Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I was leaning
I was leaning back in my swivel-chair, with my feet up on the desk, magazine open,
and I was enjoying this little essay. It talked about Schuyler's history of stays in psychiatric
hospitals. I liked the snippet that said Schuyler had been making poems for about thirty five
years before he gave his first public reading. By then he was 65. It took him that long to
overcome his extreme shyness enough to stand before an audience and read his poems.
According to the essay the queue for tickets stretched several deep around the block.
Imagine that – people queuing to hear a poet.
I can imagine that little piece of information comforting a few people who may write poems
and who may want at some time to be known for writing poems and who may want at some
time to stand in front of an audience that has queued to buy tickets to have the chance to listen
to these poems being read. I imagine some of them thinking that they too are terrified of public
speaking, or that they too haven't the faith in the poems that they have made to dream of reading
them aloud to strangers. And I imagine them looking at Schuyler's age and thinking that they are
only 27 years old or 34 or 51 or 63, or whatever they are, and so they still have time, and that
maybe they will get there in the end, by the time Schuyler did, and that they too will be writers.
And because of that they don't give up because they are too old, or not good enough, and because
little by little they think they may be finding the voice that is theirs, or all of the voices that are theirs,
or at least a voice that is casting off what was put into it in schools and opinion columns and other
I can imagine this because I remember reading Kerouac by the side of a road in Greece as the hills
turned purple at dusk, and then on Basel railway station, and then in a flat overlooking the beach
at Portreath, and I remember thinking that Kerouac was late getting into print and that I had still
got a few years to get to how old he'd been when On The Road was published and so by that age
the three pages that I had written and had spent years endlessly rewriting would have grown to a
great novel that would make all further novel-writing redundant.
When I passed the age that Kerouac had been and my piece had grown only to an endlessly revised
seven pages I thought of Henry Miller. He'd been even older. I would still be able to make it by the age
he was when he'd got his book out in Paris. And as I was thinking this I shifted my position a little in my
chair and I knocked a glass of water with my feet and it went over my keyboard. I didn't pay much
attention to it immediately because I was enjoying this article I was reading in this magazine, and I
was enjoying the thoughts it led me to. But then I started to get a tiny panic about what would happen
if I wanted to write something at the speed that I need a keyboard for, but I call someone on the phone
as I read and am assured a keyboard can be sent to me in a few hours. And so I continue to read about
how Schuyler returned from a European trip with his dream of being a short-story writer. In the same year
he suffered his first major episode of psychiatric illness and I read that over the next 35 or so years he
is hospitalised around ten times and then the article comes to what strikes me as a fine piece of
poetry, something Schuyler wrote, an elegy for Frank O'Hara, Buried at Springs. The poem
There is a hornet in the room
and one of us will have to go
out the window into the late
August midafternoon sun. I
won. There is a certain challenge
in being humane to hornets
but not much….
and at that particular sitting that is about as far as I got with the essay since those lines made me agitated,
as poems or journalism or fictions often will, and I had to get up and move about. For some reason
I decided I should get outside so I decided to take the binbag out to the bin. It was March and very
sunny and my porch is brilliantly white, and with the intensity of sunlight that day bouncing off the walls it
felt like stepping onto a porch on Mykonos. On the waist-high ledge of the porch, by the left
supporting pillar, there was a wasp, dead, on its back. It shouldn't have been there. It was only March.
I couldn't fathom how a dead wasp could be there in March. I stood there, already agitated,
almost paralysed with thought about how that wasp could be there, dead on the wall of the porch.
I came back into the house, puzzled, and that feeling was in the back of my throat, that feeling of
agitation that comes when I think I'm going to have to try to explain something to myself by hitting
the keys of a keyboard and then reading afterwards what words that hitting has made, and from that
see if I can see what it is I was trying to explain to myself.
But the keyboard was fucked. From the water. Some of the keys worked, not all of them, but no
numbers, no commands, not always spaces, no tabs. I was in that frenzy again. I threw everything
out of a cupboard and got a hair-dryer out and plugged it in and with one finger typed and with the
other tried to dry out the keyboard. I got something down before the frenzy stopped and when the
frenzy stopped it let me stop. I could just stop and read what hitting the keyboard had done but I
don't suppose it explained much at all.
Mykeyboardis fucked/betterthanitwas/the numberswork
soIhadhopedthati wasntgoingtowanttowr iteapoem/
soishouldneverhave started readingschuyler writing
readbefore/ youseeitwas sunny heretoday andtheporch
brilliantwhiteporchwasa dead wasp- on its back -
and ican’t for thel ife ofme figurewhereit came from