Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Coaxing a bridge out of the sands of a desert

Consider the body, loud with sound
yet it must wait in silence. Explain
the mind so dense with words
it would mouth the alphabet into the lap
of a listening hand. Observe the heart alive
with language, yet without a single adjective
or verb to be found; no joining words, no
clever nouns lining up for the taking.

Notice the ear resting, as it does
on an outer edge, leaning against the dark
in a place older than speech. Listen. Hear
those swarms of echoes rising? They climb
the walls, pound the air. Imagine. 
All that sound
and not a word out of it.


Return - Pastel & charcoal on paper - CB 2009

Over the weekend, I was thinking ahead to today's TP and got this poem typed up and ready to go. Then I found myself dithering, so I changed my mind and posted Rilke's Live the Question instead. And then I dithered some more. I've been like this lately - dithery. It's disconcerting. Indecisiveness tends not to be part of my usual modus operandi, but then again, neither is the deeply creeping fatigue that's been an unwelcome but insistent companion these past however many weeks. Words - both written and spoken - have been taking on peculiar shapes. They've looked strange on the page and sounded odd on the tongue. Sometimes ordinary language seems intent on eluding me altogether.

Anyway, when I woke in the wee hours this morning, I reached for my lapdog and started reading the first few Tuesday Poems that had been posted, beginning with T. Clear's chosen poem at the TP hub - The Shape of Words (desert love poem) by Odawni AJ Palmer. Each week's set of Tuesday poems seems to demonstrate an overarching pattern or unspoken understanding, suggesting our wider preoccupations are in synch. I find the way this expresses 'community' inspiring and comforting. Connections are made. Poems become bridges or stepping stones tossed into the oceans between North and South, East and West. Spontaneous conversations rise up. In light of all this, I've decided to keep Rilke for another time and to post Coaxing a bridge out of the sands of a desert as originally intended. (Whew, I eventually got there!)

Click here for more Tuesday poems


  1. Oh Claire - this is so lovely. I would love to read it to my creative writing students if you're okay with that. I adore this: 'mouth the alphabet into the lap
    of a listening hand' ... Ah! Made my day. All I wonder about is the word 'clever' which jars me a little seems to insert the brain to harshly into this sentient place... But that might just be me.

    I do so agree with what you say about the way the Tuesday Poem community works - the threads that draw across the blogs - the way the poets and the poems speak to each other. I thought I might quote it in the release I sent to the lovely Bookman Beattie. Again, hope that's okay. X

  2. Hi Mary... I've just left a message on your TP post... Thank you for these comments. I would be delighted if you were to read this poem to your students; yes, of course I'm okay with that!

    I will have a think about the word 'clever'. Part of me wants it to be exactly as you suggest - an intrusion; the rational (sometimes entirely unhelpful!) voice.

    Please feel free to quote the bit about the threads that seem to link our TP community (for GB, our most excellent Bookman). Thanks! And for coming by.

    L, C

  3. Thanks Claire! The post is up on Beattie's blog. I can see what you mean about clever... a bit like the word 'shit' in my poem 'Missed' that Tania Roxbrough's creative writing group wasn't sure about... but I've stuck with it. Have a lovely day (and don't worry about the vagueness thing... same thing for me... a time in one's life?)

  4. maggie@at-the-bay.comJuly 20, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Oh Claire - last night Mary had the audacity to call me a 'chatter box' so how much nicer to be a mind so dense it would mouth the alphabet into the lap of a listening hand - and I sure feel like a heart alive with language... I love the clever nouns where they are...

    I do love the Tuesday poems and the range of voices, topics and the swarm of echoes rising.

  5. Claire! Ooohh, these connections send shivers up my spine!

    And I'm at a loss for another word to add here, alas ("...all that sound and not a word out of it.")

    Love back to you from sunny Seattle.

  6. This is a fantastic poem Claire - some wonderful images. Thank you.

  7. Claire,

    I hope you get over the feeling tired thing--maybe a holiday is in order? But then, you've been doing a lot of travelling lately, so maybe a home-holiday (types the moss-gatherer).

    The poem is oblique--but also direct: how does that work, I wonder? Although the important thing is that it does ... And I love those concluding lines:
    " ... All that sound
    and not a word out of it."

  8. I'm glad you posted this poem, Claire - I'm sure Rilke will get his turn! "Clever" works well in this poem for me, especially as it echoes the "ve" sound in "verb". There isn't a word out of place that I can see.

  9. Claire - Your comment at Rebecca's blog sent me here...these seem to be vaporous times, trying to grasp a thought that turns into marsh gas and drifts out of reach. In my clearer moments I feel that our missing words, even our fatigue, are hands at our backs, pushing us to reconnect with our deepest selves, to find or remember who we really are.

    What a splendid community, your poets.

