Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Confession

As I noted, today's earlier post was inspired in part by reading the opening chapter of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. There was, in fact, another source of inspiration, albeit perhaps an odd one.

This past Friday, I had the great pleasure of listening to Ellen Bass read poetry at Gemini Ink, a literary arts center here in TL. I have known of Ellen for some 20-odd years, as she was the co-author of the seminal The Courage to Heal, the guidebook and Bible for countless thousands of survivors of sexual abuse; a few dozen of those survivors were clients of mine. I'd known that Ellen was also a poet, but I had never read her work. After hearing her Friday, I am reading it now, and I have more of it on order from the biblioteca. There is a simplicity and a straightforwardness (two poetic elements I am not well known for in my own work) that I am drawn to, and yet each poem I have read of hers also offers at least one moment when the words transfigure, and we're taken out of the unfolding narrative into something that transcends. It may be an image, it may simply be a metaphor that races past - nevertheless, these transfigurations feel like blessings every time they surface and hit. So, as I read her poems, I found myself, at least for the moment, wanting to write a poem in a similar way: to tell a story simply, and then let the narrative naturally draw me up and out. With the story of my grandfather pulled into place by Wolfe's book, it was time to give it a go.

Below are two of Ellen's poems from her book Our Stunning Harvest:

Then call it swimming
(for Susan Lysik)

you are concerned. your writings
are not poems - there are no line breaks
sentences wind like coils of a pot

they are not stories - no beginning
middle, end, characters
are not developed
the action is a child
in green chiffon

you apologize: I
don't know what to call it
you want a name

then call it swimming. the water passes over you
the smoothness
the liquid
the smoothness more enveloping than making love
your arm, arching in the sun
in drops, crystals, falling

or call it walking, the air
cold in your nostrils
the ground soft with rotting leaves
the green is too bright

some are mushrooms, some maize
some take long as persimmon to fruit
some leave early
they are the black pearl droppings of deer
some are overgrown pups
they hang on your tit, you cannot
shake them off

call it
coming home, returning
by a different route

call it a sandwich in waxed paper
we will give it to our children

call it an antidote
to what we have been taught

call it rubble, what remains
through pyres, altars, ovens, electricity

call it what comes in place of sleep
what we ask to know

a tribute to redwood pods, they
burst within fire, seeding
young groves


Her grandfather wants to baptize her,
to sprinkle her head with water
in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
He is an old man. He
may die.

Her father wants to compromise, to say
Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and
All That Is Divine. It is
his father.

I am the mother.
I know too much of
fathers, sons, and the ghostly things they have done
in the name of the holy.

I want the water on her head
to be rain. I want her watered as our
earth is watered, to live
in the light of the moon:
the crescent, the full, the waning
cycles that pull tides, that pull sea creatures so deep
that sight is only a myth, cycles that pull
bean sprouts through loose soil,
sap up trees, and plush blood from her womb
many moons from now.

I have no need for the supernatural.
Her breath is the miracle. She
is divine.

He wants her blessed in His name.
I want her blessed in her own.



Blogger Teresa said...

Very cool poems, Murat. Thanks for introducing this poet.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Dee Martin said...

These are lose yourself in them good. No wonder you were inspired.

10:23 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Teresa and Dee: She's a treasure trove, with lots more to read.

11:43 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Beautiful! (the blue is a nice complement, too)

9:10 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: I've been luxuriating in her poems all this past week.

7:14 AM  

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