What fit of absence led me to pack a change
of clothes for this afternoon and to forget
to bring a jacket to wear that would keep me
warm in the face of winter’s chills, not least
when I am already feeling them?
What fit of absence is it that led my mind to
wander for those few seconds that let me
drift into another lane as I was driving towards
home this afternoon, not that I would see home
nearly soon as that? It was alarming to say the least
for me to come to awareness and pull my car back
into safety before it caused me or anyone else any
harm, and yet it could have easily done so.
As I pondered on this, I thought to myself that
these fits of absent-mindedness have become far
too often these days. I do not know how long they
have been happening, but more and more I
recognize that they tend to happen most in early
afternoon, and often give me a headache when I
am done. A few people have already been
concerned to see me appear as if I am staring at
someone only to not realize that I am staring out
into the depths of space and will before too long
recover my bearings, with a bit of momentary
confusion and sometimes panic and usually a
headache that will last up to hours until my brain
feels somewhat like myself again.
There are, no doubt, many types of absences, as we
might well note. There are the absences of things in
our lives that we want to enjoy, things that we may
work very hard to obtain, after a fashion. There are
absences that mark our lives that we can do little about,
as we reflect upon the people who have left us to go
another place, for whatever reason, even death. And
there are absences like I have all too frequently these
days, absences from ourselves, when we should be
present in our lives, and present to those around us
and not burdened by the weight of fears that we are
not safe, nor those around us, because of our fit of
absence that takes our attention to another place than
the one we are now in, wherever it may be.
This particular poem is a tripartite poem that deals with the theme of absence. That much should be fairly obvious to any reader, given the title and the frequent use of absence throughout the poem, but a great deal of what is most valuable about textual analysis is explicitly saying that which is obvious, because if there is anything that can be said about writing it is that the obvious is not always nearly obvious enough. One has to state the obvious sometimes in order to recognize the obvious, since it can be taken for granted to the extent that it is ignored. As is often the case with my poetry, my ruminations on the subject of absence here spring from real life concerns. Even beyond the usual standard, I was absent-minded yesterday, and that absent-mindedness brought itself forcefully to my attention in two particular incidents recounted in the first segment of the poem, namely my absent-minded lack of having brought a jacket in the face of a bitterly cold night when I am already somewhat ill, and in the absence seizure that I had while driving back from the Salem Senior Brunch that was quite scary but thankfully didn’t end up hurting anyone.
That leads into the reflections of the second segment of the poem, which looks at the problem of absence seizures. Although this is not a health problem I complain about often–unlike, say, my struggles with gout or my occasional problems with respiratory problems and influenza and the like, it is a problem that I have increasingly noticed in the past year or so. What I have tended to notice is that while not everyday, at least most days at least once I end up having a period of staring off into space that is ended in an intense headache. Sometimes there are several such episodes, most of them happening in the early to mid-afternoon (or late at night, where they often lead to an unexpectedly early period of sleep). The way I tend to notice that they have happened is that I end up with a fierce headache at the end of them that tends to linger on for a while, a distinctive sort of headache that feels as if it is buried within the folds of my brain, as opposed to any of the other myriad of headaches I get for various other reasons. This particular type of seizure is also known as a petit mal seizure and is apparently most common among children between 4 and 14 as a type of epilepsy, although it can apparently strike people at any age, as it has with me apparently.
And naturally, the theme of absence involves all kinds of other absences in our lives. We may ponder, for example, about the lack of relationships, or the broken or estranged state of various relationships that we have with others, or with the ravages of illness and death that have separated ourselves from others. These are thoughts that often fill my own mind. And no doubt, given the sort of situations I observe among others, they are familiar issues for other people to face as well. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder, although it can if it removes from us the memory of what irritates us about other people without removing our memory of our fondness for them or appreciation of them on some level. At other times we are such easily distracted creatures that absence removes from us most of the thoughts that we feel about others, and for still other people no absence can remove the haunted memories of others that continue to fill our mind even when we are no longer able to have any sort of interactions with them. I will leave it to the reader to decide what sort of person I am in that regard.