Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where My Feet Will Not Walk

I'm back to Anne Michaels' The Winter Vault after a not-so-brief hiatus of reading other things, including Jabes, which I think I will be consistently reading for the rest of my life: Torah and Jabes--I wonder if that's all I need. Perhaps it will have to be enough--along with my solitude, that is. Anyway, Michaels writes:

"A nation is a sense of space you will never walk with your own feet yet know in your legs as belonging to you."

This is not, of course
, the way we typically conceive of nations. In this era--and perhaps as far back as we can go--one's nation is precisely the place where he or she walks with his or her own feet. Where we can and cannot tread defines the place we call our nation. Borders and boundaries keep us in and others out.

here in this passage the nation is something altogether different. It's very nature suggests its resistance to being tread upon. The implication is that once you walk on it, it is no longer yours. The nation is characterized by longing and anticipation rather than firsthand knowledge. We hope for something because it is not yet ours. And yet it is ours because we feel it in our legs, even though our feet cannot find the evidence of its existence. It is another of life's great paradoxes. I want only the paradoxes, if truth be told. I want the burden of responsibility that comes with such paradoxes.

The nation is
symbolic and evocative of yearning and aspiration as opposed to the banality of experience that characterizes our life in the space upon which our feet walk. And I can't help but think--there are places my feet do not walk, but which I know in my legs and up through my heart to be mine. And who are you to tell me that I do not belong? I am looking for a good fight.

is Jabes, for good measure (from The Little Book of Unsuspected Subversion): "For place, all you will have had is the hope of a mild place beyond the sands: a mirage of repose."

No comments: