Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Caution : Life Sometimes Leaves Scars . . .

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In the far away country of Texas there is a blog where the writing is so unbelievably good that I cannot possibly tell you how good it is. It dazzles and shines with the raw forces that underly our minds and souls. It is honest, with an honesty that brings stinging tears to dry eyes in an instant, or takes one on a magic carpet ride through cloudscapes and dreamscapes beyond imagining. I can only encourage you to hasten there, to read at some length, and if you come away feeling like I do, to pass the word, link to her blog, become an addict. The blog is named Dreams, Deliriums, and Other Mind Talk. The link here leads to a piece that Nevine posted the other day about a scar on the back of a woman, opening up a universe of possible reflections about scars and how people live with them, their impact on people's lives.
(Des cicatrices)
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I left Nevine a brief comment letting her know her piece had deeply touched me, and that I might say something further about the subject elsewhere. The following piece is posted as an echo from across the valley to Nevine's beautifully gripping piece of writing about scars.
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. .Scars From the Past
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A couple of weeks ago
I was back in my home town
For the first time in years
I had stopped in the public library
Just to see if it still looked
The way it had when as a kid
I'd checked out piles of books
For the summer reading contests
I was looking around
Just taking things in
So many memories were there
Of stories from way back when
The world was still
A shining, glistening place
And dreams were ripe on the vine
When I noticed a woman
Somewhat younger than I
Sitting at a reading table
Ensconced in a book
She had quite a vivid scar
Running across her chin
Visible from the other side of the room
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The expression,
"It all came flooding back"
Is a cliché
But that is exactly what happened
It all came flooding back :
A winter afternoon
I must have been about eleven or twelve
It had snowed heavily
Through the previous night
That morning we woke up
Eagerly listening to the radio
Announcing the list of schools closed
Jubilation when ours was named
A day of freedom from teachers and books
A day to get out and play
In the pure white gleaming snow
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We made snow angels
Lying on our backs
Spreading our arms and legs
Raising arms over our heads
To make the angel wings
Then sitting up and trying to get back up
Without marring the angel's form
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Dragging sleds and behind us
Our old wooden sleds with steel runners
Which had to be waxed with paraffin
We headed up to the best hill in the village
By the college campus
A good long steep stretch
That went down to the where
The football field flattened out
There were lots of other kids there already
But more than enough space for a few more
So we careened down the hill on our sleds
Again and again gleefully playfully
My older brother and I
On one run we ran into each other
Tumbling in the snow down the hill
Laughing, running back up to the top
And decided to run into some other kids
For laughs, the dumb things kids do for fun
We were all so thickly bundled up
In heavy winter coats and scarves
Mittens or gloves and boots
Hoods or knit wool caps on juvenile heads
We thought no harm could come of it
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I waited for someone to start down the hill
And then ran with my sled and leapt on
Taking a diagonal path to intersect the other
Without fail the laws of gravity and physics
Obeyed their orders
Two descending objects
Accelerating down the snowy slope
Ran into each other in a muffled collision
One boy rolling away still laughing with success
One girl tumbling in a heap
Then sitting up with hands to face
And a mournful wail broke loose
Which turned to a high pitched cry
I could never forget
And blood, blood welled up
Between her fingers
Blood ran down and dripped in the white snow
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Somehow in the sliding crash of two sleds
One had bucked up and twisted, overturning
An iron runner slashing
Right across a young girl's chin
As the two rolled to a stop on the slope
She was crying and bleeding
I remember saying to my brother
"We better carry her back up to the top"
And he said something like
"What do we need to carry her for
She didn't break her legs"
I yelled at him out of fear
And rising panic
"Well she isn't very well
Going to walk back up by herself is she"
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The problem resolved itself
When her mother came running
Down the hill
Having seen that something was amiss
Her eyes wide when she saw
Her daughter bleeding and crying there
Still holding her sliced open chin
We mumbled it was an accident
Her mother ignored us
In her hurry to help her daughter
Who was obviously going to need
Medical attention
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We went back home slowly
Sheepishly crestfallen beaten
It wasn't supposed to have happened like that
Never had I meant to hurt someone
I remember the fear
Feeling terrified that I would be punished
For having done that terrible thing
Whether I'd meant to or not
We didn't tell my parents
Gradually in the passing days
The fear went away
And the school year went on
Nothing happened
As she was younger than I
She wasn't in my class
I never saw her again
I never knew her name
The terror of that day
The horror of the blood
Leaking out through clasped fingers
The fear in her eyes
And that cry of hurt and shock
All of that gradually faded away
And I never thought of her again
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Until the other day
When I saw the woman
With a vivid scar
Across her chin
Sitting in the library reading
I hesitated there a long moment
Wondering whether I should
Try to speak to her
To ask if it were she
From that winter afternoon
Long ago
But finally I dared not
I could well be wrong
Scars can be had in so many ways
Car accidents
Ice skating
Whipping posts
Self inflicted
Assorted forms
Of modern world violence
None are pleasant to remember
Or speak of
I did not wish
To impose on her
My own sentimental projection
Of past guilt
Dark and infinite guilt
No words of mine
Could ever make her scar disappear
Could give her back
Her pristine childhood chin
Nor her years of gazing in mirrors
Wondering what it might have been
To live an unscarred life
I walked away
Back out of the library
Drove away from the town
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But I think if I ever saw her again
I would want to tell her
I am sorry . . .
That I understand . . .
For I too am deeply scarred
Perhaps as a result
Of poetic justice
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46 comments:

