shake your head—shake your mind
no smell of world or life
believe, think, dream no more
but yet feel of heart more and more
shake your head—shake your mind
no smell of world or life
believe, think, dream no more
but yet feel of heart more and more
If a woman ever suggests paying for her dinner when she is on a date with a man,
he is quick to object.
Why even dare propose such a thought?
Of course not.
Yet why does this protestation occur?
Money dost rule.
Chivalry is dead.
God save the queen—she cannot save herself!
’Tis a cost too high.
My paying for dinner does not transform you,
does not change your gender,
does not change your biology.
You are still a man,
Even if I split the bill.
There are kindnesses;
There are actions, of course.
But that does not mean that they should be demanded, by either side.
You will not woo me by buying me
a six cent sweet or
a sixty dollar six-course meal
at a quarter past six.
Owe you I not;
Therefore, expect you not anything.
You woo me when you
Entreat me to be your
So let me be.
And you talk with me—
intellectually and politely—
push me and argue with me—
think about what I have to say
and who I am.
Many men have bought my bill,
but I have not bought theirs.
’Tis too high a cost.
Summer gardens of ancient era
Or modern mystery, continuing to change
Writhing and wicked, wreathing and withered
A wild thing
And yet, think again—
—A beauty still, a marvelous kind
But, yet, what new finds
And a smell of pine
Alizabeth Leake—talented poet, wonderful tutor, caring friend. Her gifted writing skills are shown below in some of the poems she has allowed me to post here on this blog. Enjoy! ❤
Love Story of a Dirt Road
I pulled at my mother’s sleeve
when I couldn’t match my feet to hers,
feeling pricks of scab at her elbows
that she always had
from clawing her goose bumps,
and asked if I could take a picture
of a shoreline of mud on an overturned rock,
a single soggy sock on the road.
The love story of a country road
is not a song
an attempt to say
the thin-wind thirst of the long, sun worn days
it does not speak through
layers of rock, or even
a single, dry feather.
It is as silent as the highest winter-limbs of the cedar.
We stayed until evening because to leave meant
to be alone again, as is a part of love,
and with the setting red sun all sank into
a prayer that hangs by the root tangles,
heavier than the tired eyelids
of the newborn.
To the Stairs from My Room in the Basement
At day, I’ll smell your climate of small
bodies shadow-legged and webbed and pay
my morning salutation so each vertebrae
in your bent back cracks under heel’s fall,
take the slanted staff that stems the wall—
forget the bed of my spent head you play
this night, my ribs and hips and face that lay
hard swollen in your crib, forget all.
Against your diagonal wilderness
this night I compass my angular soul,
though the weather of loneliness and soft yawn.
You are the chamber in which I undress
and arrange rigid limbs. Hold me whole,
old heart-closet, keep, bridge me to dawn.
To My OCD
Age 5. You looked for the chain of paper clips hooked
beneath the top drawer, felt for coins in the slots
of my cassette case and between picture book pages,
for beads dug through the seams of stuffed animals
and looked again because only if they weren’t there
would you remember checking for the things I’d stolen.
Age 7. You hid in a cupboard set between black marble floor
and black marble countertop when you skipped little league
cheer practice because you weren’t supposed to be home.
I stared at the pins of light that came through the hinges.
Age 13. In the after-vacation invasion, my brother found
a jar of pickles, the lid’s pressure button belly-up.
Everyone else had egg salad for lunch and lost it
for dinner. I declined, and for that I thank you.
Age 18. My EMT workbook open on my desk: two wings
limp with fatigue. Check-offs in the margins like beaker marks,
a purple-capped phial of separated blood in my pencil mug.
I almost finished at the top of the class but you convinced me
not to take the exam so I would never risk mixing winged
with shielded IV catheters or counting CPR beats too quickly.
One day, you’ll shuffle over tile in padded orthopedics
so I wake in the morning and wonder what I heard,
knee jerk my way downstairs to check the furnace and jump
at an empty popcorn bag. Maybe, I’ll wonder just long enough
to forget whether or not I should latch the chimney at night.
A pair of them, Korean, one of three decorations that I wasn’t willing to leave at home when I went to college. One of the beaks is painted green and the other red with the wood visible beneath. Each cups the length of my palm, a little skinnier, a little taller, the weight of an egg. After eleventh grade when my friend went back home to Seul after a year, she gave them to me in a silk sack. “Remember, this is wedding gift, for happy marriage.”
I keep one in each boot.
Behind the refrigerator doors
hall of mirrors,
behind the metal racks under the light bulbs’
spread, there fallen
on dark cement: a gallon of skim milk,
handle split like an opened bean,
milk pours staccato out of the seam
the widening tundra-gray tide.
A grocer boy with hands in pockets
counts empty slots down the dairy aisle,
across the spill’s edge,
the milk prickling on rough cement.
1. A smooth surface reflects light in a single, brilliant beam. It is on the harsh and fractured ground that light disperses, touching our dark corners.
2. Friction. 1) Static: The resistance to starting movement. 2) Kinetic: The resistance to continuing movement. Remember holding hands for the first time?
