An aberration

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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.

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52 Comments on An aberration

  1. Rob-bear
    February 15, 2012 at 6:52 am (5 years ago)

    Powerfully written, but ever so sad. Profoundly sad.

    I do hope you can recover your writers voice, very soon.

    Reply
  2. Isabel Doyle
    February 15, 2012 at 7:12 am (5 years ago)

    O Elisabeth!

    I thought you said you weren't a poet?

    I beg to differ.

    Reply
  3. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2012 at 9:00 am (5 years ago)

    This was my attempt to recover my writer's voice in some ways Rob-bear, however seemingly sad. Thanks for your kind words.

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth
    February 15, 2012 at 9:03 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  5. jane.healy
    February 15, 2012 at 9:30 am (5 years ago)

    This writing is so raw that it makes me want to weep.

    Reply
  6. diane b
    February 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm (5 years ago)

    That is very sad and emotional. Your words are strong enough to create real fear.

    Reply
  7. Jim Murdoch
    February 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  8. Ms. Moon
    February 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm (5 years ago)

    I know. I think a lot of us do.

    Reply
  9. oceangirl
    February 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm (5 years ago)

    You are a writer like no other.

    Reply
  10. Mary LA
    February 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  11. susan t. landry
    February 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  12. Zuzana
    February 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm (5 years ago)

    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

    Reply
  13. Pearl
    February 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh, how wonderfully terrible, how profoundly sad.

    SO powerful.

    Pearl

    Reply
  14. Rubye Jack
    February 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm (5 years ago)

    Oh gosh Elizabeth. I feel these words inside of me so intensely. How poignant and how profound. You are indeed a poet.

    Reply
  15. rraine
    February 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm (5 years ago)

    this is so powerful. it was courageous of you to put it out here. but then, we know you do not lack for courage.

    Reply
  16. Windsmoke.
    February 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm (5 years ago)

    Wow!, Did this come from distant bad memories?, because its very raw and smells of fear and loathing, it also sounds like you're trying to rid yourself of a demon :-).

    Reply
  17. Phoenix
    February 16, 2012 at 12:07 am (5 years ago)

    This gave me chills. Beautiful, haunting, raw, and so incredibly, incredibly brave.

    I hope your muse touches you ever so lightly.

    Reply
  18. Kirk
    February 16, 2012 at 1:03 am (5 years ago)

    Are you calling it an "aberration" because you normally don't post poetry? Any more aberrations where that came from? It's very good.

    Reply
  19. Anthony Duce
    February 16, 2012 at 5:18 am (5 years ago)

    This is so well done. So much said and expressed in a few words. Thank s for showing us your other side… Hope to see more.

    Reply
  20. juliet
    February 16, 2012 at 6:29 am (5 years ago)

    So powerful. I can feel your fear and hear the thump of your heart.

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    February 16, 2012 at 7:45 am (5 years ago)

    It's hard to respond to such a declaration of distress in the face of these words here, Diane but I'm grateful that they meant so much to you.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    February 16, 2012 at 7:46 am (5 years ago)

    I am fearful that this writing is too raw, as in unpolished, Jane, but something made me take the plunge and so raw it is. Thanks, Jane.

    Reply
  23. Dave King
    February 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm (5 years ago)

    This is powerful stuff. Strikes me you did not need to recover your writer's voice, it was there waiting for you all the time. Very moving, utterly compelling.

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:13 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:15 am (5 years ago)

    Thanks for the understanding, Ms Moon and Fazlisa. I'm grateful for your acknowledgement.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:17 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  27. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:19 am (5 years ago)

    If only children could speak more loudly about these things, Susan. And be heard.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:21 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:22 am (5 years ago)

    Thanks for the endorsement, Pearl. It's kind of you.

    Reply
  30. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:23 am (5 years ago)

    Well, it's good of you to encourage the would-be poet in me, Rubye Jack, but I'm not there yet, and maybe never. Thanks.

    Reply
  31. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:25 am (5 years ago)

    I might appear to be courageous at times rraine, but I can tell you now, here was one situation in which I felt a decided lack of courage. Thanks.

    Reply
  32. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:27 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:29 am (5 years ago)

    I'm not sure about my muse, Tracy but I could perhaps benefit from a light touch. Thanks.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:31 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:32 am (5 years ago)

    I'm not sure whether there's much more of this sort of writing in me, Anthony, but thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:32 am (5 years ago)

    I'm not sure whether there's much more of this sort of writing in me, Anthony, but thanks for the encouragement.

    Reply
  37. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:33 am (5 years ago)

    Thanks for resonating to my words here, Juliet.

    Reply
  38. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:34 am (5 years ago)

    Wonderful words coming from such a fine poet as you, Dave. Thank you.

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    February 17, 2012 at 9:35 am (5 years ago)

    I'm glad it held some resonance for you too, Akeith. Thanks.

    Reply
  40. Christine
    February 17, 2012 at 10:26 am (5 years ago)

    'Do not touch me'.
    I can feel your screaming fear and anger.
    That you can put those sensations into words counts for much.

    Reply
  41. erin
    February 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm (5 years ago)

    but while it feels otherwise, a touch is exactly what you need, a worthy touch directly upon your wound. this is healing.

    xo
    erin

    Reply
  42. Rose
    February 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm (5 years ago)

    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 😀

    Reply
  43. Kleinste Motte
    February 18, 2012 at 9:51 pm (5 years ago)

    I understand the terror but how sad to think of the final word. No hope?

    Reply
  44. Syd
    February 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm (5 years ago)

    Very sad stuff. I don't know that kind of terror.

    Reply
  45. Kath Lockett
    February 21, 2012 at 11:55 am (5 years ago)

    Oh Elisabeth, the pain and poetry blended into one.

    I'm torn between admiring the rawness of your words and the reason behind them….

    Reply
  46. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:28 am (5 years ago)

    You're right, erin. There is the touch that heals as opposed to the touch that wounds. Thanks.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:30 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  49. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:31 am (5 years ago)

    It's hard to write about hopelessness, Kleinstemotte, and therefore I'm glad the writing resonated for you.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  50. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:33 am (5 years ago)

    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.

    Reply
  51. Elisabeth
    February 22, 2012 at 9:34 am (5 years ago)

    I expect these words evoke mixed feelings, Kath. Thanks for acknowledging them.

    Reply

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