  10. Mary - sometimes a bit of grit enhances things - in this instance, words like my 'clever' and your 'shit'? (tee hee). It took me 40+ years before I could feel okay about saying the word 'fuck' for instance. How feeble is that?! I grew up with nuns (of both Catholic and Anglican persuasion) and it was with some awkwardness but joyful satisfaction that I finally wrote a 'Fuck' poem after seeing some underwear with the word sprawled all over it! YES! High success?!

    re; vagueness... I am coming to terms with a lot of things right now; am mid-a-most-grueling patch but perseverance is the name of the game? I keep telling myself that obstacles become our opportunities, knots our silk thread (when and if we can unknot the dratted things). And, yes, there's a bit of the 'time in one's life' thing', too!

  11. Hi Maggie - being a chatterbox = a box of delights?! From my current 'sticky little quagmire of a place, anything that smacks of happy noise and playfulness sounds thrilling just now. I love the way you applied the echoes in this poem to our TP community... thanks!

  12. T. Clear --- the sunshine you sent has reached us! Thank you... what a treat. We have a perfect, bright day here - a good excuse to head out into the day (as Penelope suggested on the telephone just now) for some much-needed Vitamin D. L, C x

  13. Kathleen - bless you! Thank you. x

  14. Helen - moss-gatherer - yes, a rest is definitely being called for. It's been a very long while since the word 'holiday' featured in my world. I need to set that right. A wise friend once said to me that we should circle our holiday times on our calendars before we put anything else into the space... Only once those are firmly planted (and treasured as immovable!) do we add all the other things - the projects and conferences and deadlines, etc... I absolutely agree with this as an ideal but have a way to go before I can say 'Ah, I've got it!' But I'm working on it. And when fatigue like this sets in, it has to be received as a gift with a strong message attached. I am listening...
    Thanks, Helen - and for your comments on this (oblique/direct) poem.
    L, C

  15. Tim.. why, thank you. (I realized after Mary's first comment that I had inadvertently left out the words 'no verbs or' which may be why 'clever' didn't sit qite right with her on first reading. It was only when she raised the question that I realized I'd posted an incomplete poem! So, good on her!

    I particularly enjoyed your two TP poems this week.
    May see you in Wellington next week?

  16. Dear Marylinn - how wonderful to see that you have found your way here. I loved visiting your blog earlier today, too (via Radish's). 'Meeting' you and Rachel in Rebecca's Comments Rooms yesterday was very affecting for me. You were speaking to her, of course, but I was struck by the generosity of your language and by the ethos of care and support. Between you, you created a safe, nurturing place and I found myself suddenly in contact with a whole lot of things that have been eluding me... it was one of those 'Ah-ha' moments; strange how one can feel both grief-stricken and elated at one and the same time? Thank you so much for being there when I called in - even though you could not have had known the effect your words would have!

    What you've written here '... In my clearer moments I feel that our missing words, even our fatigue, are hands at our backs, pushing us to reconnect with our deepest selves, to find or remember who we really are... ' is a gift, too. And so true. This is our biggest, most important (t)ask, isn't it? To connect with our deepest selves; it's really the only way we can become truly effective in the world...

    I'm looking forward to an ongoing conversation with you, Marylinn. Thank you so much for coming by.

    L, Claire

  17. (not a) PS. This is a splendid community of poets, yes. We are blessed indeed.

  18. Really enjoyed this poem Claire, especially 'in a place older than speech', and paired beautifully with 'Return'.

    Enjoying the community offerings.
    Thank you.

  19. Hi Mariana - TP offers us all rich pickings indeed. Lovely to find you've been here. Thanks.

  20. this is perfect. i especially feel attuned after spending several days in the wilder part of Maine, camped on a lake. hours of just listening. and absorbing.
    thank you--gorgeous!

  21. A very deep and questioning poem that seems to speak from a tiredness and a yearning for silence. A healing poem. A healer's poem ...

  22. Oh and I loved reading about the process to getting the poem here too. :) Hope you are able to somewhere find the rest (and silence?) you seek.

  23. Hi Susan - I met a terrific writer from your part of the world when I was in Tasmania a fortnight ago... Gretchen Legler. Do you know her by any chance? Her memoir 'All the Powerful Invisible Things' is very affecting. Maine sounds dramatically beautiful - the kind of place that encourages listening. And your camping trip sounds exciting! I'd love to visit some day.

    Isn't it interesting the way wild places assist us in tuning in more keenly to our selves and our world? I love that you said you're especially attuned having spent several days in a wilder part of Maine!

    Perhaps this is something we could all benefit from? A few days in the wilderness to restore balance?

    Thank you Susan.

  24. Dear Kay, your gentle words come as balm. Thank you. Despite my crazy tiredness, all is well... I'm having to learn new ways to ride the rapids, though - and, too, ways to inhabit with gratitude the spaces between. And I'm coming to appreciate the importance of pro-actively creating space for spontaneity, play and playfulness... steps in the right direction?! You and Susan have recently spent time near a lake... there's something about proximity to water that is deeply replenishing, isn't there? I can feel a beach walk coming on... Have an excellent weekend. L, C x