The Poet writes ...
It was not so much that I wasn't writing poetry. Or even reading poetry.
It's that I had gotten that day job.
Well, maybe that wasn't it either. I seem to have fallen asleep. Somehow the wife and I got into a rut, slowly descending into the pit of despair and boredom. We were living in the suburbs, going to a comfortable Mass that was all about comfort, worshiping a God who was comfort. In the old days, men would become eunuchs before a god that terrified them. Now we demand our God become a eunuch for us, that he make no demands upon us, upon our big agenda - which is comfort. Just be a nice God, sit in this little box we've built for you, and don't ask for your testicles back. We don't use ours anymore, either. We've remembered to spay and neuter our Creator, and for that matter, Man who is made in his image and likeness.
I know that last part might offend people, that talk about castrating God. "God doesn't have testicles!" I hear you say. Well, of course he does; remember the Incarnation? He was, and is, a man, isn't he?
Anyway, now that I'm alive again, I don't give a damn who I offend. It's like the old days. But the old days ... were they a dream? I was sleeping, that much I know. But I had even stopped dreaming in my sleep. No more dreams. No more bar fights. No more yearning for the princess. No ballads followed by fugitive flights from the husbands of the women who were just too beautiful not to sing to, chasing me with fists and shotguns. No more hangovers. No more lies and tall tales. Except the big one I kept telling myself - the most dishonest lie of all.
You see, I kept telling myself that I was still alive.
And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I was!
It happened, I think when she walked by. No Dante was ever so instantly smitten by a Beatrice as I was this lady. Maybe she was no lady! Maybe she was a common girl, a dancing girl, a street tramp! I didn't even notice. All I could see was her soul, and her soul - her soul was beautiful; and it was forever to be mine. I knew that at a glance, and so did she, glancing back. And suddenly the river rose and the nymphs sang and the dryads hummed and the elves danced, and what do you know? I became a poet again.
I seem to recall a princess, another life. I vaguely remember a great Surprise, and a greater Disappointment. I don't know what went wrong, but I think an evil spell fell upon me somehow, for I fell asleep for many years.
I ran into the house to find my wife. There she was, my wife. But she was not the princess I once wooed so thanklessly - though she was awfully close. Was it her? Had she thrown open her window and called out to me, to me a wandering minstrel, a tramp, a miscreant, a slacker and a loser? - to use the current poetic terms. But the princess was never this fat! This crabby. This slow, this ordinary. The princess was never a wife!
I kissed her, like a kiss we once shared long ago, both young, under the stars, in the cool night air, the earth spinning or ceasing to spin. I saw the spell fade away. She yawned and stretched. I felt like Adam, waking from a deep sleep to find the bone of my bone and the flesh of my flesh newly made beside me - the woman who somehow would bear forth my salvation. For they save us. We men never admit this, but a poet has license and can say it - the women, they save us.
As did my wife. Somehow.
But what of Beatrice? Or Betty - or whoever she is? What of that lady, whose soul I still carry with me? That beautiful unforgettable soul I met in the street, near the enchanted river?
I dashed to the library. The books were dusty, the pen nearly dry from years of sitting there unused. I wrote to my lady. I called to her, she answered me.
... I'm still not sure my wife was that princess. The princess had turned suddenly and mysteriously cold. The wife had, like Lot's wife, turned to salt. The deer, passing by, were slowly licking her to oblivion. But here she was, awake again, and I knew - whoever she was - princess or slave girl, she was the woman I loved.
But who is Beatrice? Who is the Lady who awakened us both?
I call to her in my poetry. She answers back. We are united, though not one flesh.
The wife and I have thrown away the TV. We don't go to the parish with the emasculated god. I'm writing again, and drinking - but only enough to get drunk, never more than that. Moderation, after all!
I know it's not heaven, for I know I'm not a saint. If I ever doubt that, I have a wife who reminds me. Gentlemen, if you're ever tempted to forget humility and fancy yourself a saint, get a wife. She'll always know the truth about you, and she won't be shy telling you!
So I don't quite know where I am, but I know I've died and come back to life.
And I see the princess, frozen in time, frozen in ice. And I see My Lady, Beatrice, my love, who is so alive she is almost life itself. And I see my wife, half way between the two, neither Princess nor Lady - but Queen. I see my wife, thawing, slowly warming by the hearth, by the indoor fire.