The Sagittarian said...

Wow, amazing poem/story there. I think it would have been fab if you had approached her tho', kinda made it go full circle in a way. I love those photos too! Well done. I'm glad to see you got out of the closet...

Catherine said...

fascinating - will check out the original blog - in the meantime I love that final photo - so evocative..

Virginia said...

Owen,
You always have something for us that is unexpected and I love that. I think your photographs are a wonderful compliment to this moving poem.
V

Amy said...

Wow. Powerful.

Thanks to the link to a blogger in the 'verse.

pRiyA said...

Have I said this before? The funniest comments I get on my blog are yours. I think I will soon have to set up an award for funniest commentor and formally present it to you.

I am getting myself a mug of green tea (that's wot I drink these days) and going through your suggested link and Nevine's piece now...

pRiyA said...

...and that was a beautiful piece of writing.

K'line Bloom said...

Ton poème est magnifique Owen.
Les blessures du cœur, quelles qu'elles soient, ont également du mal à s'estomper, à l'image des coupures dans la chair. Elles ne disparaissent jamais complètement et il faut continuer de vivre avec.
Bises

Steve said...

As always Owen, so thought provoking and uplifting and wonderously humane.

mythopolis said...

Good post, I will check out Nevine's site, for sure. I guess it can be a question as to whether a person has a scar, or the scar has a person. Some people become their scar(s). I felt scarred by my father's sudden and violent death. The event did not simply impact me, it owned me...for years.

TechnoBabe said...

Interesting that you carry such a scar and the little girl grew into a woman learning to live with a flaw on her face. Very touching.

Stickup Artist said...

Very moving story about childhood memories and how in an instant something can jolt them back into the present. The visuals to the text are awesome and underscore this very human story.

Nevine said...

Dear Owen, first off, thank you for the very sweet words that just have left me beaming... not because you pumped me up... well that, too. ;-) But because we can come to understand one another even while communicating across vast oceans and seas... and through an electronic medium. So, I thank you, humbly, because... how else to say thank you... for being you?

But then, your poem leads me to reflect on: how memory can be so very deceitful. We think we have forgotten certain things... until... something triggers the memory... jogs it back into place and allows it to tell us, "Here! What made you think you were rid of me?" And we all carry our guilts... and our regrets.

Maybe... maybe... you did the right thing to not speak to the girl. Maybe... you would have triggered some memories for her. And then again... maybe... the memory of that day has become, for her, an endearing thought of a childhood accident... when the air about her was playful and innocent. And maybe your reminding her would have brought her a nostalgia... instead of a pain... and would have eased some of your guilt. Maybe maybe... right?

We can't make the world right for everyone, Owen. We can only hope to try and ease some of the burden... when we can.

I loved every word of your poem... every Owen-felt word... that oozed with that honesty you speak of... and your secret soul. :-)

Nevine

namaki said...

This is a very nice reflection on life! ;-)

Clytie said...

Wow. Just Wow.

English Rider said...

I can feel the internal tug of war between the desire for absolution and the need to not risk additional scarring. I think you chose wisely.

ρομπερτ said...

At three in the morning, a "tour de force", yet grateful I am, getting moved indeed.

