Wednesday, January 12, 2011

For What Binds Us

There is nearly always poetry in my purse. If I have a spare minute or am at work and waiting, I like to read.

Today, while sitting in the lobby waiting for Mrs. Crotty to get her hair done, I was reading Breyton Breytonbach's collection of poems, "Lady One". The door to the salon opens and an older gentleman walks in. I had a strange feeling we would start talking as soon as I saw him. I don't know why.

Within a few moments of sitting down, he is leaning over in his chair and says to me, "Reading poetry, huh?"

I tell him the author and his eyes light up. The conversation takes off. He knows who Denise Levertov is, so obviously the bond I feel to him is immediate. :)

He tells me about a poem that he loves so much he cried the first time he read it. He loves it so much he had an artist render a copy of it for his best friend when he got married. Problem is, he can't remember the name of who wrote it. He takes out his phone and calls the friend, calls the wife-- still no luck. I help him go through the list of female poets, popular and not; we still can't figure out who wrote the poem that, "Almost broke me. It's about marriage and wounds and how they heal yet leave tissue behind. There is a comparison to a horse involved somehow."

After a few minutes of searching and "focusing his brain", he recalls Jane Hirshfield as the author. I am taking notes at this point and promise to look it up as soon as I get home. I think I found it. In fact, I know I did.

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

I love when you have strangely intimate exchanges with someone you do not know. When you can connect deeply with a complete stranger over words and literature, specifically poems. Interactions like the one I had today remind me, as cliche as it may sound, why we write, why we read and why humanity is so beautiful. Our ability to relate to others and viscerally share with another what beats deeply inside us-- even if we know nothing about them, is what miracles are made of.

The title of the poem is fitting.

So thank you, James, for making my day and giving me the gift of this poem. It was wonderful to meet you and I will be touch.


  1. I'm reposting this poem immediately, and I am torn up with happiness over this post.

  2. Aww, Pally! You're the best pal a lady could ask for.

  3. Gorgeous. I don't often meet a poem I like. This one I love.

  4. Splendid. Amazing. Just might borrow.

  5. LOVE. Loose ends have been the theme of my life--living and breathing like the words in this poem. Thank you for posting.