Dirty Gerty's Hurdy Gurdy


Only the poem knows what's true

Thursday, June 3, 2010

16 Tite Street (Chelsea)

I'm looking at a copy, from Merlin Holland's brilliant account of his grandfather's (Oscar Wilde) libel trial, of an auction notice. On Wednesday, April 24th, 1895, Wilde's home on Tite Street, his Arundel Society Prints, his Chippendale and Italian Chairs, Old Persian Carpets, Rugs, Brass Fenders, Moorish and Oriental embroideries, old blue and white china, etc., were auctioned off. By order of the Sheriff. I suppose I'm focusing on this today, because it seems Oscar's "offense," which resulted in two years hard labor at Reading Gaol, was simply him abiding by his nature. Posing as a Sodomite may have been the source for his libel trial, but Wilde's homosexuality was/is something that shouldn't have resulted in jail time.

Oscar lived, in what I imagine, was a very complicated internal... frenzy. His integrity to his art wasn't just brave. It was endemic. His integrity to life, the same.

I am thinking of Oscar now, what it must have been like, at Reading Gaol. Knowing I must read De Profundis again. And, perhaps because I'm dumb or utterly off-kilter, I find an affinity with him, now, pertaining to something exceeding life, law, and liberty: death.

When someone dies, that you adore, or when an aspect of you seems to die because of illness, you're left auctioning pieces of yourself away. To what, one wonders? To the serious, unrelenting natural crest. A friend sent me The Denial of Death, which I have yet to read. But in the beginning, there's this need for us to recognize nature as Tennyson would have it, red in tooth and claw. Rather than focus on its deceptive surface, we should recoil unto the core, of everything, and that is, violence, destruction, and death.

By my estimation, these past weeks have been horrid. I've succumbed to voices no one should succumb to, I've dignified an oppressive evil with my vulnerability. I've mourned. I've screamed. I've sobbed, endlessly. And, I don't know why, but thinking about my father's final breath, coincides now with my own internal illness. Not the mental one, but, the Systemic Lupus, more specifically, Lupus Nephritis.

People say we shouldn't be defined by our diseases. Or anything that oppresses us. I have realized, however, that we are shadows to these violent sources. It is all so ineluctable, how can we not, at times, give in, and feel wretched, vile, and powerless? After my dad died, I felt a contrast between the self I had auctioned away, because of my disease, to the self I had secreted away, because of his death. And as the days progressed, since his passing, I began to give my secrets away. To nature red in tooth and claw. To what I cannot see. To what Joyce would see as the ineluctable modality of form. Simply, change.

I auctioned away bits of me that will never come back. So, as I think of 16 Tite Street on this June evening, I must remember, the shame wasn't the auctioning of his belongings. It was the auctioning of his (Wilde's) soul. In a poem I'm working on, Demeter thinks about aspects being secreted away each time Persephone goes to Hades. Secreted to the clouds, and their rainy seed, to the procreative cycle, of death and life. So, I'll master the obvious, and say, without an ounce of daftness, that it isn't really death we fear. But life, going on against death's ineluctable will. Because death is ineluctable, it's instinct and intuition. And I do believe we all know one thing: life may be easier because of death, if we choose to live how we desire to live, but more often than not, death is made easier because of life, and while we pass each day, not even aware a breath is taken away, we sometimes forget to heed death's ineluctable, frightening, but... pro-creative will.


  1. Very well written and said my dear. Youve been through a horrid time.. and im very sorry for that.. but what you say is very interesting..

    During Wildes trial they removed his name from his plays in progress. Shameful.. They did destroy his soul.. it was terrible what they did to him.. it angers and saddens me still.. there is much injustice.. still..

    Hope time passes quickly so you can get on with your life.. and i hope you are able to get out and feel the sun ..

  2. Thank You Dear.

    That is shameful.

    I was just reading about Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts.

    Both of whom, as I'm sure you know, did illustrations for Wilde.