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43558Minute narratives

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  • louise
    Feb 1, 2008
      Every individual life is small. In the grand visions a sense of
      reality often dies away, unnoticed, unwanted. Who cares about truth,
      its representational power? A question. The voice of the individual
      poet in the modern age will often bear testimony to the minuteness of
      reality, the separateness of selves which in other discourses,
      political or familial, are bound up together in general categories or
      hopeful dreams.
      Sheltered by the anonymity afforded by life in a large town, I have
      been slowly exploring my new environment. The commercial centre is
      hemmed in by a besieging roar of regulated motor traffic. Within the
      ring of massed vehicles, moving in parallel, yet outside the
      pedestrianised shopping streets at the hub, stands the public
      library, one of the older buildings to escape demolition or radical
      interference, and fitted with tall and sturdy wooden bookcases in the
      lending and reference rooms. One of the volumes I've come away with
      and am currently reading is Lewis Wolpert's "Malignant Sadness: The
      Anatomy of Depression". In a chapter dealing with suicide he quotes
      this poem by Anne Sexton, which I think well worth reproducing here,
      without further comment:

      The Sickness Unto Death

      God went out of me
      as if the sea dried up like sandpaper,
      as if the sun became a latrine.
      God went out of my fingers.
      They became stone.
      My body became a side of mutton
      and despair roamed the slaughterhouse.

      Someone brought me oranges in my despair
      but I could not eat one
      for God was in that orange.
      I could not touch what did not belong to me.
      The priest came,
      he said God was even in Hitler.
      I did not believe him
      for if God were in Hitler
      then God would be in me.
      I did not hear the bird sounds.
      They had left.
      I did not see the speechless clouds,
      I saw only the little white dish of my faith
      breaking in the crater.
      I kept saying:
      I've got to have something to hold on to.
      People gave me Bibles, crucifixes,
      a yellow daisy,
      but I could not touch them,
      I who was a house of bowel movement,
      I who was a defaced altar,
      I who wanted to crawl toward God
      could not move nor eat bread.
      So I ate myself,
      bite by bite,
      and the tears washed me,
      wave after cowardly wave,
      swallowing canker after canker
      and Jesus stood over me looking down
      and He laughed to find me gone,
      and put his mouth to mine
      and gave me His air.

      My kindred, my brother, I said
      and gave the yellow daisy
      to the crazy woman in the next bed.
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