Black dog image
Naming No Names

black dog
sitting on
your chest,

black fog
swirling round
the head,

dark destroyer
of the

sweet names
given, oh
so much later,

by those,
who have
no names,

when you
whisper theirs.


Dear Nitty,

      Your poem has caused me to think of how the "Black Dog" comes into being. Initial dismay is what keeps wanting to be said.
      The word "dismay" means to deprive of power, and that is exactly what you have described in "Naming No Names." The power rests with the force that oppresses, and while this tyranny is taking liberties with you, you cannot be but terrified at the implications of the "take-over." You not only tremble at the chaos unleashed, but wonder amid it all if you will come out. It is appalling to fear that this thing will break you in such a way that the pieces won't go back together.
      Oh, my friend, it's a lose/lose situation. If you do make it out, it's only to face another go-round down the road. People like us (did you think you were alone?) are chemically challenged, as they would put it nowadays. These funks are put down to not enough or too much of this and that in the system. And that is certainly an aspect always to be addressed. But that tact is not as much fun as some other approaches, and so we will cavort courageously with "the black dog" because now it is "so much later," and the angst is abstract. Perhaps, though, we'd best hurry so as to finish before the hound gets ideas again.

      So some of us spend more time than we'd like with the mutt. For whatever combinations of genetics and personal history, we have that bent. We are, in a manner of speaking, dogged by our dour apprehensions. Perhaps it was the parenting; we never developed basic trust so we tend to perceive pessimistically. Or maybe we were impossible little jerk babies so the inept and/or mismatched mother/child thing never quite got off the ground. Was that the moment of "the initial dismay?" Mother and child freakin out all over the place? Or was it more incremental? The slow but steady lack of connection and misfirings that make up the days?
      Or did the dismay come later as a harsh, discreet distress, or as a condition of that destructive nature that continue over time; the kind that leaves a more conspicuous, defining mark?
      Of course, when you get right down to it, it's not so much what actually did or didn't happen when to whom and where (not to mention why). But how and in what way it becomes part of (or doesn't become part of in some cases) the psyche of the dismayed.
      Now things get interesting! You marry genetic expression with all the vicissitudes of experience and the band plays on.

      Enter the cur of the unconscious. This is the one to watch for! This is the one that should not be awakened, or if you must, then not too abruptly. This particular beast is made up of different levels of dismay and defense, and should be kept on a short leash if allowed out of the pen.

      Both can skew our trajectory, and then there's all the stuff in-between. We are subject to such a parade of possibilities as we move through time, that no one can predict with any precision our most human of outcomes. But to focus on outcomes is to entirely preempt the possible pony in the stall full of shit. People can do wonderful things with their demons, as well as throw themselves in Hell. Creativity is said to emerge from conflict and the tearing of opposites. But, then, we have to defend ourselves against our dysphoria and dysfunction in some way, and this is where genetics help or hinder.
      We can go nuts (real nuts), we can somatize (get sick), fantasize( but not too much), kick-ass (work to get ahead), become paranoid (to stay ahead), ritualize (as in ocd), paralyze (not knowing where to turn next), disassociate (like, unreal), hysterically handicap ourselves (as in sudden blindness with no organicity), intellectualization (shitting bricks and bull-shitting at the same time), humor (turning the tragic mask into the clown face), lash out (do a no-no), lash in (self damage), or sublimate, which seems like the best overall way to go if you can pull it off. To sublime yourself is to mine the raw, rough stuff from your core and purify or transform it into something life-giving.
      Christ, according to the Gospel of St. Thomas said: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." What this means, in terms of what we're talking about here, is that these things within us will pursue and hunt us down if we don't steal their power to do so. That IS a hound in there, my friend, and it is whelped as neither a good or bad hound. It becomes so in passage.
      This is the place where one is advised to make a choice between opposites, etc. But since I don't really believe in the concept of "choice" (and submit the courage of our confusion stance instead), I suggest prayer, pure and simple. One must placate the Gods so that the hot breath on your heels is the "Hound of Heaven," not Hell.

      Well, Nitty, I hope you have not been offended with my seemingly off-handed treatment of your wonderful poem. I mean no disrespect. Quite to the contrary; I know what you are talking about and I admire the way in which you have expressed it. If I latched on to the "black dog" image, it is only because humor is the best way I know to survive.

Yours in sacred confusion,


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