I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m writing a poetry collection about the creation of California. I’m trying to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.
I’ve spent so much time researching natural caves that this week I’ve gotten into the idea of gutters and drains. Both of these kind of obsessed me when I was a kid. It took me a few poems, starts and then stops, to kind of understand why.
First, only children really and truly interact with gutters. I mean in a direct way. We have much too much responsibility and dignity to play in them when we’re adults, but when I was a kid, I’d follow water to its source, usually to someone who’d left his hose running in the driveway. There was a gutter that ran through our local park and my brothers and I would make boats and have races on rainy days. I don’t do that very much any longer. I probably should. I’d be better for it.
The drains in the gutter were an obsession too. Without me knowing, they represented the unconscious and everything I was afraid of. I’d seen rats and cats disappear into them, and I imagined a vast civilization of Morlocks living down there. I imagine cave networks and mystery. I imagined balrogs and skinny men with knives.
What better poetic fodder than this. The childhood unconscious where drains on streets were as mysterious and sacred to me as the dark moment in a confessional when, as I waited my turn, I could hear the indistinct mumblings of a priest talking to the sinner on the other side of the confessional.
Also, it occurs to me that I was a strange child for these kinds of games and thoughts, and I’ve likely grown into a strange adult. That’s just fine with me. I’d rather live in a world with balrogs and Morlocks than in one without them. Where else would poetry ever come from?