In my Critical Reasoning class we turned to poetry last week to talk about 9/11. In the end, we read an essay by Mark Doty which asks whether or not art can console. In reading their responses today it interesting how this discussion was accepted. I had a student who has been completely disconnected and distant become invested and passionate. I had students, who were willing to at least attempt to try to do the work I asked for, turn surly and responded to the assignment with anger. It was hot and cold for almost everyone. There were few neutral responses.
Today, I woke in a funk. It was one of those days. Those days when life appears at its bleakest. I felt old. And alone. Relationships that I have been clinging to as a lifeline suddenly spiraled out of control as if they had been cut free from the other side. The realization that I have lost hope in even finding something to hope for weighed heavy. From the bottom of this hole, I was looking for light, any light. And today, that like came from poetry. In such a time, it seems that the answer to my own classroom question, "Can Art Console?" is yes. Yes it can. Here is the poem that I am thinking about now.
Book of Memory
In my seeing there was a blank and he filled that blank
with words, there were words for darkness which made it lift,
there were words for cover which ripped them off,
there were legs that crossed and hearts that crossed,
promises red and read, and the pluck of banjo had a name
for that twang, and the way he called the world into notice,
that had a word, too. Once I saw I couldn’t unsee
and the worst was that the light glaring from the letters
left blue haze under my eyelids. There are no photographs
of this time, and I can only go by what others
tell me: I was blurred and erratic, I drew a circle
of white chalk around me and called myself inviolate,
I watched for horses on the horizon, my walls
were under siege from smaller men who called themselves
heroes. They say I reached over the balustrade and picked
up the tiny ships and threw them over the edge of the world.
I tore my hair, cut one breast from my body and plattered it
as around my fortifications one man pulled another man
behind his chariot. If they say that’s how I was,
that’s how I was. I have no words for the one in the mirror
who apes me every morning. She’s not the one I remember
imagining as a young girl. There must be a way to unsee
how I tap the glass and she taps back, and which wall,
which Cassandra weeping—everything I saw I spoke to his ear,
and the wall crashed into place between us, the horse
had a bellyful of it, the blank was full of small soldiers,
and he turned from my beauty and said my name.
Do you have poem that is on your mind these days?