Twilight over Tioga Lake

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A dose of perspective...

A little change of perspective is good for all of us now and then. The problem is, it is pretty damn hard to actually change your perspective. We can try to see things from another point of view, but only try. Of course, it is probably better that we can't. In the kick-ass movie Being John Malkovich, the people who do get to literally see through another's eyes become hopelessly obsessed with it.

But sometimes circumstances force people to experience things in a whole new way. In the seminal Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, there is a chapter devoted to this subject. She talks about reading accounts of people who newly sighted people who were born blind. These people literally have to rediscover the world, and what they see is incredible:

"To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is 'something bright and then holes.' One girl was eager to tell her blind friend that 'men do not really look like trees at all,' and astounded to discover that every visitor had an utterly different face."

I have no doubt that becoming sighted after a life of blindness is terrifying in many ways. And yet I am envious of this sudden transformation in the way the world is literally seen. These stories moved Annie Dillard to attempt to see the world in other perspectives:

"I blurred my eyes and gazed towards the brim of my hat and saw a new world...I saw the linear flashes, gleaming silver, like stars being born at random down a rolling scroll of time. Something broke and something opened. I filled up like a new wineskin. I breathed an air like light, I saw a light like water."

I should mention Annie Dillard is one of my idols. I'm pretty sure she was nuts, but a genius nut.

Another master of perspective change is Craig Raine, in his wonderful poem "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home:"

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings--

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist in when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colors darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside--
a key is turned to see the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep.

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colors die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves--
in color, with their eyelids shut.

Some of the "martian's" experiences are pretty self-explanatory, some take some thought.

I can't help but try my own hand at this perspective thing. Perhaps it is foolish to put my own writing after Dillard's and Raine's, but what is writing if not a little foolish and risky? Tune in next time for the "answers" to the poems.

Contemplations of a House Plant

The motiles pour love on our nest so we continue:
this worship baffles.

We must reach for the Presence to glean food from within, but it is poison to the motiles: when the Presence sings strongest the walls are closed.

A trunk hums beside us and commands them to lay down temporary radicles-- then they are still for a time.

But every Absence the motiles revolt and silence the box: an unsymbiotic relationship.

Sometimes there is an Infestation.

A device pollinates dense vibrations; it causes madness in the unrooted.

They flutter and grasp, until they finally fall in a rotting heap. By the arrival of the Presence, they are weeded out.

Occasionally a starving terror finds me. It rips rips at our organs, and never feels the scream.

During the Absence the motiles vanish. But they always return from the terrible nothing; and the adoration begins anew.

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About Me

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San Francisco, CA
Elissa is an east coast transplant making her way through life by way of San Francisco. This amazing city provides lots of fodder for writers of all types. I find inspiration for writing through life's little and bizarre events, such as grocery shopping for dog treats, salamander hunting, and insomnia. I am a preschool teacher in "real life."