Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Day 214: Up/Down

It's hard to get up when you feel down; as it is hard to feel down when you're up - up, up, and away, floating on a dream, on a high of hope, horizon surrounding you. Hard to even get up, out of bed, when you're down - down, down, in the dumps, after the balloons have burst, down and dank and dreary and everything flat and monotone.

But poetry understands, sees the situation in all its detail and significance. What causes this? Is it 'the future tense, immense as outer space' or the 'drowned events' of the past, 'pressing you down like sea-water, like gelatin' as Margaret Atwood asks? Sometimes sharing is understanding. And poetry is healing.  And Margaret Atwood's poetry is strangely compelling in its accuracy and empathy.

Up - Margaret Atwood 

You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window,
there is birdsong,
you can't get out of bed.

It's something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast - some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open - you do not dare to eat.

What prevents you? The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its destiny
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget that and let's get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one's useless.
It's never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you've tried.)

Now here's a good one:
You're lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

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