Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The god of hinges


OK, I suppose this is poetry week. I'm reading the prolific novelist/poet Margaret Atwood's most recent volume of verse, The Door.

Atwood is almost my age, and I resonate with these poems. The door of the title could be any one of several doors that come with our age. The door of memory that opens and closes on the past. The door of insight that in its opening and closing provides glimmers of retrospective understanding. Or, yes, the door of death that opens and shuts to take one by one our friends and lovers.
The door swings open,
you look in:
why does this keep happening now?
Is there a secret?
The door swings closed.
There was a time, of course, when the door swung wide and gave unimpeded vistas on the future. One hardly noticed there was a door at all. Only ten years ago, when I began this on-line journal, the doors were all still permanently ajar. A stanza from another of Atwood's poems:
It must have been an endless
breathing in: between
the wish to know and the need to praise
there was no seam.
Now, ten years on, the wish to know has diminished. Science is no longer as prominent a theme here as it was then. The need to praise, however, has grown stronger. I sit in a storehouse of reliable knowledge, accumulated over a lifetime, and I am not so interested in those pallets of adamantine facts as in nuance, ephemera, gossamer. It's the fragile threads that seem important now, the gauzy web of relationships that holds a life together. A door opens, a door shuts. A whiff of nostalgia, a hint of understanding.
The door swings open:
O god of hinges,
god of long voyages,
you have kept faith.
It's dark in there.
You confide yourself to the darkness.
You step in.
The door swings shut.