Sunday, October 24, 2010

One Reading of "The Broken Sandal"

This is how Denise Levertov's poem ends:

Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

The speaker has dreamt that her sandal came apart, and now she has to stop walking and actually consider the conditions of the road she's on - the dirt, the rocks - and where she is and where she's going.

It's a short poem, and abrupt like the thong of the sandal snapping, but like with any good poem there's much in it. Yesterday I read something about the tendency to sleep-walk through life, and the poem stirred those thoughts up too - how it's easy to fall into a direction or rhythm that we don't think about too much, make choices small and large in a similar way, until something finally arrests us. Comfort, complacency, a numbed mind then give way to uncertainty and agitation. We wonder where we are, where we're headed to, and how we'll deal with it all; things we assumed would last are absent, our previous state of mind has fallen apart. We look around us and wonder how we even got here.

What's also interesting is that the poet isn't describing an actual event - that the sandal did break - but that she dreamt it did. She's anticipating these events, thinking about life and what she's doing with her life even before circumstances might force her to. And as a poet she's calling on us to have that kind of dream too, to imagine our travels stalled, difficulties cropping up along with insistent questions about our purpose. How would we begin to answer?


Crystal Calliope said...

Interesting thoughts to chew on. A friend told me she was trying to be totally conscious in her life. It's a big task. I "space out" while doing chores, or thinking to myself which is a lot of the day. I like the idea of removing your comfort, your familiarity and tools (like a sandal) that keep you separated from seeing and interacting with your life fully.

naida said...

Thats true about sleep-walking through life. So many of us just fall into that routine and don't think about doing something different.

Cottage Garden said...

A very interesting post and one to reflect and ponder. Sometimes its so much easier to 'sleep-walk' through life than to face up to life's perceived and indeed real difficulties.

Incredible that five concise lines can convey so much. An inspiring poem.


Relyn said...

What a fascinating post. You've given me much to ponder. I do love the way your mind works.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Very thoughtful and thought provoking post, I think that the sleepwalking through life is a real problem for so many of us these days, as individuals and as a society. We all need that wake up call

HKatz said...

Thank you for all your replies - I'm glad the poem and the post stirred up these thoughts about life, and I enjoyed reading your take on it.