Rachel Corrie, Let Me Stand Alone
This book was a big deal for me.
The geography is always ahead of her,
a postcard highlighting Irish green and beauty,
a teeming, dusty market place in Budapest,
a Balinese temple steeming in the jungle,
and now she, just a speck, whistling
in first-class comfort on a train through Barcelona
Out the window the horizon is a focal point,
a place from which to measure
how long it takes to get from one location
to the next. Familiarity startles, then bores,
the viewer has seen it all before, a landscape
made more real through imitation.
Each time the shutter snaps or the paint brush stops,
she stands posed like a phrase,
human figure in miniature, an artist’s little joke,
demonstrating our insignificance among grandeur
After the shutter snaps, she disappears altogether.
She is about motion, the frame now sits perfectly empty.
It is what we know of the silence of trees and mountains,
we remember nothing of her, she has gone unnoticed.
[This poem, published in Born Magazine in 2001, is where this blog’s URL (and a tattoo that I have) comes from.]
At the county landfill, a scavenging grackle,
in luminous purple-black cowl,
eyeing me with the indifference reserved
for those of his order. I have come
to disown my sofa—worn, gone weak
in the middle, a battered cabinet
I strained to lift, a sack of clothes,
a box of books—things I thought
I loved and gathered strength from,
meager harbors where I anchored
in my languor, in my sleepy
certainty, and woke up stranded.
I will stand above these things
and speak no words, but watch
a derelict shoe go back
to the self it was without me,
watch the long yellow sleeve of a shirt
wave in the wind, useless, bright
with the sheen of abandonment.
I will learn to live with fragments:
clumps of kite string trapped in branches,
clatter of a tin can kicked
down a rain-slick alley—shreds
of memory, little things
that cling without my clinging to them:
pennies trembling on the track, a black
pebble from the roof of the house
I grew up in, the sly
advance of the elm tree’s shade
toward the rail fence in autumn, chill
of my first snow, sidewalk slush,
red boots my mother tugged on my feet,
or lying in bed as a boy, August,
the room buzzing with dusk and sudden
silence, scent of sweet upturned dirt
as the curtains swelled and sank.
I will serve what served me well, far back
and pick through the old scraps, rapt
in a faithful watchfulness. It is time
to make my movements count
like the grackle, who, in his hunger,
in his solitude, as I come
too near, lifts his wings
and shrieks just once.