Yet this is the watch by night.
“The battle for the soul is as brutal as the battles of men; but the sight of justice is the pleasure of God alone.
Yet this is the watch by night. Let us all accept new strength, and real tenderness. And at dawn, armed with glowing patience, we will enter the cities of glory.”
-A Season In Hell,
Arthur Rimbaud, 1873-
My favorite words in the English language, though originally written in French. And to complicate matters the translation is disputed. But I like to think that Rimbaud meant it this way. He was a crazy, beautiful animal. He wrote all his known works before he turned 21 and then disappeared. He quit writing after a tumultuous affair with Paul Verlaine and disappointment when he didn’t receive the fame and accolades he felt he deserved. He later turned up in the military and as an exporter from the French Colonies of Africa and the South Pacific. Dying of cancer at the age of 37 in 1891. There’s a great film starring Leonardo DiCaprio called “Total Eclipse” about his life and affair with Verlaine.
But the idea of waiting the dark through. Now that is powerful. Tom Waits once said “I never saw the dawn till I stayed up all night.” and that is kind of the same thing. This life is full of tunnels and tall grass and I figure sometimes for some people it’s a tougher road to walk then others. For some the night goes on and on. And if you stand vigilant and hang in, even when it makes no goddamned sense to. If you step away from the edge and find something to hang on to. Hope, love or the rain. Just something to grab hold of and stay upright. Then there will be a dawn. Maybe not the one we want or expect. But there will be.
Lord knows I’ve fallen many times. I’ve called man, woman and Gods every foul name and every shaming curse I could think of. I yielded to temptation and given myself over to death. I expected to die. And if I didn’t die I was going to do it by mt own hand. In fact even to this day those thoughts are there. I am no shiny new dime. I have not healed all wounds and now I am preaching the gospel of perfection and “Hey lookit ME! ME! ME! Ain’t I the golden child.” I got a burnt out , rusted heart and a body that wants to fight my mortality at every turn. A mind full of obsession, chaos and clutter. And my heart is beaten black and blue and I am terrified of ever attempting anything close to love and romance again. I don’t think I can take another round in that ring. The last couple rounds have left me beaten and down for the long count. But I am still here. I am still alive. And it wasn’t too long ago I was simply waiting for the right reason or the right time to make my exit. To end. Turn off the machine.
But something held me here. I’d like to think that it was my daughter or my family or friends. But truth be told, I haven’t felt much use to them all in a long time. I felt often that maybe I was a liability. And they’d probably see me better if they saw me in the rearview mirror. There was no sense of accomplishment or goals in my life either. Maybe there isn’t any right now, except to get through the day today and not do too many stupid things. And I certainly have not been basking in the glory of life. Man! I hated life and sometimes still do. It has felt like some great cosmic punishment. So what kept me? I don’t know. God maybe? Probably. A persistent biological function, the spark of life that insists on keeping on? Probably too. All I know that beneath the crust, hate and anger there was a little tiny light of hope. A sense that I was destined for better, that my life still hadn’t completely run it’s course. When I have sat, note ready and method for exit chosen, that little light kept me from it. There was no fear of death. There was a longing for it in fact. An ache for the rest it would bring. Even still, I couldn’t. I just could not take that one last step. And believe me there was frustration and anger in that fact. The tiny hope kept me here. It told me things I didn’t want to hear. It swore to me that it could be better. It was truthful. It never promised it would be better. But that it could be if I gave it the time and the space. And so I lived on. In hell and in agony and heartbreak. But alive.
Is this the dawn? I don’t know. You tell me, because I sure enough want to know. I’d like to think it may be. But I am skeptical and cautious in the way a dog who’s been beaten often would be of a human hand, even if it only offered love and a soft pet. I cringe to expect things better. But I certainly would wish them so.
As the poem says “Yet this is the watch by night.” So it shall be.