Friday, March 11, 2005

Silhouettes of the Past

Yesterday I was sifting through a few boxes of stuff from my life, some things going back to when I was very small: piano recital programs, science fair awards, pictures of friends, pictures of me, writings, textbooks, and other trinkets. I do not enjoy this activity. I find it downright painful. Sometimes I see a picture of myself, young and naive and trusting in the future, and I feel a sense of loss, even waste. Why? I have a pretty good life. I'm not complaining. For some reason it bothers me to think about how I felt then that I could do anything. It turned out I couldn't. This is true for everyone. There are a finite number of things we can actually do with our lives, depending on our abilities, our energy, and our choices. So why does this bother me?

I'm not going to try to answer this today. Instead, I'll just share this poem that reflects this sense of the past at my shoulders, following me, haunting me, whispering to me. It is from The Antioch Review, vol. 54, no. 2, Spring 1996, p. 157:

by Joanie Mackowski

Flying behind my shoulders cormorants
head for the sea, and erratic, endless
stream of them; their rain-bent, pterodactylan
silhouettes set low over mercury
waves seem a bit severe--listen, lessons
in love aren't always tactile:
a tarot
of overturned clam shells brims in the tangled
waves; the waves are full of tattered weed
like asterisks--maybe tonight the stars
will take a risk and bloom like barnacles
underwater--I miss you I--red-wing
blackbirds cling to the cattails, seem to say
miss you o me too or sometimes ole!
and sometimes this song continues all day--

(Photograph from this page about cormorants.)


Skij Yesh On Domorrow-Walker said...

an incredible poem - I especially like the fractured confession "I love you I" - and the tangled waves. It's rare to find a poem on the sea, stars, and love that doesn't feel weary...

from another graduate student (Russian literature),


Danny said...

The passing of migrating birds in summer or the vanishing sunset from the sea, they remind us of things that are about to pass and the things that are about to come...

Yes, our life is partly nurtured by our historical past on things and people that gave meaning to us, sweet or bitter memories...

As we live in the present, we cannot help but remember the past and the indelible memory it has left behind because we are also what we have lost...

Ahmed Bilal said...

from one aspiring poet to an obviously good one, here's something for you to read as well:

take care