Friday, July 14, 2006

The Fine Arts Work Center

I cannot properly express how grateful I am for all of your kind, thoughtful responses to the loss of my dog, Cleo. I can see that I am not the only person who is familiar with this experience, and who has felt it so keenly. I am genuinely moved by how much kindness can be found in the world.

I wasn't sure for a while if I would be able to make my yearly trek to Provincetown because Cleo was so ill; and after she died, I wasn't sure I wanted to. But I have decided to forge on. Tomorrow I take the ferry to P-town for two weeks of poetry and beach time. I am taking two workshops this year, one with Vijay Seshadri and the other with Martha Rhodes.

Here is one of Vijay Seshadri's poems, entitled "Survivor," which can be found at the Academy of American Poets site:


We hold it against you that you survived.
People better than you are dead,
but you still punch the clock.
Your body has wizened but has not bled

its substance out on the killing floor
or flatlined in intensive care
or vanished after school
or stepped off the ledge in despair.

Of all those you started with,
only you are still around;
only you have not been listed with
the defeated and the drowned.

So how could you ever win our respect?--
you, who had the sense to duck,
you, with your strength almost intact
and all your good luck.

Vijay Seshadri

This is the other side of survivor's guilt, the point of view of those who observe and judge. The speaker resents the subject's survival because he reminds everyone of their losses. His presence brings to mind everyone who "bled" or "flatlined" or "vanished" or "stepped off the ledge." Regardless of if he had "sense" or "strength" or just plain "good luck"--qualities that are normally admired, but are derided here--the speaker believes he does not deserve to still be "punch[ing] the clock."


GEL said...

That powerful poem looks very familiar. Many survivors feel that gut-wrenching all consuming guilt even if no one verbalizes such to them. All life has value, but there are times such as this poem shows, when that fact is difficult to accept.

I'm very glad you're going to the workshops. I'm sure they will be enriching.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss. :(

Miller Williams

I think the death of domestic animals
mark the sea changes in our lives.
Think how things were, when things were different.
There was an animal then, a dog or a cat,
not the one you have now, another one.
Think when things were different before that.
There was another one then. You had almost forgotten.

Anonymous said...

All types of death make us look at our own mortality and where we go when our time comes. Is there hope here on earth for a better life to come? Without hope, life unwinds like a cheap sweater.
It's good to see after 20 years you are doing well.

Clarion CPA