Sunday, 5 February 2012

My status is Facebook and the Spiritual Poem

A Facebook Status

Why oh why oh why, is it so difficult to find tights that fit comfortably? I am neither excessively fat nor tall. Who do they make tights for anyway?

My response

Ladies step away from the counter and let an expert on finding tights that fit get through. The motto one size fits all was scribed by a skinny person of restricted growth. If you purchase Xl or XXL tights the length versus width dilemma prevails. They may come up to your chin but they are also so wide they would give Norah Batty a run for her money. Alternatively they are not too saggy but the crutch comes up to your knees. Tights were developed to meet the needs of the sixties, a mini skirt or hot pants with stockings was not seen as cool then (although now I am sure you could get away with it and do as a fashion statement providing you are under 25 or Lady Gaga).

Stockings had their own small agonies a suspender belt can leave huge welts around the hips that Torquemada would find satisfying on a heretic and if the suspenders are not long enough or the stockings too short you have every chance of having to walk like Quasimodo. I became used to stretching up to get something off a shelf in a shop accompanied by the painful ping as a suspender gave way under the strain and hit your thigh with all the recoil of an industrial strength catapult.

Bearing in mind the above I now usually go for jeans or trousers with socks or the comfy top pop sock so beloved of the vascularly challenged and at my age I thankfully no longer require the added contraceptive nature of tights especially in confined spaces such as cars and linen cupboards.

Then of course you do find the perfect fitting tights and discover they are made in factories in third world country manned by small under nourished children or they disappear from the shelves because the manufacturer has gone out of business because there is only a small pool of long legged women and possibly transvestites that love his product. And don’t get me started on leggings and the hybrid bastard jeggings.

What has this got to do with life as a poet and writer you ask dear reader and the answer is everything has something to do with your life as a writer and poet.

I have been thinking a lot about Facebook lately and why we use it; in view of its upcoming floatation on the market there has been much said elsewhere. It may be the spawn of the devil, it may waste the users time when they should be out talking to real people, but it also lets ideas be exchanged, projects floated, information can be sought and gained. It can support the Arab Spring, it can bully teenage girls, it can allow people spread across the world to see a new born baby held by its mother, it can tag someone in a photo of a drunken office party in a pose they deeply regret. We give advertisers their data, their demographs, their potential targeted markets, in return they give us a method of communication and a global forum. It is not compulsory, we choose to use it. We may have to be canny about privacy settings and access but it can allow others a tiny window into a life. Hang onto that thought of a window for later.

I have also been putting together a reading of spiritual poems by women poets over the centuries. Spiritual I have taken in a very wide context but I have been struck by how women write about things we may term as spiritual but how few are often represented in some anthologies. I have managed to find two or three anthologies of Spiritual poems by women that have been intriguing reading in their variety and approach. Spirit comes from the Latin root suspire to breathe, and the breath is the backdrop of all poetry, the silences as much as the words; the full stop, the comma, the dash, the moment of the line break , the white space around the stanza , all this is how the poem breathes. So given that perhaps most poems are spiritual but to that perhaps should be added the dimension of depth, how a poet struggles with their existence, or the why of it all. It is a bit of a cliché that all poetry is ultimately about sex and death, you could add that even sex and death as themes lay upon the foundation of why. Why do we strive for sex and love? What is love and death? What is our place or purpose on this small spinning rock? These questions are the life blood of poems that could be termed spiritual dealt with at a macro or micro level.

So now to draw together the threads of the spiritual and Facebook I am posting a poem by Adrienne Rich the wonderful American poet. Her poem might not be seen by some as spiritual but in my book it breathes it. Read it and then apply it to Facebook , some interesting connections are made, remember I told you to hang onto windows.These lines alone especially resonate with me re Facebook.

‘We see each other daily and in segments’

‘Maybe we shouldn't turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation--
If not our own, then someone's, anyway.’

The second stanza alone makes me approach Facebook in a new light.

It is, for me, a beautiful poem that demands we look at our own lives, how we take people for granted. That saying good-bye to those we shall see tomorrow places those around us in a different light, enough to make us step back and value them. All around the world at the very moment you are reading this someone, somewhere is saying good-bye to someone they will not see tomorrow but think that they will because they believe life is ordinary like that. Death and leaving are also very ordinary. That thought alone is worth a small breath, a little space to breathe.

Stepping Backward

Good-by to you whom I shall see tomorrow,
Next year and when I'm fifty; still good-by.
This is the leave we never really take.
If you were dead or gone to live in China
The event might draw your stature in my mind.
I should be forced to look upon you whole
The way we look upon the things we lose.
We see each other daily and in segments;
Parting might make us meet anew, entire.

You asked me once, and I could give no answer,
How far dare we throw off the daily ruse,
Official treacheries of face and name,
Have out our true identity? I could hazard
An answer now, if you are asking still.
We are a small and lonely human race
Showing no sign of mastering solitude
Out on this stony planet that we farm.
The most that we can do for one another
Is let our blunders and our blind mischances
Argue a certain brusque abrupt compassion.
We might as well be truthful. I should say
They're luckiest who know they're not unique;
But only art or common interchange
Can teach that kindest truth. And even art
Can only hint at what disturbed a Melville
Or calmed a Mahler's frenzy; you and I
Still look from separate windows every morning
Upon the same white daylight in the square.

And when we come into each other's rooms
Once in awhile, encumbered and self-conscious,
We hover awkwardly about the threshold
And usually regret the visit later.
Perhaps the harshest fact is, only lovers--
And once in a while two with the grace of lovers--
Unlearn that clumsiness of rare intrusion
And let each other freely come and go.
Most of us shut too quickly into cupboards
The margin-scribbled books, the dried geranium,
The penny horoscope, letters never mailed.
The door may open, but the room is altered;
Not the same room we look from night and day.

It takes a late and slowly blooming wisdom
To learn that those we marked infallible
Are tragi-comic stumblers like ourselves.
The knowledge breeds reserve. We walk on tiptoe,
Demanding more than we know how to render.
Two-edged discovery hunts us finally down;
The human act will make us real again,
And then perhaps we come to know each other.

Let us return to imperfection's school.
No longer wandering after Plato's ghost,
Seeking the garden where all fruit is flawless,
We must at last renounce that ultimate blue
And take a walk in other kinds of weather.
The sourest apple makes its wry announcement
That imperfection has a certain tang.
Maybe we shouldn't turn our pockets out
To the last crumb or lingering bit of fluff,
But all we can confess of what we are
Has in it the defeat of isolation--
If not our own, then someone's, anyway.

So I come back to saying this good-by,
A sort of ceremony of my own,
This stepping backward for another glance.
Perhaps you'll say we need no ceremony,
Because we know each other, crack and flaw,
Like two irregular stones that fit together.
Yet still good-by, because we live by inches
And only sometimes see the full dimension.
Your stature's one I want to memorize--
Your whole level of being, to impose
On any other comers, man or woman.
I'd ask them that they carry what they are
With your particular bearing, as you wear
The flaws that make you both yourself and human.

Adrienne Rich

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