An aberration

In spaces like these when my desire runs whimpering from the room
I cannot write
I cannot read
I can only listen to the thump of my heart against my breast bone
And all I can remember is the gasp and pause of fear
That dark fear that beset me as a child when my father’s voice ricocheted across a room
Do not touch me I say
Do not touch me for I am made of stone or other flint like stuff that repels contact
Do not touch me for I am made of wounds, wall to wall wounds that extend from the top of my shoulder blades down to my knees, my breastplate armour against sensation.
Do not touch me for I will dissolve in your arms and die.

52 thoughts on “An aberration”

  1. I agonised almost more about putting this 'poem' up, Isabel, than I agonised about posting the photo of my dead brother in law. To me it seems as raw and raw words can scrape on skin like grazed knees. It does not always go down so well, but I followed my impulse here and let it go into the ether regardless.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Isabel. Heaven knows there are times when I need it.

  2. Once you call something a poem or a prose-poem you immediately set it up for comparison against all the poems and prose-poems that have ever existed. I’m happy to call myself a writer—and, to date at least, no one has tried to shoot me down for referring to myself as one—but only a few days ago I was labelled an ‘anti-poet’ an appellation, although no offense was intended, I’m not sure I’m altogether comfortable with. Now I feel the need to head off and research anti-poetry. I know what she was getting at when she said, “Your writing is very much part of the 'anti-poetry' tradition as is Larkin’s” because, like him, I prefer poetry that is pruned back to its basics rather than flowery verse that wanders all over the page.

    So, is this a poem? I’m not one who believes that something is a poem either because a) someone says it’s a poem or b) it looks like a poem. Poetry tends to fall into two camps, the narrative and the lyrical although to my mind there is plenty of scope for overlap with a … what shall I call it? … a lyrical scene, a slice-of-life poem, a snapshot poem. Take your pick. The photograph at the bottom of the page doesn’t tell a story—there is no action, no other characters and precious little context—but I find it impossible to look at any photo and not extrapolate something from what I see, filling in the blanks with things out of my own experience.

    Poems—even narrative poems but especially lyric poems—rely heavily on the willingness of a reader to embrace the gaps in the text and not ignore them; in a poem what is unsaid is every bit as important as what is unsaid. And there is much that is unsaid in this poem. Is the narrator you for example? The temptation with first person narratives is to assume they are autobiographical in nature but that is certainly not the case with my own poems. Whether it is or it isn’t using the first person pronoun invites the reader to inhabit more readily the narrator of the poem especially if the poem is read out loud. In fact it would have been more personal from my perspective had you written:

       In spaces like these when her desire runs whimpering from the room
       Lis cannot write
       She cannot read

    Then there would be no doubt.

    What is happening in the poem though? The narrator is in a “space” and she notes that it is not a unique space; there are others similar to it. Is it a physical place or an inner space? She might have begun

       At times like this…

    but by using the word ‘space’ there is a suggestion of confinement, even if that space is, to use the word that so often applied to Beckett’s work, a “skullscape.” Who is trying to touch her? We don’t know. We know what she remembers, where her fear arises from but not the specifics. The poem uses metaphors—no one is made of stone or wounds—but there is an oxymoronic quality here because she doesn’t say stone or wounds. She says stone and wounds. Also she uses an odd expression when talking about the wounds: “wall-to-wall wounds” and that, of course, evokes carpets which suggests she is a room.

    There are other poetic elements here: fear cannot pause nor be contained within a pause, voices do not ricochet, fear has no colour, flint has no repulsive qualities, desire doesn’t whimper nor can it scurry and unless you are terribly, terribly frangible no one’s touch will cause you to dissolve.

    For me the key word in this poem here is ‘desire’. Desire for what? For human intimacy? Is she lying in bed beside her husband with a book a notepad on her lap when suddenly a memory takes over? Now I’m reading into the poem but I’m allowed.

    So, is this a poem? Yes. Is it a good poem? Good enough but it could be better. Small things jump out at me. Things like ‘top of my shoulder blades’—why not ‘tip’? ‘Breastbone’ is one word. I would change ‘And all I can remember’ to ‘And all I can recall’ to lose a syllable and emphasise the internal rhyme. I also might go for ‘hewn of stone’ rather than made. Stuff like that.

    Good title though. And I’m out of space.

  3. So brave of you to post this, Elisabeth, I find it moving and lyrical despite (or because of) the rawness.

    I've been there too so I flinched when I read through it the first time. But the truth about incest or violation always feels bracing, that we are able to say this and survive the saying of it.

    And the faded thumbnail photograph tells its own story.

  4. these are the words that would have come out if they could, the words that would have taken shape and filled the room if the child had been capable of anything but silence.

    my heart goes out to you, elisabeth.

  5. Dear Elizabeth, even though I do not share your experiences nor your fears, I think I can relate to the sadness one can feel when pass experiences and unpleasant memories keep haunting our dreams and waking hours. I hope writing will bring you some relief – it sure does that for me.
    Have a great day dear friend,
    xoxo

  6. I didn't call this piece a poem, Jim, but I suppose on the screen it sort of looks like one. It probably doesn't fall into that camp you call anti-poetry, maybe a bit too flowery.

    I'm wary myself of writing about emotions without images but it came on my in a rush. I posted it in a rush and so it's certainly not a studied, polished poem. Raw seems to be the polite word that others, including me, use to describe these words.

    This is fine from my perspective, as are your thoughts here on how I might improve the piece. I'm with you about using 'tip' instead of 'top' but I'm not big on the word 'hewn' to me it's too out-dated, maybe or pretentious. It's just not a word I'd use.

    As for the idea that the central theme is one of desire, I'd say yes and no. Thwarted desire more like it, or repressed desire, but I'm wary of analyzing it beyond that.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Jim.

  7. I hesitated more than a little before posting this, Mary, as you do, but then in the end I thought what the heck. Poetry is not my forte but there was something in the experience of writing this that demanded I post it.

    And the outcome lies with the beholder.

    Thanks, Mary La.

  8. Memories are such strange things, Zuzana. They shift and sway. In part it's why I play around with them in my writing to try to get new perspectives on old issues. Thanks, Zuzana.

  9. A lot of writing for me, Windsmoke is not so much about getting rid of my demons, but more about understanding and dealing with emotional states of mind that can at times seem overwhelming. These words here in this post might well have emerged out of one such intense state of mind.

    Thanks Windsmoke.

  10. You're right, Kirk, I called it an aberration because it is just that, an aberration, in that I do not normally post such pieces of 'poetry' or whatever else you might call it.

    Thanks, Kirk.

  11. Very powerful writing – what makes a poem a poem is the emotion the writer invokes in the reader not the rhyme or form. And this was a brilliant poem! Do hope you write more poems 😀

  12. Sorry to be so slow in getting back to you on this comment, Christine. I worry about posting this 'raw' writing at times. It's the shame factor.

    As the writer and memoirist, Rachel Cusk writes: 'Unclothed truth can be vulnerable, ungainly shocking. Overdressed it becomes a lie.'

    And elsewhere, she says, 'There is always shame in the creation of an expressive work, whether it's a book or a clay pot… when you create, you aspire to do justice to yourself, to remake yourself, and there is always the fear that you will expose the very thing that you hoped to transform'. To me these are powerful words, indeed.

    Thanks, Christine.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement, Rose. I suppose poems are as you say all about emotional expressiveness, over and above form. Though I suppose form also contributes to that expressiveness.

    Thanks, Rose.

  14. And well you would understand, Syd. I suppose it's akin to the terror of a small child with an alcoholic parent, or a spouse whose partner has lost control.

    Thanks, Syd.

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