Thursday, March 15, 2012

Too Much






This is a response to Charles Miller's Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub  which was to annotate a poem to 'fill in the gaps." I don't know if I'll be entirely successful, since I'm far from sure exactly where this particular poem really came from, but here goes...

This poem has been sitting unposted in my files for several months because it troubles me. It has been difficult to rewrite it, or re-direct it in any way. Many of my poems come in the form of dreams, or as the ashes of a dream unremembered except for a few words. This one came fully clothed, all in one piece, extremely detailed, especially the smells described, and the sights were cinematically real. 

It was so much like an interior documentary that I feel I should be able to assign names and faces and dates to the events in it; yet I’ve never been anywhere near a war, or part of a medical team, or indeed, in any crisis situation where someone else’s blood was flowing. At the time of the dream, no one I knew was ill or dying. I can only say I feel the characters are functioning as archetypes representing a sense of profound loss and disjunction with expectations, due to some personal family events, none of which involved death or physical trauma, shortly before the dream’s occurrence. I think sometimes our psych interprets emotions physically, and that this is a case in point. 

That said, this was on the nightmare side of the dream world, and there are some graphic descriptions here, another reason why I’ve not posted it, so please, if you are squeamish, you might prefer not to read further.




Too Much



I don’t know who you were
who came to me last night
a dream of a time of war
Your uniform was grey
the sky was grey
the ground a mud turned red
that never came from clay
I only know you loved me as I loved you
as we both loved
the shattered form before us, frail on
the blood slick table, close to death.
Hard hours we labored to save it
hard hours in sweat and battle’s filth, bathed
in the halitus of mortis, lapped by the slosh
and reek of the charnal house
till at last we looked up across the boards
and shared an uncertain smile
before you dropped down screaming to the dirt
your gut wound angry, pulsing out a fat grey mile
your hand to the blasted side kept turned from view,
and then I cried out over the stench you threw,

This is too much , too much,
too much
not you, too.





January 2012




Image: Untitled [antique surgical kit at International Museum of Surgical Science
by Jeremy M Farmer, on flick'r
Shared under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

25 comments:

  1. Your words transported me in time. I felt as if were there, seeing each word unfold one after another. Beautifully visceral imagery. (Hugs)Indigo

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  2. Good thing lunch was a while ago. That grey smile is gonna stick with me for a while I'm afraid. A past life memory perhaps or a tragic love story that needs to be written? Any which way, I like it.

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  3. This has that sense of urgency and immediacy that always would come in time of war. Your introduction is very interesting, and I think it gives insight into you as an artist and the the way that poems come to you. What i find most interesting is that you're turned off by the poem and that you still find meaning in it, in what it can't or doesn't mean. I think we have to live with a lot of uncertainty, and admitting it to ourselves is a good step to achieving a higher state of cosciousness. We have to be prepared to remain open to those things that bring us meaning simply by their obscurity as much as by their rational content. I wonder what the poem will mean to you five years from now, or even whether its meaning will ever become clear.

    The poem has a disturbing quality, for sure, for its graphic description of a field hospital in a war. I've had those dreams that seem to come from somewhere else that speak of realities untouched by the life we are living day to day. The pain of a love borne by sense of duty amid wrack and ruin surely speaks of a pian so deep that loss of the loved will be too much. The final insult in a world that displays so much wanton cruelty.

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    1. Well, after reading a few others, I wondered if I'd totally missed your point, but thanks for the insights, Charles. I agree, dreams that baffle at the time(in poem form or otherwise) later can seem painfully obvious, and also, the whole process does definitely work out on that plane you describe, of being repelled, but instructed, or at least willing/needing to look at the obscurity and uncertainty and find it has some purpose, even if finding it is like nailing jello to the wall. Thanks so much for your comments, and for hosting today.

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  4. The images are disturbing, and it's a terrifying scene... it's hard to make things out of nightmares but they always seem like a dark cloud that follows you. That said I liked it!

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  5. I don't think you missed the point at all ... I think trying to figure out the background of a poem is as valid as knowing it ... and of course, that process can go on forever ... what is it that some famous poet said, "...there are no finished poems, only abandoned ones ..." (I'm paraphrasing) I tend to agree. This was visceral and authentic and won't be easily forgotten ...

    http://aleapingelephant.blogspot.com/2012/03/closest-to-edge.html

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  6. dang i would say on the nightmare side of things...vicious in imagery, a gut wound is pretty nasty...on a side note...i had a boy i worked with who would see a civil war soldier...you def captured the texture of the war...i can not imagine handling the wounded in the war...all the trauma and having to take care of so many at once....hope you sleep in peace tonight...smiles.

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  7. I hope you never have a dream such as this come true, hedgewitch. It's amazing what our subconscious gets up to when we're asleep. Too much was the perfect title for this.

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  8. Whatever that has anything to do with hospitals can be unnerving. There are sufferings,wails of pain,blood,smells of medicine and morbid when death stares! Great verse!

    Hank

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  9. Very sad sad poem. I don't think you missed the point--brave too. It reminds me a bit of Cold Mountain (not the horrible movie, but the wonderful book.)

    I don't think you missed the point, but I found this a very difficult prompt--partly because I am tremendously busy at the moment, on a very social visit, so can't really take a break, but also because I find the great thing about art is that it is NOT necessarily personal--no, that's not right--that we don't have to detail the personal part of it. Already the blogosphere a bit difficult for me on that count.

    But you've handled that issue too, so beautifully. In that it is an intensely personal, but not confessional, or martyrish, poem. K.

