Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amy Wright, “The Butterfly Nail”

Amy Wright

—from The Butterfly Nail

Faith—is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not—
Too slender for the eye

It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side—
It joins—behind the Veil

To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

A bridge without any girder is a magic carpet. It defies reason, going where the mind cannot, on that furthest limb, beyond comprehension, and yet, to comprehend it—or imagine it, if one can imagine eternity, is enough.
The “Scene” one takes on faith is “slender” as the eye of a needle, narrow as the slip of one breath into the next. Saddlebags of theories would prevent entrance. The metaphor of a journey is a traditional linear one, reflective of that need to move forward, if “vacillating.” E.D. uses the metaphor ironically, dissolving the illustration upon “arrival” to make the point that the carriage leads to that moment where, were the bridge to dissolve, the priority would become apparent. The bridge never had any supports to begin with. To step onto it, the first relinquishment must be made—to count on the underbellies of bridges or one’s vision before “Necessity.” That desperate lunge from the plank of the collapsing image is the real gesture, from which the poem itself becomes the soluble walk by which a wobbler makes it.

One need not be a Chamber—to be
One need not be a House—
The Brain has Corridors—surpassing
Material Place—

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting—
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a’chase—
Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter—
In lonesome Place—

Ourself behind ourself, concealed—
Should startle most—
Assasin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror’s least.

The Body—borrows a Revolver—
He bolts the Door—
O’erlooking a superior spectre—
Or More—

One need not be a serf to have an overlord. Easy to meet a ghost, to rattle those skeletons behind the minks and mackinaws, better even to dash panting down sidestreets just ahead of the wave of stones than to meet oneself. And what a one to meet was E.D.! The hesitation surpasses common sense and evolves it. In the quiet of that room one has claimed for oneself, she finds herself not alone—worse, diminutive in the stature of that other, “concealed” and “Cooler Host.”
It is perhaps telling the etymological history of the word awe. A we. The obsolete definition, “fear or dread” became archaic in the form of “that power to inspire reverence or fear.” Sickening feeling, that dread of something more powerful than oneself—humility. You cannot learn it from books, Mother Teresa says. Gift that it is, humiliation is learned in relationship. The nature of “awe” has shifted to reflect admiration in regard to the sublime. Or aerodynamic running shorts. One is impressed not by the depth of the stamp into one’s tender skin but its yield. If the use of the word “awesome” is any indication, we are easily overwhelmed, when what “Should startle most—” according to Dickinson, is that terrible meeting with one’s paltry and overworked defenses.
How much E.D. has learned from her solitude, to know that the abbey walls are safer than those “Corridors” in the mind. To have the material walls surround you confines the hunt, and more, arms one with the company of others against that confrontation everyone is unequal to, necessarily. The “superior spectre” frightens the mind “to behold,” precisely because one neither holds nor is held by it—“Or More” than it. “Nada y pues nada y pues nada,” Hemingway says. From the Latin, spectrum connotes “an array of entities, as light waves or particles,” and “a broad range of varied but related ideas” as a band of colors extends beyond those visible to the eye.
Some are pursued. Perhaps all. But some reach that circle of gunpoint, eyelids peeled wide as a clockwork orange.

It is easy to work when the soul is at
But when the soul is in pain—
The hearing him put his playthings up
Makes work difficult—then—

It is simple, to ache in the Bone, or the
But Gimlets—among the nerve—
mangle daintier—terribler—
Like a Panther in the Glove

This poem enacts the quintessential human drama. Globe theater is the size of a blood cell when it travels. Every auto parts store register is a stage. In one of Anna Quindlen’s essays, which were originally featured as op ed pieces in the New York Times, she clears up the misconception that some writers have it easy—that having arrived as Anna Quindlen is to be done with the trial of writing. She gets paid, praised, and guaranteed readership that sometimes speaks back to her, yes, but the act of writing she hates. Hates? One is inclined to disbelieve her, given the pleasure of discovery and exuberant clarity apparent in her columns, but the unseen battle from which Quindlen’s insight emerges has been plowed beneath her keys. It is kind of her to draw a handful of loam to the surface—(and no boundary but the writer’s character protects the generosity of admittance from self-aggrandizement) assuring readers who would be writers that difficulty or its absence is not indicative of talent, nor does it vanish with success.
Read this way, I am almost convinced E.D. intended to encourage other writers, voicing the perseverance that keeps her at her labor, but such a mission would unseat the drama of the final stanza, after the wounded soul has packed up “his” toys and the worker remains. The pronoun gender indicates otherness: the soul is not the worker, but the worker is the stage, and the conflict is internal—further in than bone, nearer to the one at work than a “Rind” of skin.
Hostage to entitlement, a lesser writer expends the energy of writing shoring up illusions of patience or piety in an ongoing argument against helplessness he seeks to defend, but the enemy dwells in “the Glove” of the body. There is no such thing as a hand-sized manageable panther. Hatred is not a surgeon. Nerves sculpted to lace by an insider’s auger “mangle daintier—terribler” than a stranger’s or a lover’s. Ask any patient in the burn unit whereby come the “Gimlets.” We heal in layers, slowly, from the inside out.


Amy Wright is the Nonfiction Editor of Zone 3 Press and the author of two chapbooks, There Are No New Ways To Kill A Man (Apostrophe Books: 2009), and Farm (Finishing Line Press: 2010).  Her prose and poetry appear in numerous literary journals along with her poetry, including American Letters & Commentary, Ribot 6, Quarterly West, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III: Southern Appalachia.

RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture,, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume 5 (2011): Disappearance

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