Obtained me scar at the chin while hitting a window, maybe two decades ago.

A safe Wednesday for you.

daily athens

Loulou said...

Powerful lyrism, again, Owen.... Touching, tough, painful... so many feelings encompassed in a few words.
Scars are the signs of one's story. I remember the first big scars my son could get (and there would be a couple of more the following years). It broke my heart, my flesh and blood was crying, and there was not I could do to stop that, but with my presence and warm arms only. The scar on his leg will always remind me of that horrible moment. I sometimes touch it, I would to erase it, still it is now part of him. It built him for sure.
Would he be the same one without it? Certainly not.
Of course it is not on his face, so it is an easy comment, please forgive me, might be "light" bue sincere as always.
I love your B&N shots here, rhaaaaa lovely
Take care my friend
Loulou

Alberto Oliver said...

Oh Scars, scars, lying there as a prove that the memories and the events of the past were for real, and for we poor stubborn short lasting memory creatures never to forget the lesson learnt.
Not even the picture of a model survive to the unstoppable past of the time.
But a scar is also such a prove, almost a badge, like wrinkles and gray hair, that we have lived, and survived.

Thanks Owen, for your comments, you know you will always be a VIP one my friend =)

Nadege said...

So powerful Owen! You have me in tears at 8 am.

...louciao... said...

Your story, the images and the emotions it evokes, is as vivid as the warm red blood falling on the cold white snow. I must admit, your poem careens into and rips open a scar I carry from my own childhood when I caused harm to a little girl who had put her trust in me. Forgiveness of one's self is like a bandaid, but the scar is still beneath.

Owen said...

Dear All of You Kind People,

I'll be back here to respond just as soon as I'm able... the straight jacket factory is eating me alive at the moment... but as in a line in one of my favorite movies... "I'll be back... !" Thanks for your patience, understanding, and support, can't tell you what your words here mean to me...

Elisa said...

What a nice header you have ;) Well I have a little tracker on my blog, so I wonder why so many visitors from that blog visited there.. And because I am curious woman I came and found you, and I am glad I did ;) I must come here again with better time!

Owen said...

Dear Saj,
It wasn't easy getting out of the closet, between all the handcuffs, and padlocks with chains and straightjackets, Harry Houdini would have been proud !
:-)
Well, if I ever do see her again, maybe I will ask. But it didn't feel right when I was there. Not easy to approach a total stranger and start a conversation with an extremely intimate question...

Maybe by some odd chance she may see this piece, I'm often astounded on what people can turn up with just a few words in a Google search... time will tell.

Owen said...

Hi Catherine, many thanks... if you do get over to Nevine's place, I'll be curious to hear your thoughts...

Owen said...

Hi Virginia,
I keep trying to mix things up a little here... thanks so much, I'm luckly to have a few very kind visitors like your good self...

Owen said...

Hi Amy,
You're very welcome, I think you might like Nevine's writing...

Owen said...

Hi Priya, well you hooked me with that piece you did a while back which was the first one I commented on, with the photos which you had elaborated on with your wicked imagination... and if the comments leave you smiling, then that is a good thing I think...

Hope you enjoyed Nevine's work, imho she is one of the best blog poets out there...

Owen said...

Chère K'line,
Mille fois merci... j'ai de la chance que certains de mes visiteurs ou visiteuses français me pardonnent le fait d'écrire in anglais, visiblement tu as une bonne maitrise de la langue de Shakespeare... Et oui, on ne peut pas effacer le passé, il est là jusqu'à la fin de nos jours...

Owen said...

Thank you, good Sir Steve... in a world becoming increasing inhumane, it is up to us to remain as humane as possible...

Owen said...

Hey Mythmaker,
Interesting perspective you raise there. In some cases perhaps the scar becomes larger than life and takes on a disproportionate role in an identity. It is a fascinating subject, one that I've given more than my fair share of thought to over the years. How people live with various deformations... Some people seem outwardly oblivious, others seem, like you say, owned. But how people deal with such challenges is deeply individual I suppose. Not an easy subject, and a wide array of issues to include, starting with the degrees of gravity...

Better not get started, I might end up typing a doctoral thesis length work here...

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB.,
I'm not sure "interesting" is the word I'd use, "challenging" might do, but even that does not convey the depth of the matter... but no need to delve much deeper than that here, for me it is ancient history (until the archeologist in me starts digging...)

