Writing destroys the compulsion within the soul
to repeat the past.
What is the point of writing? To avoid a living death.
The screaming silence of no’s knife in yes’s wound.
I kept a journal for years,
a trove of memories of my circle
of friends in the 1970s, into the 1980,
all dissolved by 2000. But tonight
I only summon you, Paul, my friend of
fifty plus years. Back in college days,
I told you of being assigned to read
Boswell’s LIFE OF JOHNSON, all 1100 plus
pages. I read half of it, then cleverly
used the Index to complete a paper
on the while of it. Then you abruptly
said, “Write my biography.” What a startling
request! But it made perfect sense then
and still does now. I scribbled pages and
pages you saw and approved overtime.
And we agreed: we did not want to forget
our youths, we had an obscure awareness
– this is the time of wonders, wonders
and miracles. What I recorded, what you read
was the chronicle of a friendship that
took root in the fertile soil of the 1960s,
a time of hurt and heal, when we sang anthems
of freedom and assumed this liberation
would grow even more splendid. Instead it
crashed, all around us. And then the journal was
a refuge, an asylum, a place where waking dreams
were planted and reaped. Sometime in the 1980s
Anais Nin rescued the journal from mediocrity
and humdrum, and the journal flourished once more
as “a secret history, ” an interior account,
a celebration of a vexed but persistent friendship.
We might reach inside its bulk and find our trek
to find the birch forest with Richard and Rosemary,
or your account of meeting Amos Owens, who admitted
you to the Sweat Lodge ceremonies, or your bold meeting
with John Lily, when his wife intervened for your sake,
or the many encounters with Robert Bly in wilderness
and city. “Write my biography, ” you had said, knowing
it would be the biography of our visionary lives.
The journal will ever be the high ground of our lives,
the heights from which we take in the vista of our age.
And if you thank me for writing this journal,
I will shake my head and affirm, “All of us wrote
this journal. We are all of us both actors and chroniclers.”