Thank you to everyone who joined us for this session!
29 participants convened from both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific for another cold Monday night, in which we read the poem “sorrows” by Lucille Clifton, posted below. Our first impressions and associations included: birds (“sorrows sounds like swallows”), images of bats and insects, the sound of rattles, feelings of being alone, familiar experiences of sorrows as they come and go. One participant referenced Goya’s etching “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” The title brought thoughts of sorrows materializing into an object, an insect, a wave. One person was reminded of Wes Wenders’ film “The Wings of Desire.” Another appreciated the poem’s line cuts, which leave readers wondering what will come next. We attended to language, noticing “sorrow is a pretty word as opposed to the word sad.” We noticed the many contradictions in the text – tensions and contention.
We made connections between the poem’s couplets and tried to envision prayers “resonating throughout the world” and how one voice can be distinguished from all the other voices that pray for alleviation. Questions arose: Are we going to give sorrow a place, a space to be? Where is sorrow’s place? “The constant struggle we grapple with all the time,” someone commented. One participant reported imagining sorrows “fighting for their own place in the world” even as we suppress them or “can’t embrace them.” Another talked of having conversations with outers about the challenges of “giving sorrow the right space and time” and “letting it shape us.” We acknowledged the power of sorrow and the importance of allowing ourselves to listen and feel. This part of our conversation reminded someone of Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” that welcomes all feelings.
We wrote to the prompt “Write the story of a scar.” One person read about raccoons invading a garage and the writer’s hesitation to have the animals removed and, later, seeing the raccoons footprints in the snow. Listeners understood the footprints as scars. The second reader shared a piece about loss and the desire for the scar on her heart “not to heal over” so that she feels the loved one close when putting her hand over her heart. The third reader wrote from the perspective of a surgeon wondering about a patient’s post-surgical scar whether it would be “acceptable” in a profession with high visibility. A respondent offered that the power of a scar is as “evidence of survival.” Someone responded with an invitation to see scars “as beautiful”.
At the end of our conversation, someone asked: Why do we automatically consider scars beautiful?
As we signed off, we all shared something from this session we would bring with us into the week:
- Scars show our history
- Scars are beautiful things
- Scars are badges of courage
- Scars remind us of gentleness to be given
- Scars are sorrow and beauty
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
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sorrows by Lucille Clifton who would believe them winged who would believe they could be beautiful who would believe they could fall so in love with mortals that they would attach themselves as scars attach and ride the skin sometimes we hear them in our dreams rattling their skulls clicking their bony fingers envying our crackling hair our spice filled flesh they have heard me beseeching as I whispered into my own cupped hands enough not me again enough but who can distinguish one human voice amid such choruses of desire Source: Poetry (September 2007)