Worry faces, worry rug, worry gesture of hand, furrow of brow, the expression of the weary in love. Wonder the ritual, the circle, the bared breast, and mythic flight. Stitch these stories of threads from what the weather tore open. Your arrival is an act of mending, of repair, the slow work of hands and thread, returning and returning to worry a single line into light. How like the handling of a body, where each fiber has a mind of its own. How all-consuming to do, how uninteresting to watch. How unlike the heroic arrival of the vanquisher with the sword. How unlike the swift rescue, the problem solved, the fix.
Inspired by the astonishing work of Sophia Narrett, interviewed by Colm Tóibín in the most recent issue of BOMB. The title of this post comes from one of Narrett’s works.
I am, in the end––and each beginning––no more or less than a hollow vessel strung with sympathetic strings. If awareness is a matter of tuning, subject to interference, all that happens is a matter of sound, sounding. Each new life, each cataclysm is what vibrates through a given string, to wind through the echoic box and out again. Now I am symphony, now grass, now a spool of thread; now current, now whale, now cresting foam over wave. No part may translate itself.
Withdrawing even from myself, I am none of these parts, but all of them, and the handler breathing somewhere in the rupture between what is and what appears. In this state like dormancy, pregnant with possibility, I have never been an adequate expression, beyond this whispered invocation into wind, water, and this lover’s touch––
––calling, sound me, that I may remember. Heal my unbelief.
Adapted from An Object-Oriented Defense of Poetry in which philosopher Timothy Morton expands upon Percy Bysshe Shelley’s idea that all humans are like aeolian harps.
To the one proclaiming, without irony, I want to listen, after so long in the role of violent storm, how does a hearer begin the act of translation?
With pronounced suspicion, scanning the horizon. Can a storm hear itself? Perhaps this offered ear is only the eye. The I, ever central, rider of the galloping present, trampling presence, only reminds the embryo at the center further into the liquid dark of the labyrinth with no thread. There is a life that never stops bursting into unheard shouts of life, into lives.
How is it that we move from first love to loss so completely, and what makes the new state as real as the first? The world has a way of calling out the will to speak, to wrap some form around the formless, to create horizons at the edges of a given space, from which to trace the arrivals and departures of the sun. Or suns. I do not know which. The poem is passage, not discourse, the endurance as much as the cocoon.
Long studies in endurance make it possible to hold a placid gaze, to make these eyes a mirror, returning only light. Vanity is so often the lead horse, its reliable prance quick to assert the next happy ending: Victory, victory! I watch the riders pass, their contented flag billowing bright.
Behind these mirrored shields, the smoke of a homeland rises over blackened hills, the devastation nearly total. Except for this singing silence, the trace of oiled fingers around the surviving glass bowl. How did they miss this? Protect it. The mirrors are here so that the pillagers may not see what is left for the taking, highlighted against the scorched earth. Hold and wait until they are out of sight.
The feathered chest-dweller
coughs. We cannot hear
her song. We gather
at the ribbed rafters,
a motley congregation
of morose faces, to wait,
sensing her watch.
Perhaps she wants
but there isn’t a crumb
Then comes a low hum,
spreading through the nave
of our assembly until
our mouths drop the lines
that seal them.
Opened, we pour out
syllables of grief
too sharp to speak,
that she may absorb
enough to form
Responding to Dickinson.
Tornado. The word strikes fear in most people, but when you live in a region that sees a lot of them, you learn. Outsiders already thought us ignorant for staying, so we didn’t have anything to lose by giving ours a nickname. “Our T,” we called him.
You learn to adapt. Go underground, wait. Come up when it’s over. Survey the damage. Rebuild. Expect the pattern to repeat. Mama said you can’t expect a creature to be anything other than what it is. “Our T’s just wind,” she said, “can’t help himself.”
He had only touched down three times while we lived there. Mama remembered a few more. “Where is he now?” we would ask, under the open sky of the former living room.
“Beats me,” she said. “Greener pastures, maybe. Stratosphere.” We rebuilt the roof, went back to our lives, most of which involved restoring or maintaining a semblance of order until the next strike.
Our T. had a sense of humor, though. In between visits, he’d drop these notes in our mailbox: That was fun, wasn’t it? And how is everyone? Peaceful, I hope! We’d roll our eyes at the old one-liners, but we had to laugh.
“Atmospheric systems don’t have a word for aftermath,” Mama would remind us. That was something only the grounded knew, especially those of us in the habit of staying. “Now bring me that hammer,” she would add, pointing with her chin to a corner, “and that box of nails.”
Once, certain attentions were considered advancement, conditioned as we were to equate the sense of nascent excitement with progress, and to make of this a god, and we did not recognize the beginning of a fall, into an agony long as life. Neither anguish nor inertia could resist its pressure.
Only by taking absence back from silence can anyone be protected.
Here, a voice. It says, Come, says Now.
You are not condemned. Rise. It is time for another birth. You can scratch a way into life again, from memories still unlearned.
What breaks from silence.
What many called danger, often sickness, was her resistance. What she resisted was death, and so became known for the trouble she made.
Torrents of unnamed elements suffused her. They referred to these––when they spoke of her at all––as her darkness.
Warn the children. Don’t enter the forest. The little boys especially, at risk of being cooked in her hearth. These are early lessons. They are called stories and not executions. The most effective captors work invisibly.
What comes when the search ends
and every purposeful intent, busily
attentive toward some known,
to crack the ice of time, when
being itself seems to reach
Denial, so smitten by the rough
hand of progress, will insist
that this is the axis of a turn,
but nothing has changed.
In this sunlit absence, here
is a space again, and it––
or I, or both, sighs
an audible breath,
the hush of shoreline,
a lapping this, and it
glimmers at the edge