The title of today’s post might be a bit misleading if you are one of those who is following this blog and has just come from reading “Finding Home”.
Today’s post, in spite of its title, is not about rental properties. At least not literally.
Nor is it a continuation of my list of What I Will Really Miss About Singapore. (I will return to that list, have no fear.)
It doesn’t even have a logical link to my forthcoming book about the in’s and out’s of international living and raising our children to be global citizens.
It does, however, have to do with raising.
Today’s post is a poem, a poem about the razing of a house, a poem with which I wish to introduce to you Melissa The Poet.
(And does that ever sound heady.)
I have kept that Melissa over there in the corner all the while I’ve been spreading rather personal prose across your screen. I have kept that Melissa private, sitting in the shadow on her satin pouf, quill and parchment in hand. Sipping mint juleps. Wearing whatever you imagine a poet wears. All white, maybe? Or an ochre-colored velvet waist coat? Pantaloons? A Tibetan robe?
Or maybe a purple and orange tie-dyed muslin tunic with Mao trousers made of hemp and a large, macramé peace sign hanging around the neck?
I am, in fact, a poet who writes in all sorts of apparel, very often in my bathrobe, or in comfies on airplanes (which should be no surprise, knowing me as you now do), on the backs of napkins in cafés, at 3:47 a.m. on Post-Its kept in my bedside nightstand, in the several neat little notebooks I get as gifts from my husband and other friends. I write literally everywhere there is a flat surface and a source of ink or graphite.
Or lipstick. (Once, yes.)
I need silence to write poetry, since the delicacy of poetic language does not mix well with ambient noise. Even my own breathing gets in the way sometimes, and I realize I’ve been holding my breath for too long as I work through a phrase. (It occurs to me only now that the breath-holding might be behind the hallucinatory effects of my writing.)
When I write poetry, it is often because I have experienced what I call a poetic moment. Something big or miniscule or multilayered is going on, symbols align, there is a sudden simple clarity, and, well. . . I know it when I am in it. It stings me then spreads out like the swell of sweet venom, and with that swell, images or clusters of words come all at once. When they come like that, I find I have to grab something quickly to pin them down in this world. Like planting them on the page. Then they start to bloom almost on their own.
(Almost, I said. This is not magic or Chia Pets we are talking about.)
Other times, I write because I am overcome with an emotion, or undone with the beauty of things, or unhinged with outrage. Or I have a question grating at the underside of my cerebellum, and I hope weaving together a poem will help me see the pattern inside of which an answer might glisten. Like the one white silk thread in a tan linen cloth.
I write in black or blue pen, then I always return hours or days or months later with a red pen and make changes, condense,
strike thorugh completely, or encircle the word or turn of phrase that I feel is true and necessary. And start again. Poetry —to make it vibrate — generally requires a great deal of work.
Often — alright, always — the finished poem surprises me. It comes up with its own references and connections that I could never have thought of myself. They somehow found me.
And then I send a copy of what I have come up with to a friend or two who know and appreciate poetry, and ask them, “Is it just me, or does this make any sense to you?”
Or, “Too wordy again, right? :-)”
Or, “This I wrote for your sweet mother. It might not be so good, but I mean it from the heart.”
Or, “Does this ring to you?”
Or, “Should I try tossing this into a contest? A poetry journal? The trash can?”
Years ago, when I realized my husband was the man for whom gift-giving was tough, I decided to write him an album of poetry for Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve, I rolled up each poem which I’d printed on white paper, tied the scroll with a red satin bow, and placed each one between the branches of the tree. I had additional copies made and printed them on thick, sensuous, handmade paper, which I then had bound in a book. I boxed the book and placed it under the tree. He seems to have loved this personal gift with all my irreplaceable love poems to him. And what’s more, he could not return any of them for another size or color.
The first Christmas after we buried our Parker, that brittle gunmetal winter of 2007, I was burning with poetry —poetry of outrage, of evisceration, of longing, of amazement, of revelation, of gratitude, poetry of The Void — but had no energy to print it out. Or roll it up. Or put it in a tree.
