Living the Art Prologue: A Window in Your Heart

A Window in Your Heart

by Randall Auxier

A gas station in Pennsylvania, just north of Gettysburg. $3.45 a gallon. There is music beneath the canopy as we feed our machines. I know it well, and so do you. . . . The Mississippi Delta is shining like a National Guitar . . . . I hum along. So do you. We are now in this together as we are wafted in song through the . . . cradle of the Civil War . . . and I wonder if the grown version of that infant is any less horrible than this stunning image. The Civil War was a baby once, right there in the Delta. And then we aren’t together anymore, you and me. I hear a lyric, as if for the first time, and it robs me of my present, your company included. I am transported and if you were watching, you’d see it and know it for what it is. I think you’ve had the ride yourself. Ironies tumble over regrets and disappear into a haze of history, mystic chords of memory a statesman once said.

She comes back to tell me she’s gone

As if I didn’t know that

As if I don’t know my own bed

As if I’d never noticed

The way she brushed the hair from her forehead

She said losing love is like a window in your heart

Everyone sees you’re blown apart

Everyone sees the wind blow

I grew up less than a mile from this songwriter’s destination, which is Graceland, which is the name of the song, which is the name of the album, which is the name of the junior high school where I got my first broken heart. Nevermind the first part. That’s just to alert us to how devastated the poet really is. But he has his pride. Look at what she says. Losing love (and I’m not becoming maudlin, just thinking with my keyboard) is like a window in your heart. Dammit, but that’s it. That’s how it is. That is exactly how it is.. Notice how this rather gifted poet moves right to the horrifying idea that people can see in, or rather, he has the woman who broke his heart move to that idea, and it is absolutely true. But that isn’t what occurs to me first –not at all. And maybe not to Paul Simon either. That’s his other half speaking, and irony is the trope. Who out there is like Paul Simon, as I imagine him? (And like me?)

I see the woman who said this in my mind’s eye. She is pretty, sad eyes, determined chin, and this isn’t her first heartbreak. She has been on both sides of that symbol. She knows how to do what is necessary, and she is in charge of seeing what that is. Necessity is her possession. Possibility is for children and dreamers and poets and those hopeless boys who think they have reason to believe we all will be received. Fools sporting for another broken heart. For suchlike, that window is not a matter of other people seeing in. Only sad-eyed, determined-chin pretty ones think about that sort of thing. For me (and for Elvis and Paul, as I imagine them), that window is something that lets me see out. Having love is like owning one’s own heart and all that is in it. That’s why losing love is like watching that same stuff from the window, looking at a world you can’t really control, let alone possess. The chances that someone would bother to look in are very small, even if you’re Elvis. It doesn’t matter that people could see you. They won’t notice anyway. They won’t look. There is no risk here. And if they do look, so what? You’re heartbroken. So is everybody else. If they see, they’ll have compassion because they are the same. There is no risk, no shame, no problem at all with having people see in, if they ever look.

The whole beauty of the image works in the other direction. To have a hole revealed that forces us to see the outside, the beyond, that’s where the risk is. Can we bear to look? Can I bear to look? Do I just pass the window daily until I no longer notice what’s out there? Do I assure myself that nothing really changes out there? Or do I sit in front of the window and watch the seasons change, watch for the smallest detail of the landscape, ask the big scary questions about why it all looks like it does and where it came from?  I don’t have enough life left to sit by all of these windows and contemplate the scenery. I have a lot of writing to do before I check out. But losing love is like a window in your heart. It’s a mystery how anyone ever gets in, but everybody who leaves does so by way of a window, made to order. Or French Doors, in some cases, depending on whatever they take the time to frame.

I know this sounds angry, but I’m not angry. I’m just not one to pass by a window without looking out. And when I look, there are questions. Some people are like that. That’s how it looks out the window today.

I spent the last dozen years talking to some excellent songwriters about what they do and how they do it. These interviews, some fifty or more, were broadcast on WDBX, the community radio station in Carbondale, Illinois. They were also recorded and I aim to listen to those recordings over the next eight months and bring you one poet a week. I call the series “Troubadours,” but it’s really just so many windows, I think. Poets don’t look in, they look out. I am convinced that the best poets of my generation decided to write songs. I have been privileged to know some of them. I want to tell their stories in my own way. I hope you enjoy them.