Archive for March 2011

Stealing Our Becoming

March 17, 2011

“stolen,” can be read on pp. 108-109 of heart speech this (Atropos Press, 2009, ISBN 9 780982 530948)

Death. Loss. Crying and holding back tears. Finding the world colorless and impossible to move through. Everything heavy, thick, wrong. Hating the parts of ourselves that once knew how to dance, how to love, and feeling our bodies weigh twice what they did before he died or she left or we failed. So impossible to breathe or stand. “stolen” comes from these times, these places in my life.

“stolen” was inspired by a dance choreographed by Joyce S. Lim, one of my favorite choreographers and dancers. Her art lives community, lives the stories of women who work, travel, play, celebrate, mourn, and go slowly or rapidly insane. Lim uses dance as if the stage and its dancers were multiple screens, each with its own story, its own poetry. Lim’s works bring together women whose stories and poems unravel in spaces that occasionally overlap and reshape each other. “stolen” was one of these works.

I wrote ‘”stolen” after seeing Lim’s performance. She brought together her experiences and lessons from a year’s stay in Japan. And in this project, Lim used references to “the floating world” to express the futility and despair of women caught in roles of endless repetition and consumption. It was a raw, wrenching work.

In “stolen,” the poem echoes the movements of separate and overlapping performers. The words bring me back to the woman who is grieving, partly sea in her loss, partly stone. Images from the dance—“a rock mouthed, carried, released/ stacked until fallen, brushed aside,” and “the sorrow of eating oneself/ raw, flecking bone with scale, feeding”—work into the sorrow of the poem, and the poem enacts a transformation from ocean and rock to sun and sky.

The poem begins with “She became the sea.” And I want to ask, isn’t this part of grief, feeling dissolved into something so large and other than human, knocked off our feet and unable to walk, numb and yet compelled to replay tasks that are meaningless or destructive or both?

And yet, for me, “stolen” is a comforting poem to read when so much in the world feels gray and heavy. There is a pregnancy and birth that rises from grief—“She became life, dropping stones into a pool,/ walking as if she had legs, breathing/ as if she had lungs”—and language—“become tongues for speech.” And the poem becomes more transformative, more generative than the dance, because the woman impels herself to move from floating within a shell of who she was. “She became the sun and sky the surface broke” as if she were diving upward rather than down. And I am comforted when I repeat, “She became; she became” because it feels like a promise so much easier than “she became the sea.”

Grief and heaviness can be broken into “shreds” with patience, with time, with trust that something will change if we just stay in ourselves and let what we do teach us when to drop what is too heavy, too meaningless to continue doing. And remembering that loss will circle back like a tide and reclaim us, just as births will surprise and delight us, may be what we can “steal” from moments and months of failure that may seem to have no end. Remembering that time is “measured in scars, coral increments, scuttled lines” rather than sea, sun, or sky.

If stealing our lives back from sadness and pain means living “as if” rather than “feeding what comes to destruction,” then perhaps the “as if” is worth considering, perhaps believing that “two stones could kiss” might bring back the chance to breathe and to be someone else. Remembering the pain, letting it fall into our memories like broken shells dropped into the ocean.