We, Perceiving the Past Week

Normally, I would have written a poem earlier in the week and then buffed it up a bit by the time I come to post the Sunday Weekly Poem on this blog. This week has not been a normal week on so many levels. I spent a few days in bed with a severe cold. I lost my voice (a worry for a poet, who sees metaphors always lurking in the psychic underbrush.) I slept a great deal. I watched snippets of news as the history flickered across the screen. I felt stuck and unequal to writing anything.

In those times when the well is crying ’empty’ I sometimes turn to other’s words. This video clip I found on YouTube of Adrienne Rich reading her poem In Those Years seems to speak our times.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXRSUQ7C8No. It will take less than a minute to watch, but it has been a touchstone for me this morning.

A storm has been tearing through our part of Ireland all yesterday evening, with the rain lashing and the wind huffing and puffing and, occassionally, roaring. It made for a restless night for me. It still has not expended all its energy. When I eventually emerged earlier today, I still had no clue what to write. I considered revamping something from last week’s workshop. But that seemed a bit feeble and lacking in moral fibre. Adrienne Rich was still rolling around my subconscious. So, it being the Sabbath, I turned to a text. Not from scripture, but from the alternative service as written by Emily Dickinson. I picked a card from my “Divining Poets: Dickinson” pack created by David Trinidad for Turtle Point Press. This is what Emily had to say to me this morning. (And though she was a recluse for much of her life, she had lived in Washington, DC for time when her father served in Congress, lived in the time of slavery and abolition debates, read despatches of a Civil War; though isolated, she didn’t need to visit a moor to be able to know a moorland landscape.)

Renown perceives itself

And that defiles the power

Emily Dickinson

 We, Perceiving the Recent Past

“ Renown perceives itself
And  that defiles the power.”
-          Emily Dickinson

This is us now. Or at the very least
the 70% who know we are no better,
and definitely worse than those beasts
that claw, purr, slobber, and wag the tail.
 
Idealists betrayed grow into cynics
who throw their principles out with
the baby bathed in the kitchen sink.
Because we all really bought into the myth.
 
Which may also account for how lawyers
seem to proliferate and we seek our day in court.
But they are much like those humble sawyers
buzz-sawing trees into planks to make into forts.
 
What shelter can be found when built of smoke
and mirrors by blinkered folk who love the roar
of the crowd, the greasepaint stroked
on clown face,  and sleight of hand candy store.
 
Bloated self-renown, the kind that thrives
in reality TV, defiles. The power, trapped
in the Fun House Hall of Mirrors, survives.
But the plate glass tower’s windows  are cracked
 
by the mournful pile of birds' corpses tossed
by gale force currents, whose beaks beat the glass,
their bodies’ evidence  of a reality without gloss,
left on the ground, hard and fast.
 
A single hand clapping makes no sound.
But it still can wave farewell to all the carnival clowns.
 
Copyright ©Bee Smith 2020. All rights reserved.
Emily Dickinson app'd
Emily – app’d

Featured image Photo by Josip I. on Unsplash