There was a time in my life when, if I saw a dark bird on my lawn staring at me, I worried that someone I loved was about to be hurt. Certain people around me believed in signs and superstitions and I, with porous borders, took on their fears. Living like that is exhausting, and one day, I decided to pay attention to my own radar instead.
But if you’ve gone a long time under the influence of others, it’s hard to reclaim faith in yourself. You have to relearn how to distinguish between false danger and real danger, which is sometimes invisible, like the time in my life when a place I lived in became filled with a menacing energy – I could feel it.
The choices were either move out or fight back. So I hauled the furniture outside and washed it with soap and water. Dragged the rugs out and beat them on the grass. Opened all the windows. Ran around from room to room and outside, waving my arms and yelling at the dark birds to get the hell out of there. It took an afternoon, but by sunset, the place was mine again. You have to fight the forces that want you crushed. When I read this poem below, I got goosebumps.
The Hour of Feeling, by Louis Simpson
Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing.
From earth to man, from man to earth:
—lt is the hour of feeling.
A woman speaks:
“I hear you were in San Francisco.
What did they tell you about me?”
She begins to tremble. I can hear the sound
her elbow made, rapping on wood.
It was something to see and to hear—
not like the words that pass for life,
things you read about in the papers.
People who read a deeper significance
into everything, every whisper…
who believe that a knife crossed with a fork
are a signal…by the sheer intensity
of their feeling leave an impression.
And with her, tangled in her hair,
came the atmosphere, four walls,
the avenues of the city
at twilight, the lights going on.
When I left I started to walk.
Once I stopped to look at a window
displaying ice skates and skis.
At another with Florsheim shoes…
Thanks to the emotion with which she spoke
I can see half of Manhattan,
the canyons and the avenues.
There are signs high in the air
above Times Square and the vicinity:
a sign for Schenley’s Whiskey,
for Admiral Television,
and a sign saying Milltag, whatever that means.
I can see over to Brooklyn and Jersey,
and beyond there are meadows,
and mountains and plains.
For more information on Louis Simpson, please click here.