Fragment toward an essay on the mother, time and poetry

I am not who I thought I was.
Without her, I have no idea. What will I do? What is that Sappho line about having two minds? Or Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay,” which really hits home. I will never bring my mother books, nor will we discuss them. She will not read my novel when it finally appears, nor will she stack my books beside her bed. I will not sit in the chair by the window listening, smelling the northern air, feeling the clouds gathering at the top of Thornhill Mountain. I will never hear another story again.
From “The Glass Essay
Stepping out into the sky Carson notes of the light:
Something inside it reminds me of childhood—
it is the light of the stalled time after lunch
when clocks tick
and hearts shut
and fathers leave to go back to work
and mothers stand at the kitchen sink pondering
something they never tell.
It isn’t that poetry holds childhood, but it is a conduit, and it can transport.
This sense of stalled time is everywhere in Carson—and it resonates with me. The moment, caught mid-thought, as if the night could comprehend one’s feelings. And the mother, somewhere in verse, waiting for the daughter to reappear.
You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently.
Why hold onto all that?
Because “all that” is the fuel of poetry, perhaps. Even, I might argue, the most conceptual of poetry. Put up as many constraints as you want, tie one arm and one leg, tape one’s mouth, make it so you will have to type with your nose—or more appropriate to our times—reserve for your material the language of phone books, or google searches, it seems to me, those moments, those basic desires, burn in all poetry.
Sina Queyras aka Lemon Hound lives in Montreal. Her first novel, Autobiography of Childhood, is due from Coach House this fall.
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