotic strnagulation
upon him, unless, I guess, he wished it upon himself.

Whatever, the truth is I’ve been collecting
the obituaries of men called Johnny for forty years.
Some enjoy stamps, some tabulate sea-shells.
For me the random idea of a man with my own first name seems enough;
Why not Johnny?

A good for example is William Styron
who also died a few years back.
His father’s name was John and, as is the common American way,
he was also so called, choosing later -just before college
to nominally become a William instead.

His most famous, or commercial, book was Sophie’s Choice,
but he also, much later, wrote Darkness Visible,
an excellent, short, meditation on the depression that haunted him in his older years.

And he was depressed, almost to incapacity.
He had money and a name,
an annual summering on Martha’s Vineyard,
and a fine, reliable wife, but he couldn’t raise himself from the bed
or, for the longest time, the utter blackness that enveloped him.

In the context of this writing exercise, Mr. Styron is instructive.
I am twenty five years or so younger than he,
which is about the same amount of a time I have been smoking cigarettes.
He has stopped preserving the perfect age difference between us
(that only happens when you die) and I have stopped smoking.
I read his book on his own depression many years ago
and I am also, again differently, suffering.
My horse, currently, is retired to the paddock.
I still have hopes for other races.

[February 21, 2011]




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