I had no energy, in fact, to have a tree at all that year. No energy for a single, thumb-sized decoration. I had no energy to face the boxes of baubles and mementos my oldest son had helped me open only twelve months earlier. I could not for the life of me — or for the death of my son — generate enough energy to face Christmas at all. As I considered the birth of the Savior, the heralded grandeur, the coming of the Son with glory round about and shepherds sore afraid and young innocent wide-eyed Mary cradling him, her splendid firstborn, I wanted to wail at the top of my lungs, “But you will lose him, Mary! You. Will. Lose. Him!!”
But I had no energy for wailing.
I did have energy, though, to write the following poem. It has already been published in the literary journal, Irreantum, and has been anthologized in Fire in the Pasture: 21st Century Mormon Poets, where its peculiar — and necessary — line spacing can be found.
(The exact format cannot be duplicated in a blog, unfortunately. But you can see it if you get your hands on that anthology.)
Since you have made the trek all the way here, I offer you a private reading.
HOUSE FOR RENT
To George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis
(Response to MacDonald’s “living house” allegory, as quoted by Lewis in his Mere Christianity)
Imagine, they suggest.
Imagine yourself as a living house
and God comes in (here comes the allegory),
God comes in to rebuild that house
and to rebuild, He destroys you.
Splits you wide open.
Knocks you down to shape you up. Blows you away to bring you forth
as mansion, His dwelling.
Imagine: a structure well beyond any
apt literary construct;
Imagine the literal natal invasion,
factual inhabitation, indwelling, the magnifying internment;
this alive thing with its lush, essential interior,
nautilus of distended tension,
gourd-like terrarium, loamy abode,
an incubation for cumulus nimbus,
spirit under my ribs
in the veiled universe of my belly.
What, kindest sirs, might you imagine about a living house
but what woman need never imagine?
Tell: can you conceive of it?
I am the aquarium,
have known (four times) the thrumming oceanic drag,
fulsome tidepool slosh in pelvis;
sweetest ferocious confined Leviathan
stomping inner tympani,
boom-boom-blooming to omega.
Four times nine moons—
(a moon myself, pneumatic,)
holding that glowing orb
or the finest delicacy: shrimp-on-wafer hors d’oeuvre in salty brine
burrowing in our shared cell.
Most intimate inmate.
I am the accommodation, the occupied real estate
(most real of all states),
a fleshly floorplan, walls torn down for the guest wing thrown up,
placental planting , deluxe plumbing, organic annexing for the increase.
I am that natural habitat for humanity,
an address for razing and raising,
strung taut with that sturdy umbilical pull until (and after)
Now, that’s some moving day:
Nude little lord, prodigious squatter, long since incorporated, moves out
trailing furnishings, clutching soul (whose? my own?)
in bloody wash,
the old self eviscerated, inverted, and that
humanangel image (past imagining)
multiplying upon itself forever
ever. . .
To be such a sanctuary of conception,
to be asylum for small gods and sovereigns, who swell, crown,
Rise to rule and risk life!
At such risk. At such risk as one can never. . .
Can one imagine those same living quarters drawn and quartered
when son-brother-cell mate—
(the one who moved within,
then out of you,
your heart still raw in his hold)—
when that oblation grown lustrous, thunderous, launch-ready,
Is ripped (with that riiiiipping sound)
Hard, benevolent wounding, whose frayed fibers hang,
sodden shreds post-rupture ,
and you, true house, are rent
the cloven enclave,
rent in two, or into
two billion splinters:
tattered scraps of love’s sabotage.
Imagine yourself as this living house, haunted in its
boney scaffolds where memory whistles its blue wind
and you are apart-ment
living house split leveled: he there,
fetal-curled in your own basin;
or a bunker: hunkered in poetry;
or a ranch: speck on the shadowless prairie, barren and boundless;
or a lean-to: whole halved to make a whole, now wholly halved.
And now. . .
God moves in
though there is no palace for Him here;
only rubble round the crater,
wreckage ringing the hollow.
But He, soft-handed, (the hands, gored)
comes inside (the side, gashed)
recreate from laceration Lazarus
and is at home.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.