Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Those great goddesses of peace

Back in ye olde days, I worked as a bridal consultant. Zipping and pinning and steaming, I could, movie-like, anticipate the litany of the remarks a bride or her mother would make: "This will be the happiest day of my life. Today is the day we love each other the most. Today my family means the most to me. Today I love him the most. This is the best time of our lives. The wedding has to be the most perfect day of my life." The air was palpable with the apex of someone's life: the climax in the narrative of their life. I could taste it, and it was bittersweet. I knew beyond knowing that the day had come to resign when I told a bride I had vowed to let my life operate on a ten-best principle.

Of course, accepting a ten-best principle means also adopting a ten-worst principle. On February 13, 2001, on June 24, 2001, on September 11, 2001 on March 20, 2003, on April 17, 2004, on February 16, 2007, on June 1, 2009, on January 30, 2010--I cracked open my well-read copy of The Colossus and Other Poems and reread "Lorelei." So often--I should have it memorized. I don't except the closing line--"Stone, stone. Ferry me down there." Did Plath have a death wish or a peace wish? Probably both. Hearing this expression of the agony, the wish for peace, well. Helps. I wish it had helped Sylvia.

It is no night to drown in:
A full moon, river lapsing
Black beneath bland mirror-sheen,

The blue water-mists dropping
Scrim after scrim like fishnets
Though fishermen are sleeping,

The massive castle turrets
Doubling themselves in a glass
All stillness. Yet these shapes float

Up toward me, troubling the face
Of quiet. From the nadir
They rise, their limbs ponderous

With richness, hair heavier
Than sculptured marble. They sing
Of a world more full and clear

Than can be. Sisters, your song
Bears a burden too weighty
For the whorled ear's listening

Here, in a well-steered country,
Under a balanced ruler.
Deranging by harmony

Beyond the mundane order,
Your voices lay siege. You lodge
On the pitched reefs of nightmare,

Promising sure harborage;
By day, descant from borders
Of hebetude, from the ledge

Also of high windows. Worse
Even than your maddening
Song, your silence. At the source

Of your ice-hearted calling --
Drunkenness of the great depths.
O river, I see drifting

Deep in your flux of silver
Those great goddesses of peace.
Stone, stone, ferry me down there.

Listening to Ray Lamontagne

No comments: