Thursday, December 20, 2012

Moving Forward Feels Like a Betrayal

44ยบ ~ much of the upper half of the country is under snow or about to get snow, here we have punishing winds, all remaining leaves stripped from the branches overnight and the dead bits of our older trees are shaking loose

Slowly, I am coming out of the gloom of the past week, and yet, moving forward, finding joy in small things, smiling, laughing, feels like a betrayal.  I know it isn't, and I know it isn't healthy to dwell in mourning, but how long is long enough? 

I confess that I haven't returned to drafting as I hoped I would be able to do all this week.  I have been reading, and yesterday, I gulped down Jean Valentine's Break the Glass (Copper Canyon, 2010).  This is a short book, filled with terse lyrics on the fragility of life, so very fitting right now.  I had a bit of a tough time getting into the book, but mostly because I was reading in a Starbucks for scheduling reasons, and I'm not so good at blocking out the noise.  Still, once Valentine got a grip on me, I read the book straight through, amazed by the crystalline quality of her thoughts, her ability to strike directly to the heart and pare all the extraneous stuff away. 

The first poem that shook me was "Dear Family," an epistolary poem set in 1862, presumably from a Civil War soldier home.  It is only 11 lines long, 11 lines in which the speaker takes up his gun and is then shot, and here is the ending.

..............................................................Mother
don't read this yet,
my thoughts are still packed down
like crumpled letters, and some of us
will not get quite free--

All the faces from Newtown crowded in at that point.  Then, I got to "Traveler" and read this:

When somebody dies, as is the custom,
he burns the place down.

And I thought, yes, that's how I felt when I got the news that Jake had died so unexpectedly as he was blazing with life.  Later there is a poem dedicated to the memory of Reginald Shepherd, who chose Blood Almanac for the Anhinga Prize and to whom I'm forever indebted.  So, there was another memory of an amazing poet lost well before his time.

Finally, the last part of the book is dedicated to "Lucy," the earliest-known hominid.  These are the poems that really stick with me, as Valentine connects the 21st century with that earliest ancestor of ours.  This is from one of the untitled fragments in the section.

Bless:
from the Old English bletsian.
Its root is blood.

My heart is at your window, Lucy, at your glass.

...

But you are my skeleton mother,
I bring you 
coffee in your cemetery bed.

So, once again, poetry is where I put my pain & grief, my confusion & wondering about the state of this world, and poetry reminds me there is beauty & there is work to be done.

So be it.


4 comments:

Kathleen said...

Yes, to poetry, grief, work, and all.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, K.!

Molly said...

Adding, as usual, to my must-read list. Thanks for sharing all, including your gloom & grief -- without all of it we can't be fully human.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, M.!