There are six billion people now alive on this planet, Earth. Six billion lives, worlds, histories.
These pages are an elegy to one of those lives - just one: the life of my wife, Elisabeth Ann Pruitt-Brown. It is the life I knew better than any other; sometimes, while I was with her, I knew it better than my own.
That life is now over. A thing called "metastatic breast cancer" - idiot rogue cells of her own flesh that did not know when to stop multiplying - swarmed through her body and, on 15 September 1998, because of those cells, that body stopped living.
But there is something more. (With her, there always was.)
Within her, unbeknownst to any but me and a few others, lived a community of persons, more than 70 in number.
Elisabeth was a multiple personality. And so these pages are not really about her - there was no single her. These pages are for them: the 70 amazing people I lived with, loved, fought with, and fought for - for ten-and-a-half years.
A multiple personality is an energy-structure unlike any other in nature. Since coming to know Elisabeth, I have had several friends who, after getting to know me and there being time for trust to develop, have revealed to me that they, too, are multiple. And these friendships, too, have been some of the most challenging and moving and expansive of my life. I know that not everyone would find in dealing with people who are multiple what I find in it, but that holds true for many things in my life. I seem to be able to draw - and give - sustenance in unusual places, at unusual times.
In knowing both Elisabeth and the other multiple people in my life, I have learned that there is within a multiple person one person or more who is tremendously gifted in power of communication. That person might be a child or an adolescent or an adult or even an aged person - regardless of the age of the body in which they exist. They might be flamboyant or reclusive, merry or glum, brimming with positive energy or hell-bent on self-destruction. But there has always been a person who could communicate with an almost shocking clarity and force, in a way that heightened and intensified my own perception of the world and my own experience of being alive.
Within the body named Elisabeth, that person's name was The Poet, and she was the person I married in 1988. (Another person, The Silent, married me in 1989, but that is a story for another time.)
After the body's death in 1998, The Poet left behind a great mass of unpublished writing. Her notebooks brim with journal entries, poetry (some of which was published), outlines and drafts for novels and screenplays (all in varying stages of completion), personal letters, and other matter. As a beginning, I want to share on the Web the tiny portion of The Poet's work that I have transcribed. More will come in time.
The Poet was a person with whom I had a very complicated relationship. In many ways she was the most multi-layered person in the entire community of 70 people. Many of the other people inside were very pure in a certain sense - very specialized, with very specific functions, like Sarah (who came out to clean our apartment), like Ima Imp (who, as I was told, was "created to bedevil the[ir] father"), like Dora (who was created to look out the window and admire the birds, to take their minds off the abuse they were suffering). The Poet, by contrast, was an all-comprehensive person in ways. She did not accept any specific task or any restricted area of life. Her goal, as far as I could make it out over ten-and-a-half years, was to integrate information from the outside world, particularly their past.
Though she was one of the most fractured people within the structure, The Poet's overriding goal, her life-theme, her project, was to make things whole. She was a natural integrator and an astonishingly gifted recognizer of patterns.