In the muddled haze of New Years’ Day, an image came to me, complete with bits of poetic lines. Not wanting to get up, I didn’t bother writing them all down; not wanting to lose the idea, I wrote down what seemed the gist: mark you how the atom breaks. And that was all that remained of this thing glimpsed through fog.
I tried to chase it down later, which was, in retrospect, pointless. You can’t expect a white stag to hang around the same tree where you saw it just before dawn. My attempts to track it left me with a little bit of doggerel which I shan’t recount at present, as it is so morose. So rhymey, awkwardly and insistently so. As I read it over, it struck me that the verses resembled a country song, and an inferior one at that, the kind that dissolves into endless repetition and eventually fades out. Where had the beauty of my metaphor gone? Whither the touch of divine inspiration, of epiphany?
Why, I wondered, did it no longer sound like it issued from the mind of John Donne?
In a much different sort of haze, a haze wrought of disappointment and determination, I figured I’d reread some of Donne’s poems. If they didn’t somehow grant me the power to recapture the words that had escaped me, I reckoned I’d at least try singing Donne to the tune of some George Strait song or other and see if I felt better.
Googled John Donne. What comes up? “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”? Sounds good. Hmmm…either I’m not trying hard enough, or it doesn’t scan to “Blue Clear Sky” very well; there seem to be too many syllables. I wonder if anyone else has ever tried setting this to music? YouTube seems to have nothing but recitations. Ah, here’s one…er…wait, no, that’s just a high school garage band that took the name as their song title but left the rest of the poem untouched.
Oh look. Something beautiful.
Let me be frank. A wise friend of mine once told me to be careful when sharing the songs I love most with people.* “When you do that, especially when sharing it with one person, and especially if it’s a song close to your heart,” he told me, “then you run a risk. If the song is tied in your mind to someone, and your connection to that person is broken or sprained or otherwise lost, your love of the song can be lost with it – not because the music has changed, but because its meaning has shifted.”
At the time I didn’t understand him, couldn’t comprehend why I’d forego sharing something beautiful with those I love. But now, having experienced the very thing he warned me of, I know.
So I hesitated to share this because of that knowledge, but I cannot keep it back. Here is my Last Drag:
*I confess that I remember the spirit of his words more than the words themselves, especially because he shared this with me over three years ago. Forgive my paraphrasing.