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This is a rewritten version of the poem put on the Hartford Courant's website. I tried to cut out every unnecessary word, make it as lean and clean as possible. I have changed alot, but especially stanzas 5 and 6 because I thought they were weak in the original. Hope you like it. I meant every word!
PS The being evil thoughts I wrote about on the 20th are still with me, as they always are, but have receded more or less to the background. Thanks for all your encouraging comments.
HOW TO READ A POEM: BEGINNER'S MANUAL
First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma
and steel-tipped boots,
your blue collar misunderstandings.
Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.
To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later on it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.
Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true
doing holy things to the ordinary.
Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.
When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.
You can now read poetry.
PAMELA SPIRO WAGNER
This is what I have been thinking about, partly copied and pasted from a letter I recently wrote. I hope you won't mind my sharing it in this fashion.
What I want you to know is something that is TRUE in the most fundamental sense, though I know you will have trouble with it, trouble accepting it, largely because you are all so much the opposite. But the Truth, capital T, whether you believe it or not, is that I am evil and as a consequence, if I were to do the Right thing I would not write here or talk to friends, or allow myself even to be on this earth any longer. (I assure you that though the reasons are selfishness, cowardice and plain old fear, I refuse to do what I should do, and I promise I won't.)
More than that, the worst thing about this is the understanding that nothing matters, nothing alters this fundamental truth, not even whatever little I have ever done that might be considered kind, generous, caring and so forth, not even trying to be the saint I once wanted to be, the child who did things without wanting credit for them, acts of charity (as in the Latin, caritas) and other stuff, things that, by the way, adults inevitably spoiled the purity of by noticing and admiring. Oh never mind, it doesn't matter, and even if it did, the whole point is that I shouldn't tell you what I did or even what I do now. Just trust that I once did my best to be as Good as possible, to help people and be as unselfish as I could (though this may seem utterly unbelievable now, I suppose). This has always been very important to me, as it continues to be...
But to finish the thought, what I understand is this: no matter what I have done, no matter what I do, no matter how charitable, kind or unselfish the act, NOTHING can ever compensate for the evil that comprises my essence, my most fundamental self and being, NOTHING. That's what makes me feel so sad and hopeless: the uselessness of it all in terms of changing what cannot be changed. I never wanted to be evil, I still don't, and I still try to make up for it. But nothing can change who and what I really am, nothing I do can atone or compensate for my evil in any way. And that fills me with despair, the utter futility of trying to be forgiveable.
I know that, at least in Christianity, forgiveness CAN'T be earned, that no one actually deserves it; one simply gets it for free, literally by the grace of God. But even such a gift as this is forbidden me, completely beyond reach; I can't be forgiven because I am too conscious, I know too much, I understand my essential self, and therefore have no excuses. I'm not able to say: I didn't know, I didn't understand...Because in fact I do understand and am conscious of everything. Therefore I must be Satan, the one and only completely unforgiveable soul on this planet.
You should understand by the way that being Satan is something you're born to, not something you will, not something you choose. But you cannot do anything to change it. You are evil, and all the good things you try to do will never make up for that, no matter how secret, how selfless, how kind or loving or charitable. All I know is that if I were as good as I profess I want to be (and should be), I would withdraw myself from everyone's presence forever, not write here again, so as not to infect anyone any longer. No one is safe; all are vulnerable, most of all those who claim not to need to worry about it.
NB: even though Satan, I am also human and like anyone else I want the usual comforts, the relief, if nothing else, of human company. So I continue on, selfish and evil, knowing nonetheless that the world could be purified and at peace, but only were I gone.
That's the unvarnished truth of the matter, however terrible.