Sunday, 10 February 2013

The 5 Minute Book Club

To the women with whom I briefly share the waiting room once every week, and to whom I only half-jokingly suggested that we start a 5 minute book club (I chickened out).



The 5 Minute Book Club”
1/2/2013

The New House
Maya Angelou

What words
have smashed against
these walls,
crashed up and down these
halls,
lain mute and then drained
their meanings out and into
these floors?

What feelings, long since
dead,
streamed vague yearnings
below this ceiling
light?
In some dimension,
which I cannot know,
the shadows of
another still exist. I bring my
memories, held too long in check,
to let them here shoulder
space and place to be.

And when I leave to
find another house,
I wonder what among
these shades will be
left of me.


When I was 14, my mother was reading to me from a book of Angelou's poetry, and when I heard this poem I experienced for the first time the sense of writing “speaking” to me.  Angelou's words so precisely reflected then, and many times since, one of the recurring themes of thought that I have explored in my mind over and over throughout my life.

The utterly countless feelings and experiences of the billions of humans who live and have lived remain in shades and shadows around us, as my own journey likewise sprinkles its ghosts among them. I am so frequently curious about the depth of each mind, the enormity of experiences both individually and collectively.  I wish I could see into them all.  My physical home is one contained space in which this curiosity feels especially real. What words did smash against these walls?

For a long time, more than a decade, I considered the following to be my most cherished secret, although I have since shared it with several people: When I was 14, in 1996, I stood on a chair in my bedroom, facing backwards into my closet so that I could see and reach the high, back wall above the door. It is a small closet, and seeing or reaching this part of the wall is difficult and finding what I put there would take years to be discovered by accident.



I wrote the poem on that wall with a purple Sharpie. I used purple acrylic paint to stamp my handprints around it. I left the Sharpie on the little ledge of the door frame, and almost every January since, I have gone back to my parents' home and again stood awkwardly on the red rolling office chair I was given as a child, and I have signed the date, sometimes adding a small update about my life. I place my hands, only a little bigger now, against the prints of the real, breathing girl who once existed there, and I try to connect time.


It is my way of leaving behind a tangible shade of me, of my years there, of my growing up in that space. Of the hours spent immersed in creative tasks and incredible books, and of the terrible pain I suffered there, some of which has followed me to adulthood and led me to this room.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing it. I love picturing that girl, maybe wobbly on that chair and maybe exhilarated at her secret and amazing work on the wall?

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