In my first poetry book, The Next Ancient World, there is a poem called Naked, in which I talk about being so crazy with rage and shame (that's what we are crazy with, when we are crazy) that I feel like going outside naked.
I'm thinking of it today because of this Naked Man in the News. It is worth a look, my friend. Not safe for work.
And here, read this.
The reason you so often in literature have a naked woman
walk out of her house that way, usually older, in her front garden
or on the sidewalk, oblivious, is because of exactly how I feel right now.
You tend to hear about how it felt to come upon such a mythical beast,
the naked woman on the street, the naked man in a tree, and that makes
sense because it is wonderful to take the naked woman by the hand
And know that you will remember that moment for the rest of your life
because of what it means, the desperation, the cataclysm of what it takes
to leave your house naked or to take off your clothes in the tree.
It feels good to get the naked man to come down from there by a series
of gentle commands and take him by the elbow or her by the hand and lead
him to his home like you would care for a bird or a human heart.
Still if you want instead, for once, to hear about how the person came to be
standing there, naked, outside, you should talk to me right now, quickly,
before I forget the details of this way that I feel. I feel like walking out.
I think of Yossarian in his tree in Catch 22:
Yossarian went about his business with no clothes on all the rest of that day and was still naked late
the next morning when Milo, after hunting everywhere else, finally found him sitting up a tree a
small distance in back of the quaint little military cemetery at which Snowden was being buried.
And how only two people see him there, one so crazy he doesn't do anything about Y's nakedness or position in a tree, other than scold him about it for weirdness and inconvenience; the other, the chaplain, sees him in the tree from afar and takes it as a major personal hallucination or sign from God, he sweats out not knowing which.
Then there is the naked Dorothy, Isabella Rossollini, in Blue Velvet, in her front yard, walking up to Jeffrey, Kyle MacLachlan, in a catatonic trancy state and calling him her lover.
The Next Ancient World came out in 2001 and the poem was written probably in 1996 maybe. It's a long time ago. Fifteen years. I remember always noticing that I speak in the poem about the secret information I suddenly have, of why the crazy person takes off their clothes, but hilariously, I do not divulge. I don't now remember except that I was fighting with my lover and he had said something that I couldn't bear being said about me or the world. Back then I knew less about what I was in such a shame-rage about and rarely knew much about the things that set me off. But I still remember why it seemed like a good idea. I wanted to walk out naked to show the world that I hated it that I was ready to insult it in any way, with any consequences, but that I was now going to show it how inverted, topsyturvey, white-is-black, crazy I felt it to be. I needed to show noncompliance and create shock that could let people in on what I was feeling. Why does any crazying person get naked outside?
Here is the answer. The world has ended. The impossible has come true and true has become a blue fish and swam off with your pants. Some reality-holding (as in load-bearing) wall has fallen. Yet the sun goes on shining. Grass grows. Music plays.
But you are no longer going along with this charade. If the good man is actually a pervert, trying to get his own, or if someone opened the cage somewhere and you wandered out and are now unaccountably free after decades of basement torture, or if you just killed your own baby or something like that, you find out your mother took a hit out on you, like Tony Soprano, and he fainted instead of snapped and went catatonic and took off clothes, if you are in total shock at some new unpossible reality, you find normality offensive. Why do the birds go on singing!? Why does the sea rush to shore? Don't they know it's the end of the world, cause you don't love me anymore? Listen to the strange beautiful Skeeter Davis sing it.
Or let Auden tell you about it:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
So that's the news my loves!!! Getting naked and letting out the demons in the subway with the peoples. Sweet civil mixed melee. Couldn't want much more. Read the comments on both Gawker and Gotham and you will laugh till you pee yourself a little, and then who's the crazy naked ape? Praise Freethought and can I get a witness.
Take it easy. Buy a book of poetry, poets have to eat. Buy some food too, so chef's can afford some poetry!! Even dieting poets need to buy sandals. I already bought them now I have to pay the Visa. Maybe some mindbending philosophical anthropological cultural history of us? Or a history of I Don't Think So?
Don't kill yourself! Keep your clothes on in public sweethearts, and don't use that word unless you are one.