CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Poet CCB III on "“The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics” and "The Tithe Of Sadness And Happiness"
I stand firmly against the obsessive-compulsive undercurrent on all social
media sites where disconnected gents and lassies puke up gooey-sweet rehashings
of “The Notebook” and/or regular bulletins so depressing that Facebook sends
you a hanky after you suffer them.
All of you must have come across someone here and wondered, “Sweet Jesus,
sugar, do you keep anything to yourself?” God bless them, but they have priests
for that sort of thing. Of course, I think I’m about to leap onto that soap
opera set, but let me try and paint a back door here instead of me into a
There are events, a bundle or a series perhaps, where once upon a time I’d
throw their memory into a journal and toss it, once full, into a cardboard box.
I never go back in there and read those things. I remember the lesson, but the
details often develop barbs that won’t let me rest. I’ve found it best to let
those demons have their space.
However, these days, a world wrapped around blogs, if I am to move in that
direction – why not share something that may dabble in both the literary
transgressions listed above, but not too far? I figure if I rig these scats
like I write poetry (honest without melodrama or plea for forgiveness) they
won’t be a soulful set of nails down a chalkboard. If this sticks against the
wall, I’ll move it to my sorely neglected website.
I don’t play a character. I’m all out, all day. I don’t make that seem like
a virtue or sacrifice on my part. People either love me to pieces, or throw
dice to see who can push me in front of a train first. The only masks I wear
help remind me to talk slower, move slower, relax the tense flesh of my Hyde
let out more than I’d like to admit. I pray more than I misbehave, but I’m aces
at ambiguous. I love hard, but I hurt feelings hard, too.
A lady a few years ago told me it was worth loving me for my wisdom alone.
This year a woman admitted that loving me is carnage. I made a college affair
laugh so hard I remember how she’d snort before a full howl. Another one got a
tattoo after me to make sure she never forgot a monster could come in any
package. If you hear a blues riff here – stop. If you think this is a
rock-and-roll call to arms – trust me, I’m not that cool. I am no more or less
unique than anyone else.
In the past, struggling with intense mood swings, I tried to lash back the want to rush ahead from roughly this time of year (early March) to the Thanksgiving season. I don’t cry about this, because over the nearly 39 years I’ve spent on this earth
I’ve learned to focus it into my literary career, teaching job, exercise, radio
show, and literary groups that include their own list of furious pursuits.
Instead of anxiety, I stay busy. Instead of panic, I bite into lighting and
ride it until my hair catches on fire. December and January find me in a cave
beneath myself where The Nothing swallows every available source of light.
If you hear any song by the Cure at this point – cut it out. The sorrow is a
pick to the sternum, but the good times – the good times people offer me money
to write down and provide in a book format. This, again, isn’t bragging. I
don’t have kids. I’m not married. I’m not dating anyone serious.
I am doing exactly what I want to do for the first time in my life. My home is
quiet. My friends are quality folk. I can go, do, lift, throw, write, scream,
sing, dance whenever and where ever it strikes me to do so. My hours are my
own. I do not close the door to the slow swell of affection, but I realize now
that the pace, and daily schedule, have to be dripped into another’s life
slowly – otherwise, it’s a ton of bricks dropped by the gods on an innocent for
no good reason.
I cannot be in a malaise about reaffirming that I’m simply too busy to
buckle down, but I am not a cliché. In any other business, if “business” got in
the way of a social life, it would be scowled upon if that individual gave up
the prosperity of a job well done for trivia played every Thursday night. Yet,
if an artist does it, it’s seen as a self-fulfilling prophesy of artistic
greatness peppered with financial misery. I think that is bullshit. I don’t
work for free. It ain’t all about the money, but money ain’t bad, brothers and
sisters. Indeed, “quality is the key”, but you don’t have to give it away for
My first book, “The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics” is still
going strong. I meet people often, from all walks of life (some have never
liked poetry before) that tell me my book brought something new to their
personal perspective. It is humbling and surreal, but I won’t bow my head in
shame to say that I did have to go off the grid, and into some rough places, to
get it on the page. It was a necessary exile.
Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark,/For
the straightforward pathway had been lost. (If you have to look any farther
than Dante, you didn’t study Dante enough.)
