The end of one thing marks the beginning again.
"This was sometime a paradox," as Shakespeare wrote, "but now the time gives it proof."
Last night, friends gathered with me to celebrate the release of my new collection, Asleep Beneath the Hill of Dreams. I was grateful for their support and well wishes, and I tried to give the best reading I could.
Many of them left the reading with a copy of the book tucked under their arm, and for that, I am also thankful. A book of poems is a small thing in this world, but the reason for all the work—the reason for the book itself—is to connect with others and hopfully bring a bit of pleasure into their lives.
I've met poets who say, quite baldly, that they write to be appreciated as artists and to impress the reader with their skill. Whether the reader gains any insight or sustenance or enjoyment is for them of secondary importance, or none at all. How sad. I wouldn't sell someone an empty box, no matter how ornate.
As I walked out to my car last night at the end of the evening, I felt quite a bit lighter than I had coming in. I'd been carrying these poems for four years, transcribing and collecting, revising and polishing. They grew heavy and took up a lot of space in my life. I don't mean they were an unwanted burden; I was glad to have the work, glad to heft the weight.
But today, I've been released from that. The book is out there now.
This morning, I had to bury my cat. She had grown old and sick, she was suffering, and when she died, it was her time. It was difficult to do this. It's an awful, lonely thing to stand in front of a hole in the ground on a November morning and place a body inside and cover it with dirt. Animal, human—I know the difference but that isn't necessarily the point. The point is touching naked mortality. It is not complex. It is stunningly simple.
My mind started moving along these lines and then I found myself working on a new poem. The end of things and the beginning again, indeed.