I find I can no longer tell if anything I write is any good. I know I’m my own harshest critic, but still I wonder. Each word I write is an outpouring of emotion and a journey into the very essence of my being. But I hesitate. I reflect. Do I reach anyone? Does any of it really matter? I am one man adrift in a sea of suffering humanity. I am not special or unique. That is a delusion I can no longer bear.
In my too long life, I have been many things. But I have always been a writer and a poet. I have been a father (alas no more), a patient, an addict (and you never stop being one), and many other words that are far worse or far better – but mostly all of those words add up to being who I am now. Most are neither good nor bad, removed from moral judgement, and simply are. Poetry is both the blessing and the scourge of our collective souls. It’s a little loved art in this age, and one I think we are immeasurably weaker for disparaging.
I have obvious influences. In my poetry I bow before the genius of Leonard Cohen, of Charles Bukowski, of Sylvia Plath. In my song writing I owe much to Nick Cave, to the modern bluegrass and folk traditions, and to a lot of old school punk rock. In my playwriting I try, in my humble way, to follow Pinter, to follow Beckett, to follow Williams. I read Kafka and Dostoevsky, Satre and Camus. In no way do I approach anything even close to the brilliance of those who influence me. But I write anyway.
I feel in many ways that I am merely a spectator to my own existence. One marred by such sorrow and grief as to be incomprehensible to many. A man should never outlive his child. A man should not find the truest of loves and lose it forever. So, I fall back into old bad habits. Seeking escape, seeking solace, seeking any fucking thing that will drive out the demons I have created for myself.
The Erinyes – the Furies (and should I call them Eumenides or Semnai so as not to offend?) – such an ancient concept. Alecto, Tisiphone, Megaera. They who tormented Orestes and Electra. I have created them in my own image as some kind of self-flagellation. I’m always struck by Leonard Cohen’s line about ‘invincible defeat’ (from A Thousand Kisses Deep). And that is where I feel I am.
As an aside I have an idea for a story or novella based on a modern interpretation of Orestes.
Throughout my life I’ve had to deal with various mental health issues (it’s quite the list and feel free to contact me directly if you want further information) on top of substance abuse. All of which are symptoms, I think, of a life blighted by emotions too powerful to contain or quantify. But I did get better. Driven forward by a love so complete that it enveloped my very being. I was, perhaps for the first time, becoming who I could be. Becoming a man of whom she could be proud – of whom I could be proud.
The whole thing was extremely complex, yet I believed within my heart of hearts that this was real, that this was that one true thing in a lifetime. She convinced me that it was fate that brought us together. And I believed it. I love her still, with every fibre of my being. For various reasons my time grows much shorter. Be it health or those old bad habits. It’s all rather irrelevant now.
Albert Camus once posited that the first, and perhaps only, important decision that anyone faced was suicide. The choice to live or die is the most fundamental of all. Now, before anyone gets concerned (does anyone really read this anyway?), I am not actively suicidal. At least not at this very moment. But I don’t care for life, it holds no import or relevance to me anymore.
My writing tends to themes. Loss and sorrow, obviously. And the great trove of love poems I keep to myself. And there it lies. Despite the agony, I am still so besotted by her that I write anyway. Even as I self-destruct. I’m not seeking sympathy. Or even empathy. I would rather be wholly forgotten – as unessential in death as I was in life. I know that’s a reflection on my mind. I feel neither deserving of love nor worthy of it. She changed that, for that brief moment in time.
So, what I do is pour my soul out in every word. A friend of mine says she bleeds poetry, that words are the only thing keeping her together. I feel that keenly. Words are all I have left and one day there will be no more. I think that when the words stop, I stop. For those who truly read what I write you have my thanks. I know many will simply hit ‘like’ without reading, without thinking, without a trace of shared humanity.
Over the years I have isolated myself. Call it some sort of protection from harm. Both for me and for others. She broke through that. I was utterly defenceless before her. And so, I gave her my heart and my soul in a way I never have before. And she swore she loved me. I, foolishly, believed her.
These are the ramblings of a man without hope. My pen name – Naomh Briste – is Scots Gaelic. It means broken (shattered) saint. I’ve fallen to despair and it is overwhelming me. I have no desire for ‘help’, or ‘get better’, or ‘comfort’. I can self-medicate my way into the grave on my own. I wish I could say I was numb. But I’m not. I still help people where I can, although I no longer feel any sense of reward from it. I live in the halls of despairing loss.
I do not want your pity. I do not want your advice. I do not want your scorn. This is who I am. This is who I was. This is the last will and testament of the damned.