For an Addict
After reading a poem by the same name
Those who have suffered moment to moment the torment of addiction know too well the times when “what is truly near becomes distant and ghostly, and you are visited and claimed by a simplicity sinister in its singularity.”
That quote is excerpted from the poem For an Addict by John O’Donohue. A poet I turn to often for words that ease me into the complexity of things I am trying to understand.
The sinister singularity of addiction. Addicted to this. Addicted to x. And everything else fades.
I am hesitant to claim some insight as to the nature of addiction, because it is for every addict a response to something different. Just as every friendship is made of a familiarity that exists on its inside. But friendship has a nature. It has a spirit. Diverse as all the friendships it imbibes, yet singular in the way it refracts a moment into something shared.
The spirit of addiction is sinister. O’Donohue likens it to the light that ambushes the innocent moth, who “becomes glued to a window where a candle burns; its whole self, its dreams of flight and all desire trapped in one glazed gaze; Now nothing else can satisfy but the deadly beauty of flame.”
There is a help in thinking about the moth and the flame as held by a sinister spirit. For one thing, a spirit is alive. The moth is glued, and the glue lives. It responds to the moth. Which helps to explain why when the moth shakes its gaze, or is distracted, the glue stiffens. The glue becomes frightened to lose its grip. And why the moth suddenly feels an unusual pang of guilt for thinking, even briefly, of something else.
“May some glimmer of outside light reach your eyes to help you recognise how you have fallen for a vampire.”
This line is a turn in the poem, as often comes in O’Donohue’s poems. Having concatenated his image, he blesses it with a wish. “May you crash hard and soon onto real ground again,” followed by a prayer, “That your lonesome heart might learn to cry out for the true intimacy of love that waits to take you home to where you are known and seen and where your life is treasured beyond every frontier of despair you have crossed.”
Oomph. To learn to cry out for the true intimacy of love. In my last piece I wrote about prayer, and made reference to Abraham Heschel who said that prayer is the song that everyone needs. Now this line from O’Donohue adds some colour to what he might mean. Both speak of a longing to be known and seen by a love that permeates. That knows each and every person by name.
A lyric from Leonard Cohen, another man possessed by longing, comes to mind, “love calls you by your name.”
Well, where are we now? Talking about addiction, about love and poetry. Without saying much at all. About spirits, and the way the nature of things is constellated by spirits.
The book of poems by John O’Donohue is called To Bless the Space Between Us.