Now riding the writing Pegasus hard again, I am finishing my next volume,
“Athena Departs”. Without it being the reason for this sequel’s creation, it is
a book of songs as Clifford Brooks - a man. I am more aware of myself. I take
more responsibility for the Hell I leave in my wake and Heaven I share with
those I let through the minefield of my mind.
I am firmly ensconced in the fact God has me against His chest when I’m
talking like a machine gun, and closer when I finally fall asleep – so tired
sometimes I crash sitting in my car outside Wal-Mart. Is it the healthiest
path? No. I think Buddhism appeals to me so thoroughly because it is hinged on
the one thing that has stabbed me staggering across the finish line when the
sane variety would’ve turned back long before. This same lack has left me in
front of a mirror, staring at a sunken face, solitary, cut off, self-conscious
– wondering aloud (because when you’re kind of going crazy from anguish you
tend to talk aloud to yourself), “What the fuck have I done?”
What I’m missing, of course, is balance. I wouldn’t know moderation if it
took me to dinner and sexed me up so good I made breakfast for the first time.
Yet, I think that when I calm down before I teach class; when I teach and see
eyes light up, excited about The Reconstruction, pronouns, economics, the
impeachment process – I taste what it’s like to be even keel. I think it is the
most romantic thing I’ve ever, nearly experienced. I will try harder to keep it
near my skin next time. Someday I’ll wrap up in it and take a deep breath that
lets me cry without shaking apart. That isn’t today.
Today I have an editor for “Athena Departs” who has taken something I
already felt tranquil to create and put the hope for it on steroids. Not only
is he a scholar, but he takes my 1am phone calls lit up because I’ve figured
out how to weave a Southern boy into the story of Orpheus. Another
man-of-mention is the co-host of Dante’s Old South who offered me this whole
radio program idea out of goodwill and I, in turn, took him across the
threshold of the reality I bring to the dreams so many others drunkenly declare
then next-morning-forget. The Southern Collective Experience was an idea I
pulled together to not only provide the best, the genuine, the kind, the funny,
the brilliant a place of solace and escape from a world that isn’t often wired
right, but a safe place (selfishly) for me. The Last Ancients offered me
another place to be the gaunt, disheveled reveler while reminding me to best
hear someone it’s best to turn off the stereo and shut down that laptop.
A friend took me on to learn the basics of assisting his sharp surveyor’s
occupation. It is fascinating. It is math for artists. He said, “This is an art
that’s precise, but not exact”. I get that. That resonates in me like Motown.
Thing is, without needing to build a resolve, I realized when I found myself
alone again, the resolve had settled in without my knowing. There’s too much
going on, too many blessing singing around my brow, so much love from people
I’m humbled to hang around – I cannot stop to tithe sadness. Sometimes it’s not
about taking more medication, more often it’s about growing a pair and being
man enough to admit you’ve fucked up (in leaving a ten-year government job, a
marriage, a chance at fatherhood, providing a much calmer life for my parents),
but when you didn’t (like all these things I’ve just mentioned) – when you
prove you were right, when you don’t have to shove it down any throats or brag
to by-standards, admitting you have a long way to go and don’t know everything
– in that, in that precious reward for surviving crippling doubt – well, then
everything’s gonna be good.
Everything is gonna be good. I am grateful for this and the sun feels
wonderful. It’s just life. Good. Bad. Love. Discontent. For all of these there
is a song. There is a song because someone else flourished in the face of a
maelstrom. So will I, and so will you.
The Transparent Mess of an Unbalanced Man
There isn’t shelf space between my books
for stories without the kind of armor
hardened against whistling arrows. No womb, this
that lacks the zygote and transparent mess
of a more balanced man.
Yet, in time,
Often the act of creation
has no open face,
no warm arms,
Yet, the one I erect today
*Poem by Charles
Clifford Brooks III
*Printed with permission
from Charles Clifford Brooks III
Charles Clifford Brooks III, author of this post "The Tithe of Sadness and Happiness" and "The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics", is a teacher, freelance writer, poet, and radio host who lives in Jasper, Georgia. He is a member of two groups of amazing artists: The Southern Collective Experience and The Last Ancients. Currently, Clifford is in the process of polishing his second collection of poetry, "Athena Departs", with his editor and good friend J.D. Isip.