Thursday, August 30, 2007

ready for reykjavik

Reading about B. Fischer again.

I can't help but fixate on what I know is my own complicated mythology of genius. I've long acceded to the convention that high intelligence brings with it an attendant instability of character. I have only the most provincial rationale: in my own hometown, I, like any kid with long daily yawns of free time, colored in the bounds of my own full circle of life, all of it based on the folks I saw most often. Maria, mentally ill, walked around the neighborhood obsessively, wearing layers of tights and grimy sweatshirts, even in our stickiest summers. She captivated much of my attention. I smoked my first cigarettes while I followed her along train tracks. I sat blocks from her and just watched while she talked to herself for hours. So much gesticulation, real arguments happening, few resolutions, just distractions, and then all of it over again, the next round. It taught me suffering.

But when she'd see me, her eyes nearly shocked with their charge. She'd smile with the few bad teeth she did have and her eyes lit up with a violent intelligence that scared me then. I'd never been seen like that. She looked into me as if we'd been separated for years and I'd just said I'd marry her son. I felt held to her by chemistry. I felt held in the very same way I did by an employee at the bigger library a few towns over. I was very shy of him, though. He had the same social ineptitude, only it seemed willful; he had a keen consciousness, but it seemed to have been given a circuit to run. So, I concluded, it didn't break him in the same way. Everything, then for me, came down to circumstance. And circumstance was not only a matter of one's practical inheritance, but one's effort. My drive, then, has always been a matter of walking the demons, keeping them fit, exhausting them.

But increasingly I think I've got a lot of bullroar happening in my head about all this mental wellness business. Assigning the precocious among us a special propensity for insanity removes the responsibility factor. I can't just say that predestination led Bobby Fischer to crack under the cubic pressure of so much mental work and attention. Insanity is, I imagine, a dubiously overtaxed plea. I'm holding him increasingly accountable for his own moral career, the way the boy genius devolved from a model of intellectual hope to a vitriolic anti-Semite. Maybe I pay so much attention because I'm disappointed and need an explanation for the precise ways in which an inimitable strategist can recede from his work, and relax into such base, ignorant, backwater prejudices.

Things I don't understand can keep me up at night. I'm wanting more than ever to get to Japan, then to Iceland not to meet him in his home, but to walk the tracks, to sit on the benches.

So: please wire money, must walk among the poppies soon. Thanks!


Poppies in October

Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly —

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.

— S. Plath