After the disaster of 9/11, Charles Bernstein wrote a moving poem about the confusion that ensued, not just in the days but years that followed. The blurriness of reality is expressed in the opening lines: “Not long ago, or maybe I dreamt it/ Or made it up, or have suddenly lost/ Track of its train in the hocus pocus/ Of the dissolving days; no,” Without the knowledge that the poem was written in response to 9/11, I’d have read these lines as dream-like, as being in daze, as daydreaming caused by some unknown event important in the life of the poet.
Following the same logic, I’d have read the closing lines as a wise reminder:
As far as you go
In one direction, all the further you’ll
Have to go on before the way back has
Become totally indivisible.
In other words, the further you move on your life’s path, the more you’ll have to strive to erase your tracks, i.e. your past, your “mistakes,” your life’s lessons picked up along the way. On the surface, it sounds simplistic: the longer or more intensely you’re involved in something, surely it’ll take you longer to deal with all the things you had to go through to get where you are now.
What strikes me is the message lurking beneath the surface. The longer we stay on our life’s path, the more entrenched we may become in our ways of being. We may know and follow our path so blindly that our tracks (leading onward and backward) might harden, along with our habits and ways of thinking; we might not even notice our rigidity (personality-wise). In our stubbornness and hardheadedness, we might as well contribute to creating the “restless world like this is.” So let’s always be mindful and ensure our path is flexible.
Karo Caran, the Rainbow Poetess, is a poet and a non/fiction writer. Her novel, "Breaking the silence: A story in paintings" focuses on the censorship of art and gay relationships in the postwar, communist Poland. Her poetry-based memoir, "Life in a Footnotes" will be published this summer.
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