Sunday Poem

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Howards End

Howards End

Howards End

Howards End

Howards End

There's a scene in Howards End where Leonard Bast is shown fooling around at work, gazing longingly at a map of stars in a book. This romantic moment of indulgence is perfectly articulated in the film as his work desk is transported outdoors. Only moments before this scene we saw him gazing up the night's sky, trying to explain the stars to his wife. I love him for his quiet moments of escape from everyday life and his fascination with the stars. When I was watching Howards End today, I thought of those rare conversations you have with someone you're just getting to know, when they begin to reveal quiet inner things, rather than a list of practicalities about them (what they do, where they work, where they're from, etc.). In those moments, people are like the map of stars Leonard stares at: they are laid out, exposed, with brightly evident sparks of hope dotting their landscape. But then the conversation is over and they wrap themselves back up, with those glimpses of stars carefully hidden behind their job titles. This is why I'm no good at small talk. I'd rather talk about the stars with someone like Leonard than talk about my job with someone like Charles Wilcox.

Speaking of being exposed, I'm also reading the most wonderful book this weekend: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. There's something so generous about Lessing's writing. Take for example these lines: 'You're afraid of writing what you think about life, because you might find yourself in an exposed position, you might expose yourself, you might be alone.' The generosity of The Golden Notebook is that it names such a fear and allows you as the reader to be exposed too without feeling totally alone. I've only started the book, but it confirms for me so much of what I like about writing. I once had an awfully long chat with another writer who found it 'indulgent' to write about things like feelings, sunsets, and all that other 'romantic bullshit'. I suppose he'd add my inclination to empathise with Leonard's map of stars to that 'bullshit' list. What annoyed me the most was the implication that such things aren't 'real' writing, and that indulgence doesn't have its place too.

Sunsets are real, as are stars. My feelings are real. It may all be romantic bullshit to some, but for others, it's affirming, reassuring, and a chance to breath. I'm all for generosity in writing, in naming the fears, along with the romantic pleasures. So in the spirit of my own indulgence, I watched the sun slowly retreat in the late afternoon yesterday, charmed by the simplicity of the moment. My favourite time of day in my place is late afternoon, because the sun feels different then. It no longer seems to be a harsh presence at the top of the sky, but a low, curtained presence covering the roof and the rooms with a softer and more tactile heat. It's a strange time of day, and when I have time to observe it, it fills me with a mixed feeling of melancholy and pure pleasure. I've tried to find a word for that feeling, but instead came up with a poem. Yes, I've indulged in some 'romantic bullshit'. And I'll leave you with the poem:

There is a word for it, perhaps, in some language
but you cannot invent it.
And so you move around the room imitating
the random goldenness that permeates

the edges of leaves, the tops of gates,
the periphery of shadows,
pulling everything into its void of static melancholy
and yet, you’re not sad.

This stillness is the erasure of pleasant stupefaction
like being poured unconsciously into rounded glass.
You feel it penetrate through the liminal window
speaking through the warmth of the sun

that gradually cools behind the house,
with a curdled silence that draws a curtain around the room,
temporarily warming your skin,
but leaving you strangely aching when the heat disappears.

9 comments:

cluelesspixie said...

This is such a great post that I'm actually at a loss for words. So just...thanks :) I've been thinking about reading The Golden Notebook for a while. I'm definitely going to read it now.

pRiyA said...

Lovely pictures to go with the words.

rooth said...

Thank you for sharing that poem. It captures my morning (surprisingly) appropriately - you always know exactly what the right words are Hila

Kate said...

I find it odd (wonderfully so) that someone fully across the globe from me, unknown to me, reflects my own thoughts back to me through their own reflections. Stars instead of small talk and later afternoon sun - always.

Teresa said...

Beautiful Hila!
As a romantic who dreads small talk, thank you.

Stephanie said...

What a beautiful poem to read this morning. So lovely!

I've never seen Howard's End, but this makes me want to go out and find it right now. : )

Camila Faria said...

You and your beautiful poems Hila! Thank you, once again.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I find small talk quite tiring and much prefer your description of the late afternoon sun.

Hila said...

cluelesspixie: thank you :) I'm really liking The Golden Notebook so far, so I recommend it.

Priya: yes, they are indeed.

Rooth: ha, if only! I'd love to have the right words all the time.

Kate: I'm glad to hear you say that, it makes me feel good to know people relate to what I write.

Teresa: Small talk makes me break out in a cold sweat ;)

Stephanie: ah, it's a great film - but I have such a conflicted response to it.

Camila: thank you!

Denise: I find it tiring too, it feels like skirting around interesting stuff, rather than actually talking about it.