on fresh air today at lunch, Terry Gross interviewed poet Marie Howe. i was floored – she is thought-provoking, clever and somehow her words reach into your soul and clench hold of an inner ideal of what i have already thought. one poem reminds me of Emily Dickinson‘s poem from Time and Eternity, While I was Fearing it It Came; to me, a gut wrenching portrayal of how fear of anything prevents one from living and only pervades a focus on the fear or fear of that we try to ignore.
How Some of It Happened
My brother was afraid, even as a boy, of going blind–so deeply that he would turn the dinner knives away from, looking at him, he said, as they lay on the kitchen table. He would throw a sweatshirt over those knobs that lock the car door from the inside, and once, he dismantled a chandelier in the middle of the night when everyone was sleeping. We found the pile of sharp shining crystals in the upstairs hall. So you understand, it was terrible when they clamped his one eye open and put the needle in through his cheek and up into his eye from underneath and left it there for a full minute before they drew it slowly out once a week for many weeks. He learned to, lean into it, to settle down he said, and still the eye went dead, ulcerated, breaking up green in his head, as the other eye, still blue and wide open, looked and looked at the clock. My brother promised me he wouldn’t die after our father died. He shook my hand on a train going home one Christmas and gave me five years, as clearly as he promised he’d be home for breakfast when I watched him walk into that New York City autumn night. By nine, I promise, and he was–he did come back. And five years later he promised five years more. So much for the brave pride of premonition, the worry that won’t let it happen. You know, he said, I always knew I would die young. And then I got sober and I thought, OK, I’m not. I’m going to see thirty and live to be an old man. And now it turns out that I am going to die. Isn’t that funny? –One day it happens: what you have feared all your life, the unendurably specific, the exact thing. No matter what you say or do. This is what my brother said: Here, sit closer to the bed so I can see you.
i know that feeling, that total take-over of body and mind, that is ingrained into your soul and every movement and thought of each and every second of each and every day – yet, the focus does not prevent the encounter any more or less than the removal of that fear.
WHILE I was fearing it, it came, But came with less of fear, Because that fearing it so long Had almost made it dear. There is a fitting a dismay, A fitting a despair. ’T is harder knowing it is due, Than knowing it is here. The trying on the utmost, The morning it is new, Is terribler than wearing it A whole existence through.