March 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: The History Between Us

I first read this poem at Thanksgiving, the title blurring with traditional Thanksgiving themes about blessing the 'ties that bind.' Those binding ties have sometimes served to bind in ways not so sanguine, and I though the poem tied in nicely with some thoughts I'd had about leaving home and familiarity. Later, I reread the poem just after a rather disastrous meal with a couple who turned on each other after dinner, a squabble that turned to bickering and bitter recriminations. There are, I reflected, things that bind us; certain things that are knotted between us and cause us to stumble as surely as a coil of rope on the floor, encountered in murky darkness.

I read this poem a third time this morning, and decided that it was high time you read it, too.

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down-
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest-

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

-- a poem by Jane Hirshfield from Of Gravity and Angels © 1988, Wesleyan University Press.

Listen to a bonus poem by Jane Hirschfield, and find the rest of the Poetry People at Gina's today. Visit Cuentesitos, little stories, and leave a link to your own. If you've got the leisure to read a few more stories today, don't miss the shyly grinning Markus Zusak, being interviewed at The Guardian on "Why I Write", and more news about Spielberg's Tintin. I should definitely, um, read the books or at least look at the cartoons before the movie comes out...


Sara said...

Oh. I love every word of this. Is the rest of Of Gravity and Angels that astounding? I must find it, then.

P.S. I just finished I am the Messenger, so all things Zusak are like a meal to me.

christine M said...

Great poem - a lot of food for thought in that one!

jama said...

Loved every word too. I'll be thinking about it all day. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

"Proud flesh." Wow.

Just, wow.

Kelly said...

Wonderful. Thanks, T.

sheila said...

Oh, that almost hurts me to read it. Very poignant.

And you MUST read Tintin before the movie comes out!

MHN said...

Lovely! Thank you

Andromeda Jazmon said...

"proud flesh" - I love that term! Thanks for sharing this poem.

Anonymous said...

1. Loved the words "proud flesh".
2. Loved the idea of binding here. It reminded me of witchcraft ("I bind myself to you"), and I think it plays off that idea very well.
3. The Zusak interview was gold. I'll be ganking from it for Sunday's quoteskimming post for sure.

Shannon said...

This one gave me goosebumps. I see myself reading this several times today - and sharing it with a few who are close to me.

Mary Lee said...

"all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest-"

Hmm. Some of my "proud flesh" IS on my chest and I DO wear those scars like honors and it WAS a battle. Glory be that it was 10 years ago!

Sarah Stevenson said...

Look forward to checking out the Zusak interview--can't wait till I get a spare moment!

"a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend."

Wow! Harsh and beautiful. Hope I have time to participate in Poetry Friday next week.

John Mutford said...

I love the matter of fact tone.

tanita✿davis said...

Sara, I haven't read the rest of Of Gravity and Angels but other things I've read of hers are amazing. SO many poets, so little time!!!

And, three cheers for Mary, winner of Survivor: Life! (like the TV show, only better...)

Kelly: 'ganking' is SO my word of the week...!!!

Anonymous said...

I almost can't bear how good this is. I mean, I really, really love this. Just read it three times, twice aloud. Proud flesh, indeed...