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The Stilling Heart

Deon Vozov on January 22, 2013 15:27


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    When my aunt was dying, and I was reading to her from an anthology of poetry that I'd had in my car for reading emergencies (which happen more often than one suspects they will), I deliberately skipped a particular little poem, Emily Dickinson’s “After Great Pain a Formal Feeling Comes,” because of its traditional interpretation. I had gotten into T.S. Eliot’s "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" the day before, which was so much more self-reflectively metaphysical than my aunt herself, who, as far I could tell, had never dared to eat a peach, or even desired to dare. Too much of a lovely thing, I thought, to compound Eliot with Dickinson. More helpful was it to let her drift in and out of awareness as a familiar voice floated along the waves of her conscious thoughts, pausing between blurring cantos to call her by her familial nickname, that most basic sound of being known, and of belonging. There’s more to that story, but the point is, since deliberately skipping over "After Great Pain" that afternoon, I’ve been haunted a bit by it, and have thought much about the daily transitions of emotions that shift us from one reality to another. There’s a pivotal moment when something in us surrenders to the magnitude of that bridge between realities. We crack open, like ripe autumnal pods, bursting from one state of being into another. It’s there, all around us, a stillness carved between peaks of changing emotion…a formal feeling. Whatever its root, the emotion du jour is less at issue than the profundity of exiting and entering realities. Like emotion, music unfolds as a series of pauses between events, but unlike emotion, it expresses itself linearly. This composition is an abstract narrative, if such a thing exists. It's not about death, or dying; it's about life, and living. If I could have written it all in a single measure, I would have. Honest. But I am not yet that skilled.


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