As I began the Into My Own series with a poem from The Boy’s Will by Robert Frost, so I want to begin a reboot of this series with another from the same book. This time:
We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone really find us out.
‘Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.
But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.
Why this poem? Frost at his best hid great meaning behind allegory and metaphor, and so I think he did with this poem circled long ago in my worn-out book of his complete works. Here, I believe he speaks of how we hide our true selves behind walls of teasing and irony, denying our exposure in the world as authentic beings. We hide ourselves from God, thinking the true self can remain hidden and far away, hoping to not be found, until in the end we must be and with the understanding of a friend speak to tell where we are. So I begin the reboot of the Into My Own series, as an effort for the hidden self to seek presumed friends to tell them where I was hidden and why.
Reading old poetry as life reboots, I begin to see the themes that took root and found purchase in my youth. Over the years, poetry became the vehicle for these roots to strengthen and deepen internally, even as my exterior life became something wholly unexpected by anyone who knew that youth. “What, he stayed in the Navy?” “What, he never came back home?” “What about MLK and Gandhi and all that stuff he talked about in high school?” “What about poetry?” “What has he done now?” Over time, confused friends gave up on the version of me that had moved so far away from that projected by the youth and few remained for the revelation of he who hid behind the exterior façade. Recognizing then, that the answers to those questions have important psychological roots that deepened alongside the themes of my poetry, I want to explore them in a uniquely creative way.
Mostly, I want my story to be a cautionary tale or maybe a tale of muted hope for those young writers and young men who believe they have to follow a certain path to be considered “Men.” Reading the cover story in the January/February 2020 Atlantic, “The Miseducation of the American Boy” I feel like my life has been exposed. To gain acceptance as a young man, there was a path I needed to follow that included material success, prestigious schools, promotion and pay raises, and being part of a “man’s” world that provided a good retirement and benefits. There was no room in this world for a big-hearted, sensitive, pacifist boy who wrote poetry. I had to punch my dad harder than my sister (failed at this), I needed to get straight A’s (failed at this, too), I needed a wife and children (succeeded then failed at this) and I needed to work harder than the next guy to prove my worth and win awards (succeeded then failed at this, too). Somehow, I avoided most of the nefarious elements of the locker room culture, but I knew it was out there and it did have its temptations. Should I get the courage, maybe I will share some stories of my first Midshipman cruise on the USS KNOX.
So, the reboot of this series will come in three parts: sharing of juvenilia poetry from the beginning (begun yesterday with my first written poem, Always Remember, featured in the original personal reflection), a letter exchange between the young poet and the older poet, and reflections about the poetry as I have already done. Each of these will be sorted into three category files: Juvenilia, Letters, and Reflections that will show up on the right sidebar of the Pages. I hope that you take the time to explore them as I weave a narrative of insecurity about being a sensitive young man, offer encouragement, and expose myself with a goal to better understand who I am today; and how I can move forward into a future that reconciles with the past, issues that often remain at the root of present problems in my life. There remains a split in me, one side passionate about writing, creating and community who believes we can do good work to heal ourselves, others, and the earth. The other, darker side that still judges that sensitive ‘boy’ and wants him to punch harder, to be rich, and who rages at this new path my creative self has chosen.
If you take this journey with me, it will be personal and at times I know it will be painful for me. Like when I read words I wrote as an 18-year-old like these:
Like a Winter Bird
November 14, 1988
This box- a trap
The phone- a scream
a winter bird
I long to fly with
tearing apart the limbs of
But I also believe that this work will be not only therapeutic for me, but also helpful to others. Let the journey begin.
(C) S Francis Fuller, 2020
Robert Frost poem from The Poetry of Robert Frost; Henry Holt Company, New York 1969 (p. 19)