Showing posts with label Terri Witek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terri Witek. Show all posts

Friday, May 10, 2013

The world ends more than once

We here in Southern California are again facing the end of our world yet again! with the current rash of wild fires that are ringing neighborhoods and consuming homes in sparking shrouds of smoke and flame, so Terri Witek's poem , "Tomorrow Night, Shake Me,"is especially profound, at least for this brief moment. I think, however, the verse will resonate well after this hot, ashen time is behind us. The author can create an image and juxtapose it against a calmly described visages that seem the essence of a panic in slow motion:The world was at its end again. 

The world was at its end again.
The houses all wore hats of fire.
We couldn’t find each other.
Wolves pawed clouds,
crows tunneled. Last grabbed objects,
instantly regretted, dropped,
though one child still clutched a feather
and a few things stayed unreasonably in place—
gravestones, oranges, beds.
Most of us tongued seeds, loved strangers.
Why not? Soon it would be noon forever.
We couldn’t find each other.
The great toleration was finished.
The world rushed into feather, then wind.

The houses wore "hats of fire" is a remarkable image, sparely rendered, echoing the image from the Bible where the disciples are gathered together and tongues of flames appear over their head to indicate that the Holy Spirit has selected them to take a new path. The poem strikes me as being about surrendering to the inevitable that is confronts us--pray, huddle, find form fitting metaphors as we might, the force of a greater power, whether God or nature, will absorb you and change your being, your body, the ground itself where you reside. 

There is awe in this poem, a fear braced with respect; there is deliverance in this verse, but it is not an easy passage into a white light garbed in light robes of mist and prayer. This passage is burning, painful, destructive, brutally efficient in what is its nature to do. One abandons their feelings of being rooted to place and world view and gets out of the way, or winds up a burnt cipher. Witek has an acute lyric here, well done, well done.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Finality, Beginning

The Day You Left / Mammogram  in Slate intrigues me.

This isn't so bad a poem, but it is awkward, the way it begins in the middle of a description , only adding specific detail and the associated metaphor in slow, deliberate packages of ambiguity. It is exactly like coming in late for a lecture and trying your best to suss out the meaning of terms, the importance of incidents, the interconnection between the highlighted portions. But while we slavishly attending to the imagining of back story , situation and how they inform the narrator's choice of confounding allusions, poet Terri Witek does a capable job of not giving too much away. We know only that which she allows us to know tangibly; the rest of the poem's sequence is something of a daze to an absent friend or mate , and the absence hints at the vanishing of all things certain. There are probes, there are scars, there is fear that what was young , vital, yearning is now aged and now conspicuously revealing the terms of decline .

So we're relieved both worlds include

only the grayish skies they drift through

and just one cupola or darkened hut.

These last, by signaling each other,

can gather, as the great head of Buddha

does from his amazing topknot,

all tender, contradictory feelings.

So what to do, rage, rage against the dying of the light, or slip into a cocoon of morose self pity and regret. Better to be the Buddha and embrace both the rage and the sorrow and merge them into a fluid state of being, a psychic equilibrium that might be accomplished with the acceptance of the exact facts of one's contradictory impulses and the inevitable death we are guaranteed. The body is the perfect analog of the earth, and will return to the earth at the final moments, ready to rejoin the great cycle of being and make another life possible.

There is, I think, an argument the narrator is having with herself, simultaneously mourning the loss of what had been anchors of certainty in her life--a mate, friends, her health an positive attitude--while at the same time appreciating a larger sense of things. She is, I believe, in the process of convincing herself that she is still situated in a framework that gives her life meaning, or at least certainty. It's not clear, though, that the narrator is entirely convinced, and this may well be merely a snippet of an ongoing monologue. Lack of resolution is an element I enjoy in contemporary poems--I dislike pat resolutions through lazy analogies or writing program tricks of how to get out of hopelessly muddled dead ends-- and Witek presents her protagonist as someone we come upon , in mid thought, and whom we leave, with her thoughts and contemplation, perhaps no where near the serenity she desires. What is tantalizing is the idea that her thinking, her considerations are the process itself with which she remains sane, balanced, and that this is less about the issue of the Mammogram and the abandonment than it is about how a good any of us are constantly rearranging the priorities and values in the rooms of our interior lives as an ongoing effort to keep from being overwhelmed with each bit of news that portends discomfort, inconvenience, finality.