Tuesday, January 18, 2011

And the Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible

At this dead and frozen time of year, I'm looking for ways to get through each day, and so I've been reading more poems by Todd Davis. One of his poems is a strong enough tonic to get me through one more day towards spring; this one, "And the Dead Shall Be Raised Incorruptible":

Everything shines from the inside out--
not like the blaze of the sun, but like
the moon, as if each of us had swallowed
a piece of it. Our flesh opaque, milky,
indefinite--the way you see the world
when cataracts skim your vision.
What so many mistake as imperfection--
bulge of varicose, fatty tumor's bump--
is simply another way for the light to get out,
to illuminate the body as it rises.
We're caught up all the time, but none of us
should fly away yet. It's in the darkness
when your feet knock dew from leaves
of grass, when your hand pushes out
against the coffin's lid. Just wait.
You'll see we had it right all along,
that the only corruption comes
in not loving this life enough.

My favorite line of this poem is "we're caught up all the time." I like that it can be read at least two ways, one of them about how we get caught up in the busyness (business) of our own lives and forget to get a birthday card sent in time (sorry Sarah; happy birthday today!) or just to think about what someone else is going through at the moment. Sometimes I think about how nice it is not to have a sore throat. I don't have one now. Do you?

This poem makes me think about the time I spend in doctor's waiting rooms. In December I was at an ophthalmic surgeon's office, having a consultation about a little growth that was removed from my eyelid and turned out to be nothing worrisome, and I saw a lot of old people complete with things like red eyes and fatty tumors, some of them shuffling behind walkers. It helps me to be patient when I'm behind someone like that--let's say an old person who is confused about how to fill out the insurance paperwork--to try to see a physical imperfection as a daughter or son would, something so slight and so gradual that if you noticed it, you would only feel more love for the person who had to bear such a frailty.

Tomorrow I go to the orthopedist's office for the yearly checkup on my artificial knee, and I'll see a lot of old people who have been in pain so long it's affected their personality. I used to be like that, but part of my body has already risen. Now I can love this life enough--even in January, if I squeeze my eyes closed so the old snow in the background looks like light.


FreshHell said...

I am also glad not to have a sore throat and neither do my kids. I am happy when they are active and ravenously hungry even though I groan because I'm the one who has to get up and fix their food.

But, no poem in the world is going to fix the problem of winter for me.

kittiesx3 said...

No sore throat here either. But then again, getting rid of my satanic germ catchers (that's tonsils to most of you) when I was nine years old improved my health immensely. In fact I didn't get sick for another nine years, with the exception of an occasional bout of stomach virus. No colds, no nothing.

I have one quibble with this poem where it talks about us shining from within as though we'd swallowed a bit of the moon. Oh hell no, no cold moon for me. Give me the sun in all it's warmth and life--I'd much rather go out in a blaze of hot flames myself.

FreshHell said...

So, Elizabeth your obit will mention how you spontaneously combusted?

Jeanne said...

Now we're just recapitulating Robert Frost's poem Fire and Ice:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

kittiesx3 said...

I probably will. I've been a furnace all my life and that's probably not going to change. It's Kent who has the freezing cold feet at night and wants to steal my warmth.

PAJ said...

My favorite line:
Our flesh opaque, milky,

Jeanne said...

The opaque, milky, indefinite flesh sounds cold to me.