I’ve been going through my files lately and came across this (kinda-sorta) poem I wrote 8 years ago or longer. I decided to post it here (a) to keep a record of it and (b) to remind myself how indebted I am to James Hillman, who died a few weeks back. The repeated phrase, “the wound is the eye,” is a direct quote from him and the allusions to the myth of Persephone are consistent with his approach to the psyche. It needs work, but here it is:
There was no flower on our table
and this seemed quite usual.
Even when I found the rose,
it was too coral, too ripe, too soft, too full
of a glow that reminded me of melting Popsicles –
a color that is supposed to be calming but,
by its very insistence that I relax, agitates me.
“Calm down,” I said to the bathroom mirror.
“It is only a rose.”
So it was too with the thorn.
It had been removed from the stem but it lingered like a ghost –
an animated absence that pricked my solitude.
In such moments, you turn and you hope it is an angel.
You hope it’s not an impersonator – one of those hungry ghosts
that occupy the bardos of insatiable desire.
Here, invisible stranger, devour my heart. I am this awful flower.
Having fetched the flower, I had to resist destroying it
or returning it to another table
or doing something insane.
I could have mutilated the petals and strewn them
on my soup, eating them like garnish.
In Paris I did eat a tagine of pounded rose petals
and my entire body woke up. I couldn’t stop smiling.
But in Avignon I went to a perfumery
where a woman placed a drop of rose essence on my wrist
and I sang a bit of “La Vie en Rose” and she laughed and
the cat curled about my ankle and when I looked down
I saw that it had one eye and – you know what? – both my eyes filled with tears.
“It’s always like this,” I said to my friend. “Half-blind.”
My friend said I was too sentimental, that my memory was harsh.
“I am easily seduced by the wound of romance,” I growled.
I couldn’t walk the streets of Istanbul, there were so many starving cats with worms crawling in their eyes.
The wound is the eye.
The wound is the eye.
I did not eat the table flower but I held it to my nose.
Nothing to take in.
That absence too tore my flesh, my heart where the gods live.
I became the crack in the ground where Persephone was abducted
while she picked flowers in the sunlight. The dark hand was on me.
We left. On the street, where it was cold,
I saw him: a man with wrenches dangling from his belt loops.
“Can you remove a thorn? Can you loosen my throat and fine-tune my heart,” I wanted to ask. “Can you give me a warranty on the repairs you make?”
Turning from him, the angel shadowing me,
I wondered who that was.
“Who decorates himself with wrenches?” I wondered.
Not the lady of Avignon who opened my eyes to my animal blindness
with a sweet fragrance.
It must be the abductor. I turned. He disappeared.
I smelled death, decay, on the invisible hand
that brushed my cheek.
The eye of my heart opened.
“Love – even fleeting eros – may be blind,”
“but so is justice.” I repeated this to myself all the way back to the hotel. And so I slowed my pace and heard the wrenches fall on a sidewalk littered with yesterday’s flowers.
I hoped to be just if I could not be lovable.