Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Fear and Graveyards

Over at PoemHunter I found a companion poem to the one by Teasdale in the previous post. It's interesting to me that both of these poets deal with fear as a fear of death; or more specifically, a fear of being buried, of being isolated from life, of being utterly alone.

In these poems, death seems to be the opposite of life--the western idea of polarity, where life is understood by its opposite, death--rather than a continuation of life on a different plane of existence: heaven, enlightenment and nirvana, or reincarnation. I think each speaker fears, more than anything, being trapped: death=burial=stuck in one place, alone.

In Gluck's poem, the second stanza suggest that the ghost which roams the graveyard is not a disembodied spirit, but a spiritless body. We usually imagine the body as being lifeless after death--it decays, after all--and the spirit as that which continues. But the speaker sees the spirit as stuck on a small rock, and the body as doomed to roam the perimeter, observing the former weight of life.

The Fear Of Burial

In the empty field, in the morning,
the body waits to be claimed.
The spirit sits beside it, on a small rock--
nothing comes to give it form again.

Think of the body's loneliness.
At night pacing the sheared field,
its shadow buckled tightly around.
Such a long journey.

And already the remote, trembling lights of the village
not pausing for it as they scan the rows.
How far away they seem,
the wooden doors, the bread and milk
laid like weights on the table.

Louise Gluck

Sunday, June 19, 2005


I have a recurring experience I call night terror. I wake up with a quick jolt in the middle of the night--sometimes I swear it's because I heard something--and am suddenly slammed with terror in my gut. I find it difficult to breathe for a few minutes. Often I think someone has broken in and is going to hurt me in some undefined but terrible way. I have been experiencing this since I was quite young, although not all the time.

I was thinking about this and started to look for poems about fear. I found this one by Sara Teasdale over at PoemHunter, and I was struck with how well she describes night terror. In the end of the poem, it is all about fear of death. Teasdale doesn't hold anything back in this one.

What are you afraid of? What makes your heart pound and your breath shallow?


I am afraid, oh I am so afraid!
The cold black fear is clutching me to-night
As long ago when they would take the light
And leave the little child who would have prayed,
Frozen and sleepless at the thought of death.
My heart that beats too fast will rest too soon;
I shall not know if it be night or noon, --
Yet shall I struggle in the dark for breath?
Will no one fight the Terror for my sake,
The heavy darkness that no dawn will break?
How can they leave me in that dark alone,
Who loved the joy of light and warmth so much,
And thrilled so with the sense of sound and touch, --
How can they shut me underneath a stone?

Sara Teasdale

Monday, June 06, 2005

Boxed In

I'm living among boxes. I'm sleeping among boxes. I'm dreaming about boxes. I walk around boxes, eat off of boxes, and use boxes as end tables. My cats are hiding in boxes, and my dog is threatening to chew a box apart.

I have just moved into Boston, downsizing from a large house in the suburbs. I love the city. The boxes, not so much.

Are there box fairies that might come and unpack everything overnight? Are they for hire?

I have no poetry books. What posessed me to pack all of my poetry? I have no clue where the poetry is. Did I spell "posessed" correctly?

Anybody know a good poem about boxes, Boston, or moving? Help me out--I got nothin'.