Owen said...

Dear Stickup,
There is never any telling what may serve as a catalyst to jolt memories back into the present from their deeply buried hiding places... incredible that our mind can retrieve things from so far away and long ago with such clarity...

Glad you liked the torn up, shredded poster boards, I'm not sure why someone came along and tore the top layers off, leaving such a mess behind. And funny how these images came to the surface of my rather dauntingly large image archive collection, just when they were needed. I took those photos in France in September 1991, on the trip I took when I met la Grenouille in Paris for the first time, the night before I was flying back home to the US...

Owen said...

Nevine, I am at a loss for words... you leave me speechless...

Yes, maybe... so many possibilities. One follows one's instincts at times without asking all the possible questions.

But as said at the end, if I ever see her again... Who knows, maybe she still lives in that town. Maybe I'll go back there again one day.

In any case, thank you...

I am ever more in awe of the possibilities for connections and meetings of minds through this medium... and am glad to have met yours... whispers, indeed...

Owen said...

Namaki, merci beaucoup...

Owen said...

Clytie...

:-)

Owen said...

Hi ER,
It was a dreadful moment of apprehension. The only thing possibly comparable I can remember was holding a telephone in my hand for what seemed like hours trying to get up the nerve to call a certain young lady long ago to ask for a date... The uncertainty. The fear of rejection. The hope...

Owen said...

Dear Robert,
Best not to use one's chin perhaps for breaking through windows. A hammer might be better next time. Hope you are ok though. Take good care...

Owen said...

Dearest Loulou,
Thank you deeply for sharing all this. For parents too it is hard, very hard, to see our offspring having to deal with imperfections. May your son and daughter go safely... I feel so lucky to have been able to meet them, and you... Perhaps you recall Lucie running around the Tuilleries fell down and bloodied her knee that day. But nothing serious. My goodness, my knees have scars on top of scars from so many falls.

All my best wishes to all of you...

PS what a nice surprise to run into you on FB this morning... errr, this evening for me, and now I really am off for my beauty sleep...
:-)

Elisa said...

Hello Owen - I am so happy that I found you, or was it so that you found me ;)) Anyway, your comment make my friday! So if you wanna see who visits here go to
http://extremetracking.com/
and you can put free tracker on your website. You can see mine, down down on my page. If you click it, you see something.. I have been little lazy posting lately. We have so dark here in Finland now, and it feels there is nothing to post.. But now there is snowing so maybe this is coming better ;) Have a nice day ;)

mythopolis said...

Hmmm...physical trauma is easier to discern, I suppose because of the obvious scars....emotional trauma can be more difficult to discern. In either case, the wounded one may try to hide the trauma in style, costume, or manners of behaving. And then, of course there are people who have repressed whatever it was that happened, and can't really understand what it was that ate them, or is still eating them.

mythopolis said...

Life has a way of scribbling on people.

Owen said...

Hi Alberto,
For sure, scars are history... and they bring back stories like few other things do...

Thank you Alberto, you too are VIP... with Henk, you two go right back to the early days of this adventure... here's hoping there will be many more days, and no new scars...

Owen said...

Nadege... perhaps tears are the highest praise of all for an artist's efforts. Tears are cleansing...

Owen said...

Dear Lynne,
There you are ! Looks like you've been careening around a bit yourself, crossing continents... I trust you are enjoying Vancouver...

Perhaps one day if I'm lucky you can tell me the story from long ago you've mentioned here, if you have a mind to.

Have a wonderful weekend out there where the totem poles stand and the wild bear roams...

:-)

Owen said...

Hei Elisa,
Kiitos for your visits here, I'm always happy to meet new people from all over the world, especially when they are world famous for squirrels, and curious, yes, utelias ! I was looking a little more around Finland through the window of your page just now, I've never been, but someday I want to. You have many very lovely photos... and lots of animals...

I don't know how people get through the long nights, I hope you have plenty of candles and lots of good books, and perhaps a plane ticket to South Africa for all of January and February... ? Or dreams at least...

Yes, kiitos for stopping by here...

And I just went and found the tracking gizmo, will try it out and see if it tells me anything interesting... like how many squirrels in Finland are now spying on my very obscure little blog...
:-)

Owen said...

Hey Mythos,
For sure, we are all scribbled on in a multitude of ways, by the ticking clock most of all perhaps...
Be well