There’s an old quatrain from out the middle ages I first met as epigraph to Robert Hass’s Sun Under Wood.
Now goth sonne under wode —
Me reweth, Marie, thi faire rode.
Now goth sonne under tre —
Me reweth, Marie, thi sonne and thee.
A book and a poet that’ve always resounded for me for how tenderly they assay the harms to which the mother-son bond is prone. Terrain I work in too as uncrampedly as I can.
What sat me down to write though were a father and a daughter. Watched Interstellar a second time last night and was moved (again) by all it did well and dismayed (again) at all it did poorly. And what I felt most (again) wasn’t the admittedly spectacular black hole wrung with light, or the rungs of sooty frozen clouds the astronauts clamber among, but the intimate distance of father and daughter the astonishing otherness of those sights makes visual.
It kinda broke me. I suddenly got I’m almost for sure not going to have that in my life. I’m a bit too broken to have a kid or have taken a bit too long to get me whole enough to do it. I’d probably do okay at it now but the window’s closing or closed.
A bit later the okay-voices came to say there’s plenty else to make a life meaningful, and they’re right, but for a bit it broke me.
If I’m more open here than I’ve been, I thank Hass a little, my students a lot, who’ve braved to write about trials and disorders known by name but not plumbed for real in the halls of DSM V. To write and make beautiful and indeed sublime sentences out of. (Therapy prose: the more honest it is the more you cringe. Transformative prose: the more honest the more you soar.)
I do have to say, a joy of teaching is, the wish in me to father is met, not as it would be by a child, I know, but still, it is, and meaningfully. That’s for a different post — maybe a different blog — but it’s probably the most meaningful thing about teaching for me, equalled maybe only by the creative incitement the most happy arrangements have had to offer me.
Thought on the way to the grocery store yesterday evening: if at the end of my life I’ve touched more people as a teacher than as a poet, that’ll be okay, I guess.
So, Inanna goth under wode, and I’ve had to go with her, goddammher. No point putting it off, let’s get this road trip started.
The text’s a bit hard to read (working on that) so —
She takes the road no one turns on to the kur where our names go to die.
The kur is the Sumerian underworld — ruled by her sad sister Ereshkigal. Her snazzy feather is the Bank of America logo. The terrain she and her trusty friend navigate at some peril is a treacherous assemblage of security envelope linings.
From a later (Akkadian) text, “The Descent of Ishtar to the Nether World” (just for funs):
To the Land of no Return, the realm of [Ereshkigal],
Ishtar, the daughter of Sin, [set] her mind.
Yea, the daughter of Sin set [her] mind
To the dark house, the abode of Irkal[la],
To the house from which none leave who have entered it,
To the road from which there is no way back,
To the house wherein the entrants are bereft of li[ght],
Where dust is their fare and clay their food …
Don’t make too much of the pun on Sin. But think about it — a road you can only go one way on. Really, there’s no such thing as a one-way street, you can always go the other way when no one’s looking. Anyway, this passage has always been striking to me, for how through its stiffness it still haunts and shudders.
In my version anyway Inanna grows smaller as the scope of her task dawns on her.
Her faithful friend at a remove now, unable to follow any further, Inanna’s entered the weave of one of the earth’s textures, her feather guttering smokily, some sort of torch.