Monday, 31 January 2011

On Power: the Poem & the Idea

When I was fifteen and learning how to drive, my dad told me, "Women always hog the middle of the road," so I made a point to drive with one wheel off the outside shoulder, spinning up a bit of gravel wherever I went. And now, when we're back in the States, my English boyfriend wonders why I give my passengers the sensation that at any moment we might go careening into the nearest telephone pole. This feels to me like a fable, or at least a metaphor.

Adrienne Rich talks about 'Living in the earth-deposits of our history' at the beginning of her poem, 'Power'. I, for one, am always doing that--digging into that 'crumbling flank' of earth, hoping for a 'bottle / amber / perfect' with some 'hundred year old cure' for something (maybe melancholy, maybe something else).

What do we find there in the dirt of the past? Not the 'harsh and exciting' freedom to see ourselves as inevitably, without even trying, part of 'the family of things', as Mary Oliver so serenely describes in 'Wild Geese' (my favorite poem), I fear. (Or do we? Or could we?) Perhaps the dichotomy here is that of the human condition: human experience tugging against its own tensions, social world (formed by society) pulling against natural world, freedom and liberation pulling against the fact that we are indeed inextricably and forever connected to a long human story.

When I was a teenager in the American South, I wanted a Wrangler (I think) because all the cutest (and coolest) boys I knew had Wranglers--boys in baseball caps and low-slung jeans, driving around with the doors off, on big wheels (and I did get a bit closer to the dreamy Eric Chilberg, I would still say, as a result of my Jeep (happily missing my curfew (in spite of knowing I would be grounded) the night he wanted to go for a drive)). Maybe the Wrangler made me feel a bit safer from the shiny pearls and sweater-sets of my female counterparts. Maybe it was the open air racing by on the roller coaster of those country roads. Maybe it had everything or nothing to do with being a girl in that part of the world at that time. But I suspect that it did. I suspect that it did when I start dredging around in the dirt back there.

No comments:

Post a Comment