Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grief, a long spell, a turn of stoning wheels

The rage pulls itself out of the nexus and blows fierce
for awhile, till the triggers disappear in trailing foam.
The least little thing. A complex welter of emotions borne
out of some ferry ride up the hillside. I can barely fit into words.
Call it grief, label it post-surgery depression, make a teak box
for the feelings to live in. Call it PTSD, a newer label for old
shell-shock. Call it dying and being reborn. This new body
still doesn't behave in expected ways. Surprise daily going sideways.
It doesn't have an operator's manual, it often refuses to obey.
I'd take a peasant's bright sword to it, if I could find one.
The peasants are the real winners, in the long run. Only thing
that matters is the harvest. Everything else is distraction, witness.
You can't reform a tradition you yourself put to the fire. Killed,
it might come back unuttered, but more likely it will be a spring
in an arid zone, a little round pool of brackish flow surrounded
by a brief oasis of reed and reel.

I went down to the river, sustained by pain. By sorrow. Some words
from a folk song I only half-recall. The tune is there, but the words
themselves are jumbled, scrabbled, hard talus on alluvial
plains of past sings. This morning I ache, everywhere. Can't seem
to put it off. Stabs turn up in places you never knew were there
till they gave you notice and started marching. A logjam breaking.
After weeks of furious stutter and shingle the river's flow returns.
Where were you, lost among the bramble and thicket? Welcome,
return of some semblance of waking. Meanwhile don't bend down
too quickly or you'll feel your guts complain anew. It's almost a day
full of irony and complaint.

Whatever voices you hear. Breaks in the narrative of life.
Millstones, ghost grain, the whiff of ink on lost finger.
That kick that turns you around. Kick of gears wearing down,
eroding teeth gone dull and barely fitting. No, not mine. Those
are fake already. Words barded through canines I owe a porcelain
sculptor, the man who returned my smile. I'd lost it under pressure.
Here's a place where sorrow can't enter. It's a small room, panelled in
white windows. Time to take my aching back out of here, go walk,
go do anything. This meditation pillow is breaking my ass open.
There's no comfort here anymore. A little oblique sanctuary
becomes what we imagined, back when we had the brains
to vision anything. Those dogs long gone. Now I'm picked
over for fish guts, entrails hung steaming over a chair-back.
an orrery of inner stars some oracle might read that final day
when they fail to stuff me back in.

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...


12:14 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Not the easiest of reads this but the two lines that jumped out at me were:

                    This meditation pillow is breaking my ass open.
         There's no comfort here anymore.

The feeling I get from this, at least the feeling I can relate to, is how little comfort I often get from writing about pain. And, looking back, I think the problem there usually is due to the fact that I’m writing in pain. Although so much of what I’ve written over the year is rooted in pain the best poems are those where sufficient time has passed and it no longer hurts to write. The poem I wrote the day my dad died is really pretty awful but the one a year later is not bad at all. The first one is raw. It’s an accurate reflection of how I felt and so did its job but it’s not great poetry. I guess there’s no law that says all poetry has to aspire to greatness.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I suppose it's too close to the bone to be easy to read. It's certainly cathartic to write. I don't expect any of these poems in this ongoing series to be either easy to read, or even easy to relate to by people who haven't been through these things. I do hope they're not just journal-poems, though, but a little more polished, a little more crafted and artistic than a raw screaming in pain journal entry.

The truth is, if I'm really in pain, or having a really bad day, I can't write anyway. I certainly know from experience that what i write when in the throes of pain is almost always crap. I once filled an entire journal spaced with closely spaced repeated swear words—again, cathartic, but not art. I don't even think of such things as poems.

I am perfectly aware that this series isn't for everybody, and some poetry snobs I've known in the past (but don't anymore) would outright call this not-poetry.

I don't care. Poetry is a diverse, big tent. There are a lot of things out there I don't like either; so I don't expect everyone to like what I write.

I'm not writing this series FOR anybody. Just for me. If on one likes it but me, I'm okay with that. If they all suck and are not-poems, I'm okay with that, too. That's really not the point. Yes, there is real-life stuff mixed in, but one thing that makes this a poem and not an essay is that it's not the same kind of language I'd use when talking to doctors or nurses. It seems to me that's the point of poetry: non-ordinary language expressing heightened consciousness, non-ordinary as well as ordinary moments. But poetry isn't everyday speech, it's heightened speech. I don't even know if my doctors WOULD understand this, if they read it. Who knows? So for now I'll call them poems.

12:04 PM  

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