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Private Puzzles

Chris OliverI have been thinking a great deal about pain. I have been blessed by being naturally euphoric. Part of it is because I think more about fantasy than reality, and part of it is because I see the poetry in the pain. It's not that I don't hurt; it's that it becomes my art and not my person. Poetry is my joy; it's worth the pain of living.

But pain is always a very personal issue, and it resonates very deeply within each one of us. We have no right to tell another what should hurt, or when or where or how. It is a threshold unique to each individual and not a limit to be dismissed by other people.

And I witness the unwillingness of society to address pain as a real issue. We have many recourses to numb it, but few to really deal with it. Pain, especially emotional pain, is an ugly and unwanted subject.

We would rather everyone just be happy (doesn't that sound easy?).

I dwell too much on this, but I find it quite profound. It doesn't haunt me, but it does reside with me: my brother Chris hung himself with his feet on the floor and his cellphone in his hand.

To save himself, all he had to do was straighten his legs. Or call for help.

Instead, he took enough drugs and alcohol to pass out, and when he collapsed, his knees bent and he strangled.

It was that easy, and it was that hard.

His pain was too big to not go through with it. But the cellphone in his hand suggests he was awaiting intervention. Was he expecting a call? Did he want to call?

I'll never know. But I think about it. I watch people struggle and suffer, and I wonder what interventions they have for themselves.

It is really quite egotistical to let poetry be my intervention. But there it is. And I feel so fortunate to have it. Maybe the only person solaced by it is me.

And that would be just fine.

I wrote this so many years ago in 1991, but believe it even now, after so much has happened:


The world demands an image of us, predetermined by society and bestowed upon us as both destiny and curse. The image is chosen; we, the slovenly, must toil all of our lives to somehow create from the shambles of our existence the expected results.

We spend our time collecting miniscule pieces of this elusive jigsaw puzzle, foolishly believing that the master plan is attainable.

But for most of us, the right pieces are never found. We produce only malformed and incongruous parts, desperately wishing that they would neatly fit together.

The anticipated picture remains a frustrating illusion, tauntingly beyond reach yet still required.

For the luckless (and it is a matter of luck), there is no alternative but to ignore the mandated image and forge a new identity with the fragments available.
- Mary O. Fumento, 2008

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