January 11, 2011
I wonder, by my truth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved?
And now good morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear.
- from "Good Morrow," John Donne, 1572
I have recently been reading Anna Rabinowitz' book-length poem, PRESENT TENSE (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010). This stunning work of lucid but uncomfortable insight, and her use of powerful, transforming imagery and language, has resonated in my subconsciousness for days. What does it mean to possess a soul, to be biological, to invent time - primarily to establish purpose - and with this new and sterile construct of history, devolve to violence? Barbarism lurks beneath a thin veneer of civilization. War, that which we invent from a cold core of primal fear; lost in our alienation, lost as self-defined beings. Can we ever erase the seeds of self-destruction once sown? Where, Rabinowitz asks in her review of the scroll of history, does love dwelleth?
I resonate with this poet's work: with her compassion for humanity, with the sense of strangeness experienced in the very act of "living." PRESENT TENSE is a poet's quest, for holding in her mouth once more the language and pure instinct the green things possess - regeneration, survival, abundance. The human helix of violence and our awareness of our own vulnerability has erased this core of quiet belonging from our lexicon. Our very comfort as creatures of biology and purpose. But to what purpose, the poet asks. "Invention is the mother of intention," Rabinowitz writes. When faced with a void, and fear, brutal barbarism erupts. Why? Rabinowtiz answers: "'Fear and sorrow are the true characters and inseparable companions of most melancholy,"(The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton).
I come tonight to the lines of John Donne, "And now good morrow to our waking souls." It cannot be too late to open ourselves to the power of the present moment. Find the place where love dwelleth as the poets urge, and there find solace and the lost language of the green things.