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the woman is too heavyfor the poem

Lisa Combrinck

The woman is too heavy for the poem, she is a swollenness, a foot,
an arm, gone asleep, grown absurd and out of bounds.
Rooted to memory like a wedge in a block of wood; she takes the
pressure of her thought but cannot resist it.

-
Adrienne Rich, Shooting Script

the woman sits astride the page,
she does not need her hands at all:
her mere presence stirs the poem
she is the lolly at the end of the stick,
the ice maiden dressed in red,
more like a drag queen than a woman,
more like a pen than a poet,
arousing rather than writing the poem.

more like a wizard breathing magic into a wand,
more like a witchdoctor throwing the bones,
more like a warrior sharpening a weapon,
the poet is painfully aware that the poem can kill her.

the journey is always a dangerous one,
(her lips and legs brush the barrel of the gun)
(she is always tempted to taste the poisonous tip of the spear)
desire always threatens to destroy her:
but this is what she needs to write,
needs like a sudden leap into a strange city street,
the inexplicable need to be lost,
to linger in the maze a little,
to be hopelessly lost long enough
so that the poem can find her.
always at this moment
her lips are pallid blue and pinched
and within an instant
they redden    thicken
and unfold
producing the first flow of words
alive with soft, liquid sounds
that greet and lilt
and seem about to sing.

but in her haste to bring forth these words
in her strange quest for newness
the penetration becomes too painfully deep
and she has to start breathing again
quick    short    gasps of air
before the poem is under control
before the rhythm returns
even now the danger is not over
this is when she wants to steer the words
to lure them and destroy them
to give birth
to new wor(l)ds void of power
but this is when her guilt returns
must she whip and beat these words
must she make them bleed for their seeds
so that her blood can be born and flow freely
so that her words find new meaning.

now the poem sickens and shrinks considerably
now the poet becomes unbalanced and almost falls
now the woman is too heavy for the poem
she is swollen with her own thoughts
stretched to the limits of her own desires
she has forgotten the poem
which smothers under her
unable to move or shout
drooping and waning
fearing death.

it is now that the woman weakens
always unselfishly she surrenders
to the poem
she spreads her legs
breathes into its blue lungs
kisses and caresses it
nurses it back to health
until it has a life of its own
that    in turn    threatens to harm her,
in this moment of terror
between birth and death
the poem finally comes
into being,
like an unexpected knock at the door
it disturbs the silence
the poem enters the world
spurts its caseous song
and the poet
now sapped of energy
now no longer a poet
curls up her legs
casts the poem aside like a stranger
and sinks into a deep, dreamless sleep.



LitNet: 08 August 2006

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