Monday, December 12, 2005

Poem of the Week 12/12/2005: Echoes


There is a timbre of voice
that comes from not being heard
and knowing .. you are not being
heard .. noticed only
by others .. not heard
for the same reason.

The flavor of midnight fruit .. tongue
calling your body through dark light
piercing the allure of safety
ripping the glitter of silence
around you
...... dazzle me with color
...... and perhaps I won't notice
till after you're gone
your hot grain smell tattooed
into each new poem .. resonant
beyond escape .. I am listening
in that fine space
between desire and always
the grave stillness
before choice.

As my tongue unravels
in what pitch
will the scream hang unsung
or shiver like lace on the borders
of never .. recording
which dreams heal .. which
dream can kill
stabbing a man and burning his body
for cover .. being caught
making love to a woman
I do not know.

Audre Lourde 1993

Reason # 2 I am leaving Blogger come winter break: I can't put in the poetic forms with spaces - for some reason Blogger's programming language doesn't absorb the blank spaces I put in. So, if you will, please imagine that the ellipses are blank spaces. if this is hard to do, you could past the poem into Word and replace them yourself... The form is important for this poem, so I had to provide some kind of indication of it.

Alright, anyway. I can't spend too long on this poem because it's finals week, but I will put forth a few observations. (Please note that I am going to go back over winter break and fill in the PotW holes. I know that I have said this before, but it keeps being true!) This poem is, in its way, a love poem. It runs more deeply than a simple love sonnet, however. I want to offer you the fact that Audre Lourde has labeled herself a "black lesbian feminist warrior poet." Thus, the speaker is probably a woman, and the first stanza probably recalls a minority's experience. In this light, then, the poem takes on a weightier social significance - discussing the difficulties of being in a persecuted group of people, extending this to the individual (perhaps personal oppression by society has closed off the speaker's lover), and then making it relevant to the human experience.

The first stanza empathizes with perhaps a specific you (the lover) or the general you (any unheard person). It opens, "there is a timbre of voice / that comes from not being heard." I find that the choice of the word "timbre" is powerful, for it means pitch, though aurally sounds like "timber!" the logger's call for a falling tree. Thus, the voice, un-listened to, is both tremulous and destroyed. That only those who are unheard "for the same reason" can understand beings up the thought that only similar experience produces empathy. Maybe empathy is the wrong word. Understanding perhaps? In terms of empathizing with a minority - there are things one can and cannot understand, but at any experience's core, I sincerely hope that there is something any different person can pick out and empathize with. We are all in the minority in some way or another; for me, people often can't understand my complex family situations. I have had to learn, however, that it doesn't mean that they can't empathize with pieces of it. Specific experiences will of course never translate, but many of the broader emotions transcend divorces, children, or boarding school. I wonder if the thought that "nobody can understand me unless they have been through what I have" is problematic. It is self-righteous and insular, to be sure. I do not mean to devalue the importance of knowing people who *do* understand your experience because their own are common. This is essential. However, limiting oneself to those people (or perhaps opening oneself up to only those people) can be a problem as well. Is that making sense? I hope so. Email me if you want to talk more.

The second stanza moves out of this socio-emotional realm, then, entering a dark and sensual one. The "tongue / calling [her] body through dark light / piercing the allure of safety / ripping the glitter of silence" expresses the thought that intimate interaction breaks down these fear-barriers. It allows for some kind of speech, or perhaps a connection that, in the moment, does not require one. Sexual intimacy may provide a kind of communication that is easier for the lover to engage in. This stanza does not limit itself to sensuality, though; it also demonstrates the narrator's understanding of her lover. The speaker picks up on her lover's defense tactic of dazzling "with color / [so] perhaps [she] won't notice." The erotic connection is not pure and transecendant, for it, too, includes self-defense tactics.

The lover impresses herself on the narrator, seen in the lines "your hot grain smell / tattooed into each new poem." This narrator, we are beginning to see, is smitten. Even though the lover won't talk, her partner is listening. Their relationship is unsure, balanced on the thin path between desire and choice (presumably the choice about staying together).

The final stanza, then, is a question, voicing anxieties and guilt. I will have to go into this later, for finals call! But, I hope you all have a lovely rest of your day!

1 comment:

ann marie said...

Sarah Elise, how do you rock so heartcore? i love Audre Lourde ~ no, make that i love YOU. with all my adoration, ann marie