3. The principle of latent heat demonstrates that the temperature we feel is the transfer of heat or energy between two objects. We measure all things by measuring the change in ourselves.
brown rice spills
out of a blue tupperware
like yesterday’s minutes.
When you first learn a song, play with one hand at a time.
When you know the right and left, play with both hands together.
When you know a song in your heart, forget how to play the one hand without the other.
The outside of
What I can see
How would it seem
If I could be
Inside its bark
Inside its soul
Would be my goal
Photography: Oak City Canyon
Expressive theory, which exploded from the 1700s into the 1800s, “stressed the relationship between the work of the art and the artist, particularly the special faculties of mind and soul that the artist brings to the act of creation” (Richter 2). Perhaps social change impacted the shift from rhetorical criticism to expressive criticism. The explosion of the printing press and the reading of the masses contributed to this shift to expressive theory. Less-educated people who now had access to literature unknown to this class before made the matter of taste of the upmost importance to theorists.
As a result, theorists considered the importance of taste; while theorists “examined the inner experience of readers, [theorists] found that the faculties behind good taste, the capacities that made ideal readers—delicate imagination, good sense, wide experience—were the same as those that made the best poets” (Richter 7). The creative faculties, therefore, of the poet could be studied, understood, and theorized about in expressive theories. Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all fall under the label of poet-centered theory, while both modern theorists, Bloom and Foucault, put the author in question. Yet all these theorists consider, whether implicitly or explicitly, the importance of the author, thus defining the author in various ways and changing our idea of literature in the process.
Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all focus on the cult of the artist. There was a big shift from the “out there” (the world) to the “in here” (the mind). When talking about poetry, there was less worry about how accurately art represents the world and more focus on how a particular poem reveals the way the mind perceives beauty and the way that imagination inspires genius. Kant emphasizes the work itself—that beauty is a unique kind of judgment, which does not necessarily serve the ends of truth or goodness. Beauty, for Kant, is a value, and work has value, whether or not for a moral purpose or a truthful purpose. Beauty itself is good enough. Kant focuses on what goes on in the mind of the writer. Kant takes an epistemic turn by moving into the mind to understand literature; for example, Kant argues, “Genius is the inborn predisposition of the mind . . . through which nature gives the rule to art” (Leitch 445).
Kant believes the poet is important because the poet creates beauty.For Kant, “the genius (the creative artist) highlights freedom above all else,” and “[t]he genius has a natural gift, a talent, which enables the production of exemplary and original beautiful works in the absence of any preexisting formula or rule for that production” (Leitch 410). Kant focuses on a theory of knowledge by trying to understand the sources and limits of human knowledge. Kant is not content that knowledge is completely subjective, believing that we humans are wired for thinking (i.e., cause and effect, similarities and differences, etc.).
In the Critique of Judgment, Kant analyzes three categories (truth, goodness, and beauty), but Kant does not focus on the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty but rather our mind’s way of apprehending truth, how the mind perceives morals, and how the mind perceives beauty. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant believes that aesthetics, judgment, and poetry turn out to be really the keystone of our knowledge. Judgment, which includes our imagination and aesthetic sense, is the mediator between pure reason and practical reason, that is it mediates between knowledge and action by being both reason and sensory.
Aesthetics bring the will and truth together—but in a practical way. Kant’s point is that poetry fills in the gap or mediates between truth and goodness. Kant goes beyond art and literature into bigger questions, arguing that all things being equal, acting is the law for everyone
If we believe in absolute truth, then we are Kantians. But what is absolute truth? An absolute truth is true whether or not we agree, and it is true independent of anything we do, think, or say. Kant raises the questions of beauty. Are there universal judgments or relative judgments of beauty? Something beautiful may feel like a subjective universal. Beauty is complicated because it is partly in the mind and partly in the things themselves. The judgment of taste or beauty is not logical but aesthetic.
The judgment of beauty occurs in the mind, yet it feels universal. Beauty serves a purposive purposelessness—something seems like it has a purpose but does not think that it serves no purpose at all other than to be beautiful. Kant’s thoughts lead to the aesthetics movement or the art for art’s sake era of writers like Oscar Wilde. Kant’s thoughts also lead to the idea that art is its own reward, or you do not need to pay for art; this leads to artists, the creative geniuses, who starve in attics—alienated, unappreciated, and alone. While Kant believes “[t]he experience of beauty tells us that the mind and world fit,” yet Kant also argues that “[t]he sublime, in contrast, shows us a misfit between mind and world” (Letich 409).
When we sense the sublime, our imagination strives to progress, and our imagination tries to grasp infinity, but our reason tries to embrace and enclose in a system that we can control. The sublime is infinity versus totality. Yet we cannot comprehend the vastness of its space. Despite this inadequacy within us, we still have the concept of infinity even if there is no experience with infinity. The sublime happens in our head—mind, soul, spirit. The sublime is an effect of our thinking and perception, not an attribute of the world out there. Even the ability to think proves that the mind has a power surpassing any standard sense. As Kant says, “Thus sublimity is not contained in anything in nature, but only in our mind” (Leitch 440). As a result, the sublime is the clearest evidence that Kant is moving into the mind (of the author as genius).
Perhaps Kant’s real purpose of art or literature is for pleasure. Language and form contribute to the reader’s pleasure of something. Maybe when reading a play, the reader will stop to consider a particular passage that seems to freeze in its tracks; this passage may not forward the plot, but the reader doesn’t care because of the beauty that pleases. It may be out of context but the reader pays attention and listens. These passages can be so great but have nothing to do with the play; therefore, the passages of beauty have no purpose (nothing political, dogmatic, plot-wise, etc.) other than to be pleasing. Some people argue that a poet is just trying to make money, but passages like these, full of beauty, suggest that writing is a good thing that brings about goodness, truth, and beauty.
Coleridge focuses on the creation of something beautiful out there, emphasizing the active mind of the artist, like Kant. Coleridge believes in primary imagination, secondary imagination, and fancy. While primary imagination is the mind’s ability to perceive, secondary imagination coexists with the will or what we draw on to create memories from our reality (the creative/artistic). In other words, the poet’s own mind is primary imagination, while the poetic genius is the secondary imagination.
Therefore, we go into the mind not just the form on the page. Imagination effects literature. Past literature, following strict rules like iambic pentameter and heroic couplets, could be following primary imagination, while the Romantic poets followed perhaps more of a secondary imagination, following what his or her mind tells him or her to do (or following the will of what the poet’s genius or the poet’s mind tells him or her to do).
On the other hand, fancy is basically a combination of preexisting things fused together; you do not animate them or bring them to life but reorganize them in space and time. Consequently, fancy is not as creative as imagination: “Coleridge’s theory of the primary and secondary imagination honors the creative capacity of persons while remaining steadfast to the primacy of God; even more, Coleridge implies that each re-creative act that a poet performs is an act of worship” (Leitch 582).
How we perceive the world makes realities, even if it is plural realities. As we become aware of multiple perceptions and possibilities, we choose the life we live in. We choose a world of eternal possibilities, and other realities can always impinge the integrated whole, big picture. Someone can change his or her view, switching to remake reality. Imagination also becomes a choice. And the author has a super imagination connected with genius. When defining the author, Coleridge asks, “What is poetry? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet? that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other” (Leitch 590).
The author has a super imagination, and when connected with literature, the author’s imagination enhances the literature, making it more pleasurable for the reader. Coleridge questions the coherence or unity of the text; therefore, the organic whole becomes the basis of good literature for Coleridge. A reader can analyze a play if it is anachronistic. The play may seem like a mess, but the reader can look for underlying unity. Through incongruity, the text makes itself aware and becomes an organic work of art. The reader has to work to pull the context of the play together through analysis and synthesis, intellectually separating the distinguishable parts but then restoring the parts to unity.
The first purpose of poetry is the beauty and pleasure we get from it and then connect it with the whole and its parts. As the reader reconciles apparent opposites or paradoxes, there becomes an active cooperation between the text and the reader, suggesting that the text is something organic and alive.
Shelley, like Coleridge, also emphasizes the nature of art, or the imagination, while looking at the principles of the mind. While Kant focuses on the mind and how poetry is the go-between of goodness and pleasure, and Coleridge discusses how poetry is in the mind of the author in regards to imagination, Shelley believes that the poet is the unacknowledged legislator to the world (of morals and of mankind) (Leitch 613).
Because the poet is inspired, poetry has the power to inspire others and improve the world. The poet can become like a poet-prophet. Shelley is outraged that poets starve in attics unappreciated. For Shelley, “[p]oetry acts in another diviner manner” through the mind’s “a thousand unapprehend combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar” (596). Language is not just cognitive; language communicates entire ranges of what it means to be human, including emotions and our highest ideas, our morality, and our spirituality.
Poetry gives delight and is an instrument of moral improvement; thus, poetry becomes more efficacious than moral philosophy. Poetry is the driving force of culture and the history of human experience and thought. Through the creation of poetry, “a poet participates in the divine nature” (600), since “[p]oetry is indeed something divine” (609). Poetry has divine sources with divine effects, but the poets are inspired: it is not just poetry, but it is the poets themselves who are inspired and then translate benefits for all. For Shelley, “[p]oetry is the record of the best and happiest moment of the happiest and best minds” (610) of the poet, since “[a] Poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue, and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men” (611).
Poets enhance beauty, reconcile contradictions, and recreate the world. By shifting to the poet, Shelley emphasized the ultimate conditions of poetry that exist in the mind and in the imagination, which is more than just the ability to clone images of realities and is more than reason (imagination is cognitive and emotional, moral and religious, and richer, therefore, than mere reason alone). This all comes down to the poet. Kant shifted into the mind, Coleridge shifted into the mind through analyzing imagination, and Shelley shifted into the mind through analyzing morals.
Foucault & Bloom
Foucault and Bloom are both interested in the history of the poet. Bloom believes the poet struggles with his or her precursors, thus experiencing an anxiety of influence, yet Bloom even admits that his precursors are Nietzsche and Freud. As Bloom explains, “[p]oetic history . . . is held to be indistinguishable from poetic influence, since strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative spaces for themselves” (Leitch 1651).
This perspective of the author is useful for the way we read literature—that is to read every text as a response to all the previous literature or to see how many traces of earlier literature that are there so that you can see a struggle between the text and a previous text for precedence. The reader can then work out the strategy of the battle, explaining how this text changed from the earlier text.
In contrast, Foucault focuses on how discourse changes and evolves while defining the author-function. For Barthes, the birth of the reader comes from the death of the author, making it possible for different readers and a multiplicity of readings; yet, for Foucault, the author-function provides an array of possibilities constrained by the author, reduced down to singularity, suggesting an ideological construct, not a natural construct. Foucault summarizes the functions of the author as the following:
[T]he author-function is [first] tied to the legal and institutional systems that circumscribe, determine, and articulate the realm of discourses; [second,] it does not operate in a uniform manner in all discourses, at all times, and in any given culture; [third,] it is not defined by the spontaneous attribution of a text to its creator, but through a series of precise and complex procedures; [finally,] it does not refer . . . to an actual individual insofar as it simultaneously gives rise to a variety of egos and to a series of subjective positions that individuals of any class may come to occupy. (Leitch 1485)
This author-function occurs within the discursive system, thus revealing mechanics of discourse in the absence of the author. It is not an individual over a text or group of texts but rather a function that the author serves to established systems: “The concept author . . . is an organizing device, permitting us to group certain texts together” (Leitch 1470).
Foucault “questions and examines the concept of authorship and, in insights that were taken up by the New Historicism, argued that analysis of literary texts could not be restricted to these texts themselves or to their author’s psychology and background; rather, the larger contexts and cultural conventions in which texts were produced needed to be considered” (Habib 151). This influences how we look at literature. When we read, we look for boundaries or how power of reading reflects what this discourse controls or tries to transgress.
The reader is not interested in the author or who he or she is. Rather, the reader is interested in how things articulate within the discursive system (i.e., is the text resisting the system, or is the text following established norms?). As a result, reading becomes more practical by how you group texts; it is no longer the genius of the author. The author has multiple functions, thus expanding the reader experience through various discourses into something more accessible, global, or multicultural.
The reader analyzes the text in different ways by seeing literature in a network, being influenced in a thousand different directions. Literature is immersed, not transcendent. As a result, the idea of the author is diminished if the reader reduces the author to a series of cultural influences.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, for Bloom and Foucault, there is less emphasis on the enlightened, genius poet, which contrasts greatly to Kant, Coleridge, and Shelly. There is less emphasis on genius and more emphasis on influence for Bloom and Foucault; poetry, therefore, could be seen as more accessible and more able to influence culture, in some ways, than what the Romantics suggested of an exceedingly brilliant poet speaking down to mere mortals.
Our understanding of what the author is changes what literature should do. Early theorists perhaps would argue that the author-genius is inspired and consequently bestows morals (like with Shelley) and absolute truth (like with Kant) through poetry and literature.
For the modern theorists, by struggling with wanting to be different or how the author is influenced, this makes literature become less influenced and less on a pedestal, and success of literature is not based then on whether the poet can change the world. The early theorists all talked about how the poet influences through the poet’s genius, while the later theorists focused on how the poet is influenced. Although the earlier theorists emphasized that the reader should be inspired (maybe through the sublime or beauty) as well as brought up higher (Shelley), the later theorists would focus more on the individualistic nature of the modern experience.
Last summer of the Year of the Revolution
The First Unit split into three: the sapphire hearts, the ruby stars, the emerald diamonds; the Second Unit argued about whether sapphires and rubies would join
The Third Unit didn’t care
I was part of the Third Unit,
Yet at the time, I knew nothing
Politics meant nothing to me, and talking heads sounded like voodoo magic gone wrong
It’s not that I didn’t care—I just didn’t know, I just wasn’t aware of my surroundings
All I cared about was my surgery, a little preoccupied, I guess you could say
That summer everything would change
I was born different, and, finally, I would fit in with other kids my age
I couldn’t go away from class because, well, my parents didn’t think that I would fit in
I’d be made fun of, pushed, teased, tricked out of a normal adolescent’s experience
If the surgery went well, they said, I could go with the other students to class
Homeschool would no longer be an option
Okay, I said to them. I can do this, I said.
The surgery experimental and expensive—I was a lucky one, my parents told me
The requirements included connections and being over the age of fifteen—I was that plus an additional four months due to paperwork and payments and under-the-table negotiations
I wasn’t really aware about that either until later
Never before had I been allowed to play with kids my age
Nor had I been allowed really go outside alone without either parent by my side
I could walk fine and learned how to read through hard work, but it had happened through blood, sweat, tears
And learned about all sorts of history
Like pop star music hits and movie quotes and listened to everything I could get my hands on
I wanted to be prepared to fit in as much as the other kids once the surgery happened
One day I heard there would be a live performance of a play I had partly read a few years ago, downtown the night before my surgery
A famous name blurred by, I think it came from the TV, yet I just couldn’t figure out his name
Was it foreign? I hadn’t heard of it before, but I knew that I needed to go see this play, even if I hadn’t completely finished reading it. . . At least I kinda knew what it was about
What if the other students would go to this performance?
I needed to go, to fit in, to be cultured
To hear the words from Mr. K— D——
I wasn’t to go, especially never alone, I was told
It was too dangerous, they claimed
Being alone at that time of night at this time of year was especially unsafe
I would enjoy it more after the surgery, and the family could all go; my parents lovingly informed me that the Glasmere’s party was that evening, couldn’t I remember that, silly me
Because I wasn’t allowed to go outside, I asked if they could pick up some books for me, from the library since we weren’t able to purchase books that weren’t used–too expensive
Especially maps, like of old places and such, at the library nowadays
I had asked the maid to pick up a book about bus maps and descriptions of the city
The maid, in her little distant voice, placed her tiny hands in mine and promised to do so
“Ah vill geet vou deese boooks. Vut vill Ah dhell vour pahrents, vough?”
They would worry, of course, about “reading” so much before surgery and thinking too much and worrying too much about the world instead of focusing on preparing for surgery
I thought she had caught onto my plan
But no worries–I told her that reading helped to distract me and not to bother my parents with the silly things I wanted to read from the special library collection
Feeling those pages were liberation in my hands, freedom for my heart
Hours were spent in my room, hiding these treasure troves under my pillows
Pouring my soul into my liberty, my social salvation
The last performance of the show was the night before my surgery
My parents, fortunately, were to be guests elsewhere and asked,
“Are you sure you can be alone for a night without us both by your side”–they feared my fate without knowing my schemes
My dreams of running away were a silent whisper in my mind
The car was ready, the dinner prepared beforehand, and all was set according to plan
Kisses were shared, good-byes were said
Off they dashed into the world as I was left to remain alone in my room
But I had planned every moment as to not to be missed
As soon as I could no longer hear the car’s vroooooooom, I began my journey, which started in the opposite direction
I would turn three lefts at the corner, then one right at the last
The bus would arrived every ten minutes
Right on time
People chattered around me, their voices blending and blurring together as we collectively scrambled onto the steps
My careful steps were guided and safe
As I took my seat on my first bus ride alone
The bus stopped right in front of the theatre so I waited patiently, listening for The Charleston’s Theatre to ring through the air
Stepped off, found the line, bought my ticket, through the doors, showed my seat
All happened without a problem to bog mind, to distract my clarity
My stomach fluttered and quivering thoughts trembled in my mind of being caught in my act of escape
But no one mumbled in my ear to leave, and no one grabbed my arm in accusation
I merely sat in my seat when the curtains rustled
Voices of a chorus of men and women rung in my ears
Sweet, odd music–melodiously sad and melancholy–echoed through the theatre
Describing the fate of the hero at stake
He would do despicable things, but why would he do those acts?
Someone muttered behind me on my right how this was suppose to be Director Kaffkav’s best work yet
Another person on my left perhaps two rows back sighed and muttered about the beauty of the costumes, while the person beside me turned to me, her voice creaking like a frog’s old croak, saying how shocked she was that the staging was so bare
I said nothing, focusing on the lyrical words the performers spoke
These actors could play their voices as if they were instruments
Gentle yet strong; sometimes passionate but controlled
My favorite voice to listen to was the main actor, Gulioni Voce
His voice rung like sturdy, silver bells through the hall
Surprised—no ringing tinge of Italian when he spoke English translation of this Greek tragedy
My blood curled when I heard the prophet’s prophecy
My hair stood on end when Voce’s chilling cry sounded when he found the body of his role’s wife
My stomach churned when the despair of his voice sounded as he gouged out his eyes
The woman next to me muttered how startling the gold the pins looked in contrast to the black set that enshrined the actor
No man, no woman, no one is fortunate
Until they are dead
The echoes of those words chilled me to my very core
Even after the play ended
And the audience clapped
Those words resonated, as if bouncing back and forth inside my empty mind
All the way home
As I sat silently on the bus ride home, unable to look out the window and see the actors exiting the theatre to sign autographs or the audience’s plastered smiles or to see the red carpet rolled out, like blood spilling into the flowing waters of the Nile
I wanted to be Moses of the Old Testament—let my people go, let my Oedipus go
To the pharaoh of Egypt, to the writer of the Greek tragedy
Oedipus would never have done that, would never have gouged out his eyes, no matter how terrible the crime—sight was a gift from god, and no one should take that away
Sighing, I leaned my head to the left, resting my head against the hard rail, but I just couldn’t believe that the writer would or could ever write something as terrible as that
I guess I should have finished reading the play before I went to go see it live
That way I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the ending
I didn’t know—I didn’t know that would end that way
My head suddenly jerked forward, mid-thought
A screech of the breaks sounded, and I couldn’t feel the bus moving anymore
Why had we stopped?
The bus was silent, so I guess I was the last one, although the ride had not been very long, and a voice sprung to life, I guess it sounded like it was coming out of little, square box near my right ear
“All passengers off, please. Now, please. Ma’am, that would be you.”
But it was early
This wasn’t my stop. I was waiting for number 520, not 430
None of my protests helped
The bus driver escorted me down the steps.
Apparently, this bus stopped at number 430 after 10:00 p.m.
No, it wouldn’t go any further
Yes, yes, yes. Cut through the park, honey. You can use your cane to follow the fence rails. On the other side of the park, yes, yes, bus 520, that’s right, will be the bus stop you need.
His words still echo in my ears: yes, yes, yes . . .
His job was done. He wanted me off. He wanted to go home
But so did I.
So I did the only thing I could do—I started my journey across the park
Although my life is in constant darkness, I learned to be able to feel darkness, or heavy darkness, I guess you could call it
Of course, it was dark outside, but the shrouded trees felt like a blasphemous shrine, like the ones Catholics use, or maybe not, I read about it once in a book
Like dark magic or Satan worship or something I can’t quite remember the name of, you know, how certain words like that can just leave your brain in a moment
The park, I was completely unfamiliar with
The path, it was unknown
The fence, it rambled tap, tap, tap as my cane hit each bar as I walked
Alone, utterly alone, and lost—the fence ended, and I was left at a fork in the park’s pathway
As far as I could tell, at this point in time, no one was around me
Alone, utterly alone, and lost
“Hey, tootsie. You a red or a blue? You sure as hell better not be one of ’em greens’.”
A voice erupted behind me—I dropped my cane
“Who said that?” I mumbled under my breath. No one answered. Then I said it again, louder. Then again, even louder. The fourth time I said it, my voice came out in a shuddering scream.
But nobody answered my query
Yet I could hear, like bats flapping their wings in a cave, several bodies begin swish, swish with their clothing, you know how it rubs against your legs, and they came, circling me, and I didn’t know which way to turn, you know when you feel disoriented and don’t know right form left or up or down
I think I tripped, maybe over my cane I had dropped and tried desperately to feel out with my feet, but maybe it was one of the boys he started jeering near my ear and my heart jumped and a stumbled over a root or something or maybe it was a foot, I really don’t know
“I don’t see no red or no greenie or no even blue mark on ’er. What’d’e do?” The voice whined, like a sick dog in the heat.
“No mark means no side, right’e’o?” Another voice jumped out across the other side.
“No. What are you saying. No mark means ain’t mean no side. No mark means she one- ’em, don’t cha ’member, you’d be shitin’, fools. She one ’em. She a thirdy. She bets she’s one ’em purdy, thirdy, uppedys.”
The voice lurked like seeping black spit bursting from a tar pit
Then I felt a kick, and I was already on the ground, but my face landed in the gritty sand, and the sand rubbed my face raw, and he kicked again and then I felt more feet kicking me and a rumbling chant emerged in the back throttle of their voices “dirty thirdy, dirty thirdy” because I was part of the Third Unit
They did not hear my cries, and the more I said, the more they hurt me, and finally, someone kicked me in the mouth, and I felt warm blood spurt out on my face as two or three guys grabbed my legs and dragged me, like a dead, worthless deer you move out of the road, to a nearby tree, I guess more hidden from the path, even though I scratched and clawed and tried to scream but someone gagged me and someone grabbed my head and someone tied a hard cloth across my mouth
Hot, weathered rope burned across my hands and as they tied me to the tree like a wounded puppy being punished, and they tore my pretty white tights as they ripped and tore with their fingers and whatever they could grab and they hurt me, deeper, deeper, inside, they tore and I tried to fight I did, but I grew tired and melted and hurt as they climbed, as if conquered, on top of me, one, two, three, four, five. . .
They climbed on top of me and tried to climb me like a tree, each digging, tearing into my aching, bleeding body
The stabbing thrusts and jabs began to slow, tears and blood stained my face, and the mutterings “dirty thirdy,” after they threw something at my face and spat on my mangled flesh, began to fade in the cooling evening of the darkness
I had never felt darkness as I did that night
Salty, painful tears sprawled down from my silent eyes as I wished in the fragrantless stillness that I had never disobeyed my parent’s advice, that I had stayed home, that I had never gone outside alone
Because I never, ever in my life had felt alone as I did in this moment
I was left on the ground, like a tied up calf about to be sacrificed on an alter
When a voice emerged across my left side, I jolted and convulsed, but a hushing sound. . .
A girl’s hand touched my face as she loosened my gag, and I could feel another boy’s hands as he cut the ties from my hands
“Why’re ya oot ’night? Don’t cha know. . . ’night were da raids? Ya don’t have yar star or emerald on?”
“Oh, oh, oh, oh, Emelily. . . she one a ’em. Can’t cha see? She’d be a thirdy!”
I breathed in and out and tried to calm myself. My aching back made it difficult to sit up, but my mouth and hands were free.
“Yes, I’m from the third district,” I whispered. “But I’m blind. Do you see my cane? Please, please hand that to me. Yes, that’s it, yes. Please, can you help me get home?”
The young boy and girl were silent for a moment.
“Please,” I begged in my quietest tone. “I don’t care what side you’re on. And you shouldn’t care what side I’m on. We’re the same, can’t you see that? I know I can’t see, but you two are good, aren’t you?”
