Usually, as I ring in the New Year, I write out a list of resolutions. I like to be somewhat specific about it, as in exercising a certain number of days a week, or getting a certain number of hours of sleep or reading a certain number of books. I love numbers and lists, so it's a lovely combination. But this year, with my list of figs already in full-swing, I feel much less need to write out resolutions. I suppose my resolution is to simply keep enjoying my list....
To that end, I've been reading more Good Poems. Here is another that struck me:
What I Learned From My Mother
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
That is it,the poem. I included it on this blog because of my strong reaction to it. I was in a bath, actually, when I read it, and I had the stongest urge to actually rip it out of the book. I hated it. Really hated it. I thought maybe it was because I have a sinus infection and maybe it was because I was tired and had read several poems already. I have realized that I can only read five or six at a time before I start skimming and before it gets tedious or overwhelming. So, with that in mind, I read the poem again the next day and the day after that. I really dislike this poem.
I hate that she used the word 'maroon' to describe the grape. It's a purple grape. And I don't like the use of the word 'sexual' in relation to the seeds. Grape seeds aren't sexual, particularly when preparing them during a time of mourning. I don't know. The whole thing sounded very self-involved to me (says the woman writing a blog about her own self-induced project to live a more meaningful life).
End of story: I just downright hated this poem. I don't dislike it. I don't shrug and think, that't not for me. I've done that with several of the poems in this collection.
No, I actually feel disturbed by this poem and want to, as I've said, tear it from the book.
Isn't it funny? Our reactions......
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar