August 29, 2007

You can call on beauty still and it will leap from all directions

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:18 pm by nevavegan

You can call on beauty still and it will leap
from all directions

you can write beauty into the cruel file
of things done things left undone but

once we were dissimilar
yet unseparate that’s beauty that’s what you catch

Adrienne Rich
from Part 7 of “Calle Vision”
from Dark Fields of the Republic

I was thinking about hope and this is where I wound up. Going back to Adrienne Rich and knowing how right she is. In every part of “Calle Vision” actually, because it’s a lot about the terrible things we do to animals and each other. But it’s also about finding yourself, however broken, and knowing that it’s still better to go on than to give up.

I was finishing up Pattrice Jones’ AfterShock as well, and pondering this question: how do I make myself useful. Given everything, where do I go, what do I do?

Pattrice talked about the healing power of the narrative, because until we can connect one event to another we can’t make sense of them. But to me it is more than this. The narrative is my form of communication. To me there is never a concept independent of circumstance. Instead we are caught up in time and place and what we believe and what we do are intrinsically tied to those things. So I tell stories and I hope those stories convey what matters most to me, and I hope they help.

I was feeling lost in arguments, terrified by the cruelty all around me, and saddened by the indifference I see in response to that cruelty. So many people walking around numb. They don’t want anyone or anything to get hurt, but they can’t feel it or know it when it happens. So they stay numb until someone manages to hit a raw nerve and then they lash out wildly against that pain. And I thought about Pattrice’s words, that this is all part of our fracture, our internal fractures, the fractures that divide us from the earth, from the animals, and from each other.

So to get back to myself I had to call on beauty again. I didn’t go to work today. I took the day off and took the dogs to Greenbelt Park. It’s not a big park, it’s not spectacular. There are no falls or unexpected rock formations. Instead we, the dogs and I, spent our morning in the green leaves and saw three turtles, two deer, and countless butterflies. One spicebush swallowtail fluttered near my face for a moment and then as she flew away her wing brushed my cheek. Even with the trash, the drought, and everything, Rich was right, beauty rushed from all directions. Life was everywhere. Deer grazing. Frogs swimming. Insects buzzing and gathering and fluttering. All those tiny creatures living just as they should, their miniature bodies seeking food and moisture and enjoying another sunny day. Who would deny them this?



  1. bazu said,

    I agree with you. I think blogging is a very interesting experiment in narrative, and it has always pleasantly surprised me when I expected the worst.

  2. SuperWeed said,

    I need to read the rest of that poem!

    I love Adrienne Rich. Once, I went to a reading that she did, after which she signed books. While signing mine, she complimented an antiracist button I was wearing. I took it off and gave it to her. Then she looked me in the eye and said, “Keep up the good work.” It was so meaningful to me, like getting a blessing from the grandmother for my activist work.

  3. Neva Vegan said,

    Yes Bazu, you write yourself into places you didn’t realize.

    Thanks Pattrice! It is really a great book, one of her best… My Adrienne Rich story is less fun but perhaps funny in some way. I stood in line for forever to get her signature and as I was at the end she actually didn’t see me and started to go, but then someone stopped her and she rolled her eyes and signed my book. I think she was really tired.

  4. Neva Vegan said,

    PS. Whenever I had to memorize and read poems I’d try to throw a Rich in there because I’d say her name and people would sigh and expect something else. Then I’d do “Final Notations” from Atlas of the Difficult World and the beauty of it just knocks you off your feet. So all the people who thought they don’t like political poetry came away with a different view of it.

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