Thursday, August 04, 2005

Excerpt From "The Radiant" by Cynthia Huntington

THE RAPTURE

I remember standing in the kitchen, stirring bones for soup,
and in that moment, I became another person.

It was an early spring evening, the air California mild.
Outside, the eucalyptus was bowing compulsively

over the neighbor's motor home parked in the driveway.
The street was quiet for once, and all the windows were open.

Then my right arm tingled, a flutter started under the skin.
Fire charged down the nerve of my leg; my scalp exploded

in pricks of light. I shuddered and felt like laughing;
it was exhilarating as an earthquake. A city on fire

after an earthquake. Then I trembled and my legs shook,
and every muscle gripped so I fell and lay on my side,

a bolt driven down my skull into my spine. My legs were
swimming against the linoleum, and I looked up at the underside

of the stove, the dirty places where the sponge didn't reach.
Everything collapsed there in one place, one flash of time.

There in my body. In the kitchen at six in the evening, April.
A wooden spoon clutched in my hand, the smell of chicken broth.

And in that moment I knew everything that would come after:
the vision was complete as it seized me. Without diagnosis,

without history, I knew that my life was changed.
I seemed to have become entirely myself in that instant.

Not the tests, examinations in specialists' offices, not
the laboratory procedures: MRI, lumbar puncture, electrodes

pasted to my scalp, the needle scraped along the sole of my foot,
following one finger with the eyes, EEG, CAT scan, myelogram.

Not the falling down or the blindness and tremors, the stumble
and hiss in the blood, not the lying in bed in the afternoons.

Not phenobarbitol, amitriptylene, prednisone, amantadine, ACTH,
cortisone, cytoxan, copolymer, baclofen, tegretol, but this:

Six o'clock in the evening in April, stirring bones for soup.
An event whose knowledge arrived whole, its meaning taking years

to open, to seem a destiny. It lasted thirty seconds, no more.
Then my muscles unlocked, the surge and shaking left my body

and I lay still beneath the white high ceiling. Then I got up
and stood there, quiet, alone, just beginning to be afraid.


An Interpretation

While reading C. Dale Young’s post concerning his upcoming publication at Four Way Books (congrats to C. Dale), I came across the pome above which is included in another collection of poems also published by the same literary house. Its dark palpable texture is pervasive and almost immediately evident as noted in S1L1’s foreboding line: “…stirring bones for soup,” - which simultaneously conjures death and mysticism. The poem’s recounting of the onset of illness and a metamorphosis. (i.e.: S1L2 – “..,I became another person.) is harrowing, striking us with “pricks of light” and as “…exhilarating as an earthquake.” But it is here in S8L1: “the dirty places where the sponge didn't reach.”, that this humble reader felt that the poem had been, “… driven down my skull into my spine.”. The power of the poet’s words had me on the floor “swimming against the linoleum,” along with the speaker. Then this, the following lines seal the passage behind me to the place I was before:

And in that moment I knew everything that would come after:
the vision was complete as it seized me. Without diagnosis,

without history, I knew that my life was changed.
I seemed to have become entirely myself in that instant.


The next four couplets lend themselves well to the conceit and the likening of the neurological disorder to a mystical transformation of sorts, a sort of enchantment inexplicable and not adequately explained away by the scientific. Because in the end we all “lay still beneath the white high ceiling.”



The Radiant by Cynthia Huntington




















Winner of the 2001 Levis Poetry Prize
selected by Susan Mitchell
ISBN: 1-884800-49-1
paper, 60 pages

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