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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Past


Winter in Holland: photo by Leonard Freed (1929-2006), 1964; image by RachelRiley, 15 May 2013

There is no such thing 
as a clean break
with the past

Chase it off, it comes sneaking 
straight back
much as a blindly loyal

companion, whose 
company one had never quite earned
and does not wish to keep

[Untitled]: photo by Alyona Surikot (surikodt), 26 November 2013

[Untitled]: photo by Alyona Surikot (surikodt), 21 November 2013


Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

What a wonderment, dizzying... the hanging-by-a-hand sculpture. And the photographs are proper-moment for a cry-worry (or remorse-cry) poem. Yes... the past is a lumpy couch to nap upon... a dream-companion. Thank you, Tom.

ACravan said...

Good morning. I expect it will be a dream companion if I find another chance to dream tonight. No clean break, that is true, but this is so clean -- thought, language and breaks. And it pretty much sums up my own recent history, which as an older adult I measure in years, unlike my 16-year old, who's likely to count still in hours, days and possibly weeks. Curtis

TC said...

Well, Red, maybe he's just decided he likes the view from up there.

And oh, the past... what else is there... on a 39 degree F feels like 36 night... to think about?

He asked of his fellow insomniac old timer... just checked and Moses Lake is basking in 30 degrees F feels like 24 plus fog.

The specific provocation of the poem came from two things.

We saw a wonderful new movie called The Past, by the great Iranian director Farhadi (who two years ago made A Separation). It's that rare thing, an adult movie actually made for adults, with no heroes or villains, complicated moral dilemmas at every turning and a clear message that mistakes are neither retractable nor forgivable; it's a long meditation upon the past, and in particular upon a fateful event which has happened before the film began and which neither we nor the interested players in the drama ever sort out in the end.

The never sorting it out in the end, that's familiar, and true to life as lived (suffered), though of course extremely not-Hollywood.

The other provocation was these infernal er blessed holidays -- that annual time in which the actual problematic complications of human lives show themselves impossible to sort out, ever, just like in the movie, only more so.

TC said...

Curtis, well, it's probably always best to make a clean break with one's messy, fuzzy, muddled previous thoughts as soon as one possibly can... and I have found that after a major head injury, that gets quite a bit easier (though alas other things don't).

But the nagging temporal relativity issue which you so aptly introduce -- aye there's the rub.

It seems there may come a phase when the totally dreamless nights are measured out in light years each consisting of a trillion minutes compacted into every enigmatic unending second.

This time around however there's a curious new fillip.

It appears the long black and white vigils in the frigid haunted house all through the whole inevitable alleged festive season have finally accumulated sufficiently to ease the present subject over the virtual reality turnstile into the Terminal Area of the Martian Time Slip (as PK Dick once designated it, in a paranoid nightmare of a novel writ just up the street here -- a fable that lands the dreamless imagination in a cube hotel in a sort of poor man's Sheremetyevo, one might almost say).

TC said...

... and so we come to that delicate moment when the past o'ertakes the present and plows the future under, numerically speaking, yet another time...

Let us hope to commune un otra vez... on the other side...

and meanwhile I am reaching for the detergent bottle...

goodbye, cruel world!

Lally said...

can't think of a more apt poem for this day Tom…tough but compassionate rendering of my experience, that's for sure…as is the clarity of your reference to survivors of brain (I was going to say "damage" but it's more like, or feels more like, actual physical alteration(s)…)...

TC said...

And you can say that again.

Michael, the part of brain damage I liked least was the early stage when the stupefied victim was expected to "recover" (only cartoon characters really do that), and the part I like best is the last stage where you can't remember whether or not you said something, so just say it twice for safety's sake, å la Jimmy Two Times.

"Get the Papers."

Hazen said...

Only last night I came across the word “remorse” while (re) reading Under The Volcano, a book in which the feeling is palpable throughout. To re-bite, to bite again and again; that’s the meaning of it; and I pictured a rodent-like animal that keeps nipping at my flesh. How right you are, Tom: there are no clean breaks. Maybe, in some strange way that’s how it needs to be, no matter how I feel about it. The past “comes sneaking straight back.” It hangs around. We hang on. Prometheus on the rocks.

So much to appreciate here this morning—at this fictional, let’s-pretend point of transition in time. Mañana looks like more of the same, amigos: So then, hello, cruel world, all sparkle and flash.

Anonymous said...

I spent the better part of the evening past in the pitch black cabin of a bus barreling down the mostly blank terrain of I-5, and my thoughts quite by coincidence made their way, like the miles that passed, to the passages of time, that have been bound by sense and telling, mourned for their inadequacy, celebrated for their terminal finality, swinging as they hang, impotency never so virile.



There is no such thing
as a clean break
from the past . . .

those figures on the ice in Holland
that man hanging from a flag pole

and the present keeps going on, sun still rising now through bamboo leaves of neighbor's yard

Nin Andrews said...

Beautiful as always. Your poetry-mind is still working brilliantly.
AI think the past is a kind of an unwelcome guest at the table, like the 13th fairy, the company one has and doesn't wish for, in the mind if not the body . . .

TC said...

Aye, that's the villain of the piece, alright, the 13th fairy. Always making himself right at home, as the other guests at the banquet blanch and fade, and the sedge withers from the lake. The squirrel is huddled protectively over his nuts, enclosed in a membranous cocoon of ice fog on the I-5. Midnight's rolling thunder now subsided, our impotently virile 82-year-old household garden-gnome Prometheus clings to a fragile bamboo leaf, bony ceramic kneecaps clicking together like the castanets of a Xavier Cugat copy-cover band wafting across a deserted gazebo in the Catskills just as the first distant tremors forewarning of the next eruption become faintly audible.

And oh no, here it is -- all over again:

James Henry: Another

Wooden Boy said...

whose company one had never quite earned and does not wish to keep

Oh, you've caught the bind a little too well there, Tom. It hurts my head.

TC said...

Yes, and that's bothered me, that suggestion of a too-tight binding. Would that it did not describe the facts of the case -- or no, is it that the suggestion brings about the result, as if by bad magic?

The therapeutic, the palliative -- these consolatory ends seem out of reach, now (assuming they were ever actually in view in the first place).

But the multiplying of the aporia and the deepening of the aggravation, well, those do seem to remain within the tattered quiver of one's blunted "powers"... of, what, self-deception?