Maybe it’s the rain.
As we we enter our third or fourth week of gray, unrelenting drizzle, my mind turns introspective, nihilistic and utterly self-destructive. And since I lack the strength of will to open a vein, or even to perform a respectable emo-level slice, all I can do is write poetry.
But I’m talking poetry here. I’m talking Rimbaud, just prior to flame-out. I’m talking epically nihilistic, gut-wrenching to the point of ridiculousness. The mood is already set: I’ve got the gray skies and I’ve got the churning emotions.
All I lack is absinthe.
Rimbaud would understand. So would Hemingway and Getrude Stein, drunkenly sizing each other up in some dingy Paris salon. They would understand that if you would create art, if you would craft verse designed to reap tears, then you must first pour yourself a tall vaporous glass of the fickle green fairy.
Oh, the ritual of it all. The slotted spoon, the cube of sugar. The bitter taste of wormwood, and perhaps if you were lucky, the ghastly screaming hallucinations.
Some element of that is why they shunned the fairy, why country after country began prohibiting her manufacture and import. They feared her, or maybe they just feared Rimbaud. In any case they knew she could foster collaborations, nihilistic ones, that any self-respecting society must outlaw.
So here now a confession: I’ve never kissed that fairy. Never performed the ritual. Never chased the hallucinations nor wrote the words they induced. I’m infatuated with the green fairy, maybe even a little in love…but it’s a love quite unconsummated.
The ultimate irony is what has been learned rather recently. The hallucinations? The strange screaming spasms and the stranger words that thereafter flowed? That wasn’t really the fairy. That was just shoddy distillation. It was, truth be told, poison.
So the fairy, damn her, cleaned up her act. And then she was okayed for importation. She was taken off the shun list.
The other day, I saw a bottle of absinthe on the shelf of my local grocery store.
Sure, I was tempted. I very nearly took her home and performed that ritual so often practiced in my mind. It very well could be that a smokey green draught could be sitting here with me, taking the place of this bourbon and influencing these words.
But Rimbaud speaks to me sometimes. And so do Hemingway and Stein. They creep out on gray, hazy days and peek over my shoulders to see what I write. They’ll be here any minute, I have no doubt.
Nor do I doubt what they’d say, if the fairy were here with us:
“You bought that at a grocery store?!”
Everything I’ve ever read about absinthe seems to agree on one thing: It tastes like shit. I’m gonna stick to whiskey.
Yeah, I’ve heard the same. Anything you have to add water and sugar to? There’s probably a reason for that. No doubt I’m just lured by that forbidden-fruit thing. Remember when Coors beer was unavailable in certain parts of the country? And everyone who couldn’t get it assumed it was the ambrosia of beers? Same principle….
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