The two sat in silence for a few more moments. The girl then decided that her brother and she would help me home. But we would have to be fast. I realize now that they could have been killed if they were seen helping me. I pray to God that they weren’t.
When I told the little boy and girl my address, the little girl pinned a star to my chest. I was now one of them.
The little boy with soft, gentle hands delicately held my hand, and the girl, several inches taller than the other child, carefully wrapped her arms around me to give me support
We walked as quickly as I was able to, given that, although nothing felt broken, my back hurt to move or to be touched, and my ankle was twisted
The three of us, creatures lurking through the night, hide in the shadows and behind trees, avoiding other groups storming through the park, attacking passerbys, and those muffled screams sent shivers through my body
No police sirens were heard—no justice would be served this night
The attackers were the judges, their parents the jury, these two children, my saviors
The girl whispered in my ear when we had exited the park. My home was just a block or two away from the park. The streets were hushed, the houses silent.
No cars zoomed by in a rush to make curfew, and I knew my parents would not be home for hours still.
The Third District went to sleep at 8 p.m. during the workdays, unless it was a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday, because the Third District never worked—of course, unless you counted shuffling cards and enjoying hors d’oeuvres
The little boy and girl helped me enter the back gate of the house, holding my broken body somehow with their unexplainable strength
My bedroom was on the first floor of the flat, the window on the side, and I had left the screen down on purpose so I could sneak in after the play had finished
I whispered good-bye to the children, but I couldn’t tell if they had already scrambled away, back to the park to save other strangers like they had saved me
I closed the window and locked it
After I felt my way to the door and opened the bathroom door, I turned the water on and stepped in while pulling my filthy clothes off; while the water ran, I scrubbed the mix of blood and dirt off.
I was glad I couldn’t look in the mirror. Never before had I felt such shame, such guilt.
I let the water run. I just sat, empty and hollow and naked, in the bare tub.
“Oh, Julia! You are up! Did you hear the news? Last night, the Ruby stars, that’s what they’re calling them now, they attacked several people in the park last night. Your father and I will need to move soon. That nonsense! So close to our flat! It’s unheard of. Those people. . . well, indeed, they’ve never ventured so close to the Third Unit before in all my life. Can you hear that, Julia! Never before have I ever seen this trag—”
“Nor have I, mother. I have never seen before, you know that,” I interrupted.
My mother paused. I could hear her shuffling papers, and something was sizzling on the stove. She knew I wasn’t suppose to eat breakfast. But there she was, making eggs or bacons or toast for me, and I wasn’t suppose to eat.
“Oh, Julia! Don’t be so sensitive. You know today you will be able to see! Your surgery is
just in a few hours! I know I should have stayed home last night. Oh, you know. To be with you. I should have known you’d be more nervous than you’ve been letting on. But that party, oh the dresses and the food, it was all just so divine.”
“No, what? What’s wrong now?” My mother’s tone pinched and twisted like knives stabbing me in my throbbing lower back.
“I’m not going. I can’t go today. I’ve decided I don’t wan the surgery.”
My mother’s voice shook, “And when was this decided? It’s already been paid for. The arrangements are made, Julia. Don’t be silly, Julia. You’re being selfish, Julia. You’re just sacred, that’s normal, it’s perfectly normal, in fact, but think how long you’ve been waiting for this, Julia. You’ve always wanted this.”
She had no clue. She had no clue what had happened to me. She was blissfully unaware. She was just as blind as I was. She couldn’t see her own daughter.
I didn’t answer her. I just walked into my room. Shame burned in my face, but I locked the door because I couldn’t bear to hear her any more. I couldn’t listen to the words she would ask if she saw the tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t bear the shame any longer. I turned the lock on the door and that was that.
I would not go to the surgery—it didn’t matter how long my mother begged, encouraged, threatened, yelled, cried.
I didn’t open my door, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, but all I knew was that I would never ever see the world that had done this to me. Nor could I ever see the faces of my parents if they ever learned what had happen to me, that I had disobeyed them, that I had
I have just hid in my room, writing my experience in poetry (I do have a computer and taught myself how to type), right now as I do, I know that it’s not very good, and sometimes I forget commas and periods and misspel words and maybe the grammar are sometimes wrong, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, no great story, no great tragic hero, yet it feels like a Greek tragedy to me, and my lines ramble on and on just as my thoughts do
This is my story, my experience. I will read and reread it from beginning to end. No man, no woman, no one—not even this young, naïve blind girl—are fortunate until they are dead
I am Oedipus. I am blind.
~ Some Explanation:
Entrepó, as used here in the title, in Greek means to turn to confusion, to put to shame, or to recoil in shame. Recently, I read in the news about a horrific event that happened; a man raped a blind woman. I wanted to analyze the idea of reader’s response in this story/poem (is it arrogant to make up the term “storem”?) set in the unspecified future (perhaps something like this could happen even tomorrow) set in a revolutionary and restless time with a young, blind girl, who is a reader of the special library’s books written in brail. Sometime, not mentioned here in the story, this blind girl read Oedipus.