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  10. Dream and poem share an interface that's as vital as it is inexplicable -- who knows where this shit really comes from, attempts to nail a dream with analysis have been as successful as trying to rescue its histronic arrears. I've heard it said that for a child, abuse is commensurate with an adult's experience of a concentration camp; the walls are that thin in the younger psyche. Time and space are metaphors in the dream, so fluid that there's no telling if a past or future life is being expressed, a parent's or a child's, or all at once. (Ergo the poem's oxymoronic fluid precision.) I got the dream-ego's frozen regard for the spectacle, unable to intercede enough, helplessly watching great wounds show their worst guts ("fat grey mile," indeed). Horror is like that, the devil's eye-candy, opening the funhouse door to reveal the fuming trenches of the Somme. To every alchemy, a nigredo, even a mortificatio, darkness infinite, motion impossible. Getting it down on paper -- even posting it -- allows the image to go into the "completed stuff" folder. There's no grief without the stink, no burial without washing the body. Tight and sharp and shrieking, but done nonetheless. Til the next dream, at least. One of your best, Hedge - Brendan

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    1. Thanks, B. I do feel much better having gotten this off the plate. It was one of the few things I've ever had come to me that refused to be rewritten--I've tweaked a few words, cut out a few 'ands' and 'thes,' and that's all. I agree that the forces of the child experience are so intense, they shape us permanently;one of the truest things I ever head was that if you have a happy childhood, nothing can ever alter your view that the world is a positive place, that life is good. And vice versa, one would suppose, though I think most of us climb out of our damaging childhoods to find the world is not nearly as bad when we have adult tools to deal with it. One of those tools for me is this play of the psyche from dream to poem, that works out those emotional wounds and forces acceptance and healing, things much harder in practice than they are in theory. Thanks for the kind words, and the keen insight.

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  11. Fantastic write! I believe we have to write, even when we don't comprehend what we've written. Writing is, after all, for the reader, and I wonder sometimes if it is written for them to understand in whatever way they percieve it, even though to us it may seem fragmented and meaningless. I don't often write about my strange dreams, but after these thoughts--and yours--maybe I should.
    (My every day life has been strange enough. My dreams? Oh, man!)
    http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/hes-aggravatin-2/

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    1. That's an interesting point, Charles--I do believe also that when the words leave our pens they belong to the reader. And I think dreams have a lot of raw material for us--go for it. ;-)

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  12. Without reading your own explanation for this poem, I have to say that it seems to be an inherited memory you have captured from an ancestor who lived through the civil war.. so real is this shared memory - it is tangible.

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    1. Possibly, though afaik my family composed of late-wave Swedish and German immigrants was not in this country yet at the time of the civil war--and I live in a state that was not settled or fought over during it either. Yet I also believe there are things in the aether that can seep in--and I would be the last to say I could name where they originate.

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  13. your gut wound angry, pulsing out a fat grey mile
    your hand to the blasted side kept turned from view,
    and then I cried out over the stench you threw

    all i can say is- WOW. Even without the explanation this is hard hitting, wrats and all emotionally BRUTAL description of war- BUT- i think it is much more than that- and somehting visible again, without the background- but I definately sensed that this was a metaphor for a life event- something between loved ones- somehting that had blown you apart. I think dreams like this are often us as humans trying to process and undseerstand our lifes in whatever form they choose to take. This could be one of those situations, or indeed, it could be a memory from a previous life...all i know is- i love writing like this- raw, warts and all- spilled out (like guts) and provoking an intense reaction in myself- great work

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    1. Thanks stu. As you know your own poem was one of my favorites of this challenge. And I tend to agree with your interpretation--the more I see it on the page, the more it speaks to me of a progression of realizations about things. Thanks for stopping by, and for your generous comments.

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    2. oh dang..this left me sitting with my mouth wide open...the emotions are so strong that they almost hurt while reading...for me it has both, a very surreal but also very real feeling...the fighting..loving...loss.. kinda like all that held the narrator together disappeared from one moment to the other..and nothing, rally nothing is left...an awesome and deep write hedge

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  14. I am glad I read the poem, despite your warning. I squinted my eyes at the graphic parts and zipped over them. I find the poem strong and vibrant and a read that does not let go easily. Thank you for this.

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  15. The repetition of ‘too much’ drove home the helplessness in the face of monstrous, overwhelming loss. I think dreaming puts us most closely in contact with the entirety of time so that like awakening to the sharp pain as we remember the death of another forgotten in sleep we are rent sideways by the intensity of emotion, the clarity of vision, and depth of insight. Your poem arrives like a fiery wind, straight from the plains of dreamtime. Sometimes your work thunders through me and all I can do in response is breathe.

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  16. This felt to me like past life imagery--thoughts of the Civil War came to mind, of course. I guess because I'm a nurse, the graphic parts didn't bother me in a squeamish way, but more in terms of life wasted, destroyed by the idiocy of war. Excellent write, hedge.

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  17. The vividness of all of this, particularly the description of the abdominal wound at the end, makes me wonder if you didn't live this, in another life. I know you don't believe in such stuff, but I do. My goodness but this is immediate, and horrible, and heartbreaking.

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  18. Good you shared it. What to do with such dreams? I agree that you must write them, and release their power. Released power can actually do something in our psyches that perhaps start some healing. Who knows. These wounds, I was thinking about being a child this way yesterday. That thin membrane, the fears. This whole crazy human existence, especially the long drawn out development of the child, is so fragile and frightening. It's breathtaking in beauty and in pain, as you combine here so well, and always do.

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