Every night before bed, say for a week, we recommend admitting a lie or a deception, sotto voce, a rogue’s prayer to the soul you know you have, no matter how tattered or dormant. Trust us, your secrets differentiate you from no one, but the soul awakens a little when it hears them. We have its interests at heart, which means your interests as well.
Try to practice unsettling what remains settled in you— those ideas, for example, inherited, still untested. And if only you could raise your hypocrisy to the level of art, like forgery, there might be real hope for you.
Some people of course expect to be rewarded for stumbling and rising from the floor and stumbling again, but we give no credit for living. We favor vitality over goodness, even over effort; we love a great belly laugh more than anything.
In your case we do worry there may not be enough quarrel in you, or enough courage to acknowledge your worst inclinations. Know that the soul converts them into tenderness. Nothing pleases it more.
So next week why not admit that what Raskolnikov did has always made you dream? The more you expose yourself the more you become unrecognizable. Remember, we are here to help. What you decide to keepfrom the world, tell us. We understand everything. We pass it on.
Stephen Dunn is the author of thirteen collections of poetry, including Different Hours (winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize) and the recently published The Insistence of Beauty. He lives in western Maryland with his wife, the writer Barbara Hurd.(10/2005)