A Well-lighted Place
A well-lighted place. Wasn’t that the title of a Hemingway story? Are you able to write in a well-lighted place? Hemingway’s well-lighted place, if I remember right, was a nighttime cafe terrace in pre-Franco Spain, the light artificial but clean, a light to ward off the suffocating feeling of having too much bottled-up inside.
I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. I’ve forgotten the story completely, I don’t think I even have the title right. It might have been “A Clean Well-lighted Place.” All I remember now is the mood it created in me when I read it in Cologne at an outdoor table in broad daylight, on the Ring, on an overnight pass — army days. A place to make a stand and hide out simultaneously, that’s the mood the story evoked in me, a place to turn around twice and lie down in and let it flow out of me–the stories, the poems, the novels, all of it dammed up inside like a deep brooding body of water.
What I started to say here, a few lifetimes after that day in Cologne, what I meant to say but got sidetracked by a flicker of recollection, is that if it’s in you you need to shape it and sail it on out there, you don’t have the luxury to hesitate and strike poses. You don’t even have the option. You’ve got to learn how to get it out anywhere under any conditions, like in this well-lighted restaurant I’m in right now, glaringly well-lighted, packed with people including a girl’s basketball team taking up five or six tables, wearing purple and white school sweats with San Francisco State in gold letters across the front of their jerseys, not a one of them under 5′ 10″. Did they come all this way on a bus to kick ass on the local college girls? Do they know they’re fucking with my writing space?
I forge on no matter what, and eventually what came out shaped into poems and novels, and after enough time went by, the poems and novels melted down into an uninterrupted flow, and I called it Shards, just to put a name on it. I forge on, even when it comes out like this, writing about the writing and how it got that way. I don’t falter even then, I speed up in fact and if I persist page after page I come to the place where less than 24 hours ago a very good friend closed his eyes forever and possibly passed into the cleanest of all well-lighted places, leaving behind a house crawling with paramedics and cops and hospice workers and his wife in a state of shock flushing his pharmaceuticals down the toilet and people arriving and crying out and holding her in their arms, and each time she bursts into tears all over again, until her eyes are swollen and red, and is this all life has to offer once the dancing’s done?
Life is a savage force that devours itself without consideration. We call the ultimate outcome of life’s process death.
A clean well-lighted place is where we realize the darkness to come and rush toward it.