‘Ah!’: An Assay
When the Greek gods would slip into the clothing and bodies of humans, it was not always as it appeared – not always, that is, for seduction, not to test the warmth of welcome given to strangers. The sex – like the sudden unveiling and recognition – was not without pleasure. But later, they would remember: ‘The barley soup offered one night in the village of _____, its wild marjoram, scent of scorched iron, and carrots.’ ‘Ah!, and the ones who turned away from us, how their eyes would narrow and wrinkle the tops of their noses.’ ‘The barnyard odors.’ ‘And afterwards, sleep in that salt-scent, close by their manure hoards and feathers.’ ‘Sleep itself!’ ‘Ah!’
For this soft ‘ah!’, immortals entered the world of bodies.
– from After by Jane Hirschfield (Bloodaxe 2006)
I found this (attempt? prose poem?) when looking for paper to write a to-do list. On the back was this, waiting quietly. And how perfect, on this bright blue saturday morning, to consider ‘ah!’, to feel it when reading.
I felt the ‘ah!’ last week, listening to Sarah Westcott reading her poem Owls from her new chapbook:
I carry the owls with me
deep in my pocket or tucked
in the cup of my bra: they doze,
bill dipped in a bib of feathers,
turn janglesome if I forget
they are there when I run for the bus…
extract from Inklings (flipped eye publishing 2013)
All week Sarah’s owls have drifted in and out of my thoughts. I’ve been trying to write a poem about owls for some time – years – without success. About my cousin Dina’s childhood love for owls. Growing up in Pakistan, I remember her surrounded by owls (small stuffed toys, other owlish things). One day that changed and she gave away all her owls. She told me this recently and for some reason it made me feel so sad, this owl-loss.
p.s. I know it’s been a while since my last post… i was determined not to post another sad thing, but sadness lingers like the smell of garlic on your fingers long after you think it should have gone by now.