Friday, April 22, 2011

Journey into the Interior

How long has it been since I had those delicious chills from an idea, from a turn of phrase? It happened again today, when I read a poem by Margaret Atwood.

Journey to the Interior
By Margaret Atwood

There are similarities
I notice: that the hills
which the eyes make flat as a wall, welded
together, open as I move
to let me through; become
endless as prairies; that the trees
grow spindly, have their roots
often in swamps; that this is a poor country;
that a cliff is not known
as rough except by hand, and is
therefore inaccessible. Mostly
that travel is not the easy going
from point to point, a dotted
line on a map, location
plotted on a square surface
but that I move surrounded by a tangle
of branches, a net of air and alternate
light and dark, at all times;
that there are no destinations apart from this.

There are differences
of course: the lack of reliable charts;
more important, the distraction of small details:
your shoe among the brambles under the chair
where it shouldn't be; lucent
white mushrooms and a paring knife
on the kitchen table; a sentence
crossing my path, sodden as a fallen log
I’m sure I passed yesterday
(have I been
walking in circles again?)

but mostly the danger:
many have been here, but only
some have returned safely.

A compass is useless; also
trying to take directions
from the movements of the sun,
which are erratic;
and words here are as pointless
as calling in a vacant wilderness.

Whatever I do I must
keep my head. I know
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes

The specific line? “that there are no destinations apart from this.” When someone else’s words leap out at you and you have that bone deep sense of recognition? That’s what this line did to me. A vague dream that I’d forgotten came back to me in flickering pictures. An uneasy semi-horror-flick, semi-blurry-black-and-white image of a long-forgotten sensation superimposed on my deliberate denial….

I suppose its not particularly profound, but then, well, that’s why this is all so personal. I don’t remember when my “flight” began. I seem to lose myself in that Bermuda Triangle of an adolescence that I vaguely remember in my mind. This, of course, must be left mid-thought.