Housing Shortage by Naomi Replansky
Two in the morning. Stephen Malinowski is playing Debussy’s Claire de Lune. I have been staring at this page for over an hour now, thinking of what to write. What not to write.
Your soul is a chosen landscape, is how Verlaine’s poem starts. I try to imagine what mine is like. Perhaps pockmarked, perhaps boulders and boulders of things I have burdened myself with.
The thing is, I was doing so well, says a journal entry I wrote last year in June. I turn another page: Here I am again, writing letters instead of poems, and yet I feel myself living, in some ways.
Do you ever go back to things you’ve written in the past, and just marvel—or cringe—at what you were thinking at the time? It’s as if by writing down your thoughts you’ve given yourself an opportunity to see glimpses of your soul.
Here’s an old list.
Things I’m not sure if I’m good at them anymore:
• Being needed
• Remembering birthdays
• Knowing what I’m good at exactly
• Allowing myself to do what I really want to do
• Protecting myself from vulnerability
• Being excited about everything
• Losing my fear of being wrong
• Knowing where people hurt
In Debussy’s Suite bergamasque, they said that Claire de Lune was originally called Promenade Sentimentale. I’m not quite sure why I know that, or why it matters. Perhaps a reminder that even great men change their minds.
Here’s another list of old thoughts.
Things that distress me:
• That the light we see from stars may have come from those that have already died a long time ago. It makes things, life, time—seem all so uncertain.
• That I can feel nothing for some important things but feel everything for the little things
• That the mind can feel too empty yet too full at the same time
• That in a world full of billion people there’s a chance that you won’t find someone who completes you
I’ve been writing here for more than ten years. I suppose I am allowed to say, this is my life. I suppose all of this meant I was living.
I tried to live small.
I took a narrow bed.
I held my elbows to my sides.
I tried to step carefully
And to think softly
And to breathe shallowly
In my portion of air
And to disturb no one.
Yet see how I spread out and I cannot help it.
I take to myself more and more, and I take nothing
That I do not need, but my needs grow like weeds,
All over and invading; I clutter this place
With all the apparatus of living.
You stumble over it daily.
And then my lungs take their fill.
And then you gasp for air.
Excuse me for living,
But, since I am living,
Given inches, I take yards,
Taking yards, dream of miles,
And a landscape, unbounded
And vast in abandon.
You too dreaming of the same.
This is from Cries of the Spirit: A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality, edited by Marilyn Sewell, published by Beacon Press, 1991.