"Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
they are given wings."

-Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Living     in the earth-deposits     of our history

Today a backhoe divulged    out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle     amber   perfect   a hundred-year-old
cure for fever     or melancholy     a tonic
for living on this earth    in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered     from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years     by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin     of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold     a test-tube or a pencil

She died    a famous woman    denying
her wounds
her wounds    came    from the same source as her power

                    -Adrienne Rich

I came across this poem today because I am reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a grief-stricken and lost woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find catharsis. She is completely unprepared and ends up carrying a ridiculously heavy pack. Later on in her journey she is given some help on what items she can get rid of to lighten her load. She relented on most things except her copy of The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich. She brought other books as well, but was able to burn chapters as she read them. But there was something in this book that she safeguarded and there was some reason she carried it thousands of miles. I wanted to know why. I felt connected to Cheryl a few pages in because she was a female backpacker, choosing a poetry book as her lone companion. It had to be pretty special.

After no luck in a used bookstore, I decided to cross the street and search in Barnes and Noble. Lo and behold, there was one copy left. Too curious to find a table, I plopped myself down on the carpet. Tall bookshelves rose above me as I turned to the first poem. It was the same poem Cheryl turned to her first night on the trail. It was perfect.

1 comment:

jesse said...

I like the image of you sitting down amongst the stacks so focused.