I've been around for a while now. I've lived through a lot of history, for better or worse. I'd like to think I know who I am, even though my self-identification is obviously flawed.
More and more I think I am nothing more than a listing of places I've been. A bibliography of books I've read.
Years ago, in my youth, I was in Nashville, Tennessee. That seemed to be the sum of my existence. I was a young man living on the streets of that gritty, ugly and sublime town. Nobody who hasn't lived in Nashville can understand what that means. I suppose, on some level, we all have our Nashvilles. Truth is, I don't care about anyone else.
Nashville was my Mother...far more than the biological womb from which I first emerged. There are many places in the world, many towns...Hemingway in Paris comes to mind. But I doubt any of you can understand the connection...between myself, and a town and a particular moment in history when everything came together to mold the rest of my life.
When you leave your family, when you leave your home...the first city...be it LA or New York or Paris or Berlin or London...the first city where you come into your own as an artist, as a writer...the place is special, as special as the first girl you ever lay with. The town becomes a part of you, of who you are on some visceral, deeply psychological manner.
Nashville was the light that drew me out of the darkness of the West Virginia hollers where I grew up. Nashville was the freedom outside the cage of those dark, dangerous and disgusting hollers. So many people wax sentimental and sticky for where they grew up.
Me, I still have nightmares of the holler in Boone County, West Virginia where I grew up. The darkness, the clinging, cloying heat of the coal black summer nights and the freezing, blistering cold of the winter days in those hollers still haunts my dreams and my nightmares.
Nightmares of the house...my uncle's house...up Snodgrass Holler in Boone County, West Virginia. Where the light switches never work...where the darkness is more than visible but is a presence all its own.
Ignorance. Of course. It would be easy to ascribe that darkness, those futile light switches...to a manifestation of the ignorance I struggle against...I still struggle agains... even 63 years later.
But there's more to that darkness.
There is the hot breath on the back of my neck from my brother as he sodomized me. There is the distant and uncaring aspect of my father who only spoke to me on two occasions...taking me down to the church where he preached as if to emphasize that what he was saying wasn't just coming from him but from the Lord himself...to lecture me about the evils of masturbation...evils that it would take me years and countless hours of contemplation to understand weren't evil at all...but were rather the normal activity of a boy my age who happened to be unfortunate to have been raised in a Christian minister's household. Of my mother who ignored me as I grew up...except to take me aside and tell me how my father had raped her 7 times on her wedding night when I was barely 11 years old. How was I supposed to handle this? This abuse, this violation...from my brother and my father and my brother?
I fought back. Even in my earliest years I fought back. I began writing short stories and novels when I was 12...spreading my pages on the dining room table and banging away at a portable, manual typewriter I had asked for for my eleventh birthday. Nobody paid any attention, that's the cruellest thing. I wrote and I wrote and my parents ignored me.
Still, to this day, I know of no one who has read my work. Strangers, perhaps. But no one in my family or friends...not even my wife who says that my poetry scares her...even the love poems I wrote her when I was wooing her.
I come out here on DA and I throw pieces of myself out into the water like a fisherman chumming the water to draw in the big fish. Some people say nice things. Nice.
Nice means they just didn't understand at all what I am writing about.
Nice means they somehow missed the anger that fuels my poetry, my short stories, my essays.
I am not a nice man.
I am not a good man.
I am angry and full of rage.
I am a lonely man.