Thursday, 17 March 2011

In Search of Poetry Lost, part 2

Here's how this goes: It's early October, 2010. I'm in a hotel in Jersey (the country, not the US state) on a poetry trip, with John Paul O'Neill and Deanna Rodger. It's our last night and we've been leading workshops all day; my head's all over the place. I've got a hotel-issued Gideon's bible on my lap - and I'm just flicking through - and Deanna suggests we co-write a poem. My fingers stop at Job 23, "bible-dip" style, and I read it aloud then write a few lines in my notebook. I hand the notebook to her. We go back and forth until we've filled about 6 or 7 pages. It's emotional, if not a little dramatic. But it has been inspired by Job, so that's allowed.

By the time we stop writing, there's a tremendous buzz in the air. We read it through once before I fall asleep and then I read it again the following morning. I lose the book the next afternoon.

I've started to read through the book of Job and the whole thing impresses me as a very poetic meditation on misfortune and anguish. It's impossible not to think of mass disasters, particularly Japan, and to question the nature of suffering, and the aptness of the term "natural disaster".

I got to Job 23 today and decided, rather than try to recall what we wrote, I'd get some of the essence down here by thinking about what it is to suffer. 

Then Job replied:

The sadness I have drunk
Stains my breath
Repels my lovers
Thickens my tongue

It is strong coffee on my teeth
It blackens my soul
Wherever I swing my compass
I lose control
And I try to shift loose
But the noose tightens its choking grip

My body dangles
My spirit slips
My heart skips
My faith shakes

Tectonic plates collide

In my mind
The friction produces a "why?"
And I am condemned
To a lifetime
Of unanswered questions
And chewed-up prayers
Deaf ears
Or muted replies
Breathless sighs:
It's all the same

I have overdosed on misery.
I look up to the skies
With an open jaw
And a dried-out mouth

My words are smoke
Thinning in the air

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