This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.
– Alan Watts
I like this quote because of the shift in gears it implies about life and how we approach it. I feel it easily mirrors something done in writing, how one must fight against being caught up in making a point and rather be open to what is at play. In a poem, it is being aware of the possibilities in an image or a turn of phrase, and digging further.
This week’s poem – “The Time Around Scars by Michael Ondaatje” – digs into the image of a scar and ties it to ideas of memory and time. As the poem develops, I feel myself as a reader traveling as if on a moebius strip. Ondaatje, by staying close to an image and emotion, is able to create a reading experience where time is traversed as it only can be in a poem.
The Time Around Scars – Michael Ondaatje
A girl whom I’ve not spoken to
or shared coffee with for several years
writes of an old scar.
On her wrist it sleeps, smooth and white,
the size of a leech.
I gave it to her
brandishing a new Italian penknife.
Look, I said turning,
and blood spat onto her shirt.
My wife has scars like spread raindrops
on knees and ankles,
she talks of broken greenhouse panes
and yet, apart from imagining red feet,
(a nymph out of Chagall)
I bring little to that scene.
We remember the time around scars,
they freeze irrelevant emotions
and divide us from present friends.
I remember this girl’s face,
the widening rise of surprise.
And would she
moving with lover or husband
conceal or flaunt it,
or keep it at her wrist
a mysterious watch.
And this scar I then remember
is a medallion of no emotion.
I would meet you now
and I would wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred between us.
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