How would a blind reader respond to the text and then a performance of that the Greek tragedy, Oedipus? Oedipus is a complicated play, and I am not sure if this play would fit into the requirements of Johnson’s intense morality, even though Oedipus is punished severely at the end. Perhaps the Greek tragedy, following the Horacian principles, does entertain, by shocking readers, and instructs, by showing readers what not to do.
Yet this young girl does not know how to respond to the play. The audience members are supposed to represent various interpretive communities, such as what Fish proposes, shown here through their (undeniably rude) running commentary throughout the play; the audience each has his or her own bias, yet this does assist the blind girl in shaping her perspective, since she selects which comments she values, which is revealed in this story through what comments she remembers and writes down.
Even though the girl can hear the audience’s responses, the blind girl still does not know how to respond to her experience. Yes, she read the play. Yes, she watched the play. But her underlying question is why anyone would ever make themselves blind—removing one’s sight, when receiving sight is the very thing she has longed for her entire life.
It is not until the unexpected happens that the blind girl’s perspective changes: the bus stops, she becomes lost, she is attacked and maliciously raped by a gang. The naïve girl is not completely aware of what has happened, but she knows it is something so serious and terrible that she cannot tell her parents. She feels like she has ignored her parents’ counsel (she was not to leave home), just as Oedipus ignored the prophecy of Tiresias. As a result, the blind girl feels inexorable shame, just as Oedipus felt shame.
Rather than plunging long, golden pins into her eyes as Oedipus does, the blind girl refuses to have the surgery performed to restore her eyesight, choosing a life of darkness to never see the light of the world where people did these terrible things to her. She opts to read from the safety of her home and in the darkness of never seeing the shame in her parents eyes as reflect in the shame of her own heart.
One claim Iser makes is that every time the reader reads a text, there is the possibility of discovering new perspectives from each reader. Yet, because of this traumatic experience, the blind girl continues to read and reread the play. Now, she is caught in a trap, like a mouse caught in a spinning wheel. I would like to believe that my character will one day, hopefully soon, reach out for help.
Although her relationship with her parents is strained, perhaps she will confess what has happened to the maid or to some other trusted adult. Just as sharing stories with other readers brings out different perspectives, I believe that through telling her rape story to others, she will gain new perspectives as people tell their stories, or their perspectives, to her.
Before she is able to share her story with others, she feels like she must write down her story, in poetic form, because that’s what the great Greek tragedians did. By writing her story, she shares it, even if it is only with herself. Her writing is full of errors, but it is supposed to be flawed.
Please leave any comments or questions below!!! 🙂
Movement of the cars
Honking, swerving lanes
Dance of pedestrians
Heading to the trains
Oxford Street – in the afternoon
Forgetting my past pains
Rhythm of the city
Pretty, gritty, and busy
Photo cred. C. A. H.
Me? Whatever do you mean?
Of course, I have no flaws,
No bad habits
I want to be as charming as Marilyn Monroe
I want to be as graceful as Grace Kelly
I want to be as stunning as Audrey Hepburn
I want to be
P E R F E C T. . .
Here are the yay/nay/gray thoughts of the day:
Although it’s kinda creepy that Holden sits in his sister’s room watching her sleeping, Holden seems to connect with Phoebe, who enables him to open up more. Holden describes Phoebe like a school teacher (167), and Phoebe tells him not to swear so much (168) and says that Holden doesn’t like anything (169). Holden explains that he likes Allie.
Holden says, “I know he’s dead. Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake – especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all” (171).
At the close of chapter 23, while Holden was sneaking out with his parents still in, Holden explains, “For one thing, I didn’t give much of a damn any more if they caught me. I really didn’t. If figured if they caught me, they caught me. I almost wished they did, in a way” (180).
Most of this book is such a push and pull. The reader seems to make some progress into understanding Holden when he will open up and share something. Then he says things like this. He doesn’t care if he gets caught. But he really does want to get caught. Most of the book doesn’t feel like progress at all, though.
In chapter 22, we learn when Holden was showering one time at school, a boy named James Castle committed suicide by jumping out the window: “I was in the shower and all, and even I could hear him land outside. But I just thought something fell out the window, a radio or a desk or something, not a boy or anything” (170). Holden describes the gruesome scene and how the James was wearing Holden’s turtle neck sweater that he had lent to him previously.
Holden explains, “The funny part is, I hardly even know James Castle, if you want to know the truth. He was one of these very quiet guys” (171).
This moment in the book is terribly sad and gruesome. However, it is poignant, as well, by giving the reader a deeper connection with Holden’s inner psychology.
More (silly) Questions:
What is a Yogi guy (175) that Holden mentions in chapter 23?
In “A Reader’s Companion to J. D. Salinger’s the Catcher in the Rye” by Peter G. Beidler, it explains that “A Yogi is a person who practices Yoga, a method of breathing, movement, and meditation” (188).
We learn that Robert Burns wrote the poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” (173). Here is some interesting information about this poem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comin’_Thro’_the_Rye
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York City: Bantam Book, 1951. Print