“I write your name in thick blue ink on stones I throw just to watch them sink.” ~Jim Carroll.
One day, a very long time ago, I wasn’t even in my twenties yet, I saw Jim Carroll walking through Tompkin’s Square Park in the East Village. Years later, I’d live around the corner from that tiny, iconic stitch of land in Manhattan. It was a brief but unforgettable stay.
It was from a distance that I saw him. I’ve never been shy but I’ve also never been sure of myself. I couldn’t bring myself to approach him. He was the quintessential poet of my youth. That still hasn’t changed. I watched him walk like I was watching a film, one that only I had a ticket to. He was poetry in motion. Gaunt, androgynous, entirely compelling and perfect. He wrote volumes on this very subject, his most classic account being “The Basketball Diaries.” Jim was astonishingly beautiful, and it sustained him when his talents could not.
I wrote throughout the evening after seeing him that day. I still have the journal. I asked myself ~was he writing in his head as he walked? If I were to read it, would I know that it was from that day, a day sick with July humidity and rife with New York nuance? Was he hungry? Would he die as he lived ~ a writer of no compromise? And he did. He literally died of a heart failure at his writing desk. Toward the end of his life, he was dying of hepatitis, and he rarely made public appearances because of what it did to his physical appearance. I learned through friends that he didn’t want to disappoint or disrupt the image his admirers had of him. I wrote a lot on that topic as well… about the peculiar workings of vanity in the insecure, the artists that I related to the most, the ones who made hauntinginly mesmerizing images and wrote intoxicating verse to divert attention from their own glow. They were the punk rock warriors and heroes in my head– they had surpassed ego and accepted what others could not. They knew that their youth would wither and that they would die, but their work would span the ages. And it did ~ because years later, I’d built traditions based on his lyrics and formed attractions based on his image.
Enter: The Title Track of this post: I Write Your Name
(make sure you unmute)
I started the tradition of writing people’s names on stones, in thick blue ink, when I was 27. It was a year into my west coast residency. I’d come to California, not yet damaged, at 26. When a guy called Morgan, who had a cat called “Satan” and a 4-year-old daughter named after Lydia Lunch (so that Lydia could go into the neighborhood calling “Satan! Satan!” when it was time for the cat to come inside each night) broke my heart, I paddled out into the Pacific one day holding a stone with his name on it. It was liberating and sad watching it fall into the sea, but it was satisfying enough to continue the practice. I sang the song while I did it. I brought a Craigslist date (tinder was YEARS away and I’m still not on it) with me that day. She was a kindergarten teacher exploring her sexuality and I was in a giving mood. If there’s one thing I learned in my year and a half AA stint, “Being of Service” is paramount for healing…and, sadly, also self-gratification.
The ponderance of another stone came up tonite. I almost married a man who was a dead ringer for Jim Carroll. This was some time ago. He claimed he was a lesbian within, but his oversized anatomy screamed adversary. His stone has already been pitched, and a song composed of the pain ( Over It/Fire In Cairo , ) but he’s become a barometer of sorts for me. He works…because he’s non-binary and because choosing drugs over me has become a non-negotiable point…but truthfully, he’s just tragically photogenic, so I’ll use him until I run out of images; the art and beauty of being over it put to its ultimate use.
I wondered what the poets wrote about during song breaks and empty heads. Did they film or were they too poor? Are they relevant now or are they dead. Most crucially, are they my Kin? I’m not even quite sure what the takeaway from this post is supposed to be other than, this: Believe In The Poets. They Are The Ones Unafraid To Voice Your Pain.
Much Love, beth
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