Poems

2/10/11

Blindness

Baby James makes his way around sharp corners

Fearless.

He feels the fibers of the carpet

rough between his rose petal fingers

tickling his toes.

Navigating the great wide world

that is the kitchen

he shows his mother that she doesn’t need to watch so closely

her arms outstretched

hands grasping at thin air

expecting him to fall.

He does not know the color “green”

Or the indescribable beauty

of a drop of dew

perched perfectly atop the hardened edge

of a blade of grass in June.

He does not know his father’s eyes

or the metal tint of his baby spoon.

But.

He will not know the pace of tears

as they flow down cheeks

He will not know the color of blood

illuminated on a television screen

as inevitable war and destruction

bursts forth

again.

He will not know the hopeless shape of the homeless

shaking white styrofoam cups on city streets

…only the rattle of loose change.

He will not know the contorted face of anger

or the twitching furrowed brow

of hate.

He will not see his planet die

slowly

with smoke billowing from great chimneys

and the zebra mussel-like takeover

of urban sprawl.

His parents pray

for the miracle of sight.

Would this little boy

cooing in content as he transfers wooden blocks from hand to hand

be better off if he could see?

I’ve been thinking about moments of “flow” ever since that conversation we had in class on Wednesday about moments of “absorbedness” and being entirely present. Reminiscing about the “flow” moments I’ve experienced, I went back through some of my old poetry. I find that my most present moments of clarity occur in travel. There’s something about the rhythm of trains and planes and automobiles–that suspension between where you’re going and where you’ve been–that lends itself to thinking and awareness as the world flies by outside of your window. You might argue that in those moments you are actually disconnected from nature, shielded by the metal casing of transportation and technology, but I feel the connection anyway.

Here are a couple of poems that stemmed from those moments:

Timeless

Rhythms of travel

and my heart is opening again

flaying at the seams

The looming countryside covers me

head to toe

that tickling sensation

as if I could burst out laughing

or crying

at any moment.

The Delay

We are the waiting people

suspended 
between where we are going

and where we have been

alive in no man’s land
 without purpose

An hour passes

another measured unit

bringing us closer to determining who we are

and who we’re not

We are defined by our actions

in the world

where none of us truly has a place.

The View

She’s happier now

as the sun catches her shoulder

and the wind dances in her hair

reminding her that there is always time

even when the clock stops

and the bus keeps moving

shielded by the guard rail

She smiles

half moon and tumbling

living for the thrill of the fall.

Reading through these poems, and putting them in the context of Annie Dillard’s “Seeing,” I begin to reminisce about all of the moments of my life when I was completely aware of who I was and where my place in the world was. These moments weren’t necessarily understanding, (because I don’t think we can ever really understand all of our infinite connectedness) but they were moments of wonder. I think of the series of minutes last Sunday that my boyfriend and I spent staring wide eyed at a tree on St. Olaf Avenue, filled with dozens of small black birds, chirping with a chorus of voices that inspired amazement. We wondered where they came from and why they were all there…together. We thought about what they were saying to each other, and pitied the people who owned the yard that held the tree they lived in–subjected to their noisiness at 9 in the morning on a lazy Sunday. But why did we pity them? Really we should have pitied the birds, whose natural home could now be “owned.”

Then there was the moment the pair of us were walking (again down Ole Avenue) at midnight on a Saturday night. Our breath hung in midair, and our shoulders hunched with cold. Amidst the snow drifts and the soft yellow hue of the street lights, we were content. There was a break in our conversation, and I stopped mid-stride. I was surprised by the silence. In our lives there is seldom silence. And when there is, we don’t stop to appreciate it. In that moment, the two of us stood and breathed it in. We waited. We listened. We felt. It was only a matter of minutes, or maybe even seconds, before we turned on our heels and walked back to campus…but it meant so much more than the countless hours of noise and scheduled tasks. I need to remember to have more of these.

In one line of her piece “Seeing,” Annie Dillard presents herself as “peeping through a keyhole.” For me, this was a great analogy for the way we see the world. We each look through our own individual keyholes, seeing only a small segment of light from the confines of our locked rooms. The goal is to open the door. I read this passage, and I thought about the moments when I was a little girl and I would lay in bed–staring out of my window at the branches of the tree I watched change with the seasons, then closing my eyelids tight and focusing until I was sure I could feel the world spin. I want to channel that determination again. I want to feel the whole world at once and continue to ask questions and shake loose the lock of my own little room. We need to get rid of the keyholes.

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