Friday, October 24, 2014

'Love Poem to the Printed Text' by Lisa Bernstein (and my commentary)

I loved you because you appeared to me privately,
always waiting between the covers,
filling the pages my thumb riffled.
After I shut my eyes, you billowed across a dark field
like a sheet slashed with hieroglyphs
which let through the starlight.
The royal ball, the fox-boy,
her foot sliding into the slipper-
these you only pretended to describe, distractions
from your own procession, as transparent as black lace.

I wanted to bite into you, as into a wafer
where the first words were written. I knew
you were a single scroll ripped apart.
A piece flew out of reach. It was the moon.
No one could explain why you kept returning, imprinting
white rectangles throughout the world. One pair of hands
to hold you again, make you whole.

At first you spoke of my sadness, and the emaciated man
on the New York corner, the red leaves scattering
the grass. You become a woman
twirling in veils and a sequined bodice
and in the snow by the window hunched a wolf
into which her figure dissolved.
Her shoulders sloped like the letter f,
his black haunches bent
in a pair of g's,
The stone walls went white
to the edges of the page.

Every day my eyes scan this snow,
A figure walks silently, looking to either side.
I can't see if it's a man or a woman. Black footprints extend
between two lines of poplars, I glimpse
your arched neck, your fingers entwined beneath mine.
The sunlight fades, but I keep writing in the dusk,
trying to cover this surface, its sudden
flatness, like a face turning away.

I found this poem in a book I recently read by Lisa Bernstein, The Transparent Body (1989).  And though it was written twenty-some years ago, I found bits and pieces of myself and my own life (as a woman and a writer) sprinkled all throughout her words, stories, and recollections.

Yet, this poem really jumped from the page when I read it.  I saw myself in each stanza, the transient of each syllable...falling across my bed, a book between my hands.   How many times have I done this, thus far, in my lifetime?  Laying in bed surrounded by the natural, meditative glow of a crowd of the bathtub, on a park bench whilst the world just floats by (though I'm unaware), knee to knee beside a stranger on a bus, atop the clouds in a plane with cloud mist outside the window, sprawled across the couch with my coffee and my highlighter, the many high-backed chairs of libraries and bookstores.  Let's not forget the cafe chairs and bar stools, the restaurant booths and backseat rides.  

It seems at every pit-stop of my life, there's always been a book beside my lap, the weigh of my purse-string, the primary necessity of my backpack or overnight bag.  The piece of my travel luggage I prefer to carry in my hands.

Books have crossed the country with me.  And vise versa, I have explored alternate realities, worlds yet un-traversed until I pulled the covers apart.  The text-gift to myself.  The solitary experience of so many separate lives I have lived in the books I have read, the poetry and stories of other people that have allowed me to delve into the depths of my insides while simultaneously swimming the air of this earth.

Does this sound melodramatic, manic?  It very well might be.  Perhaps only a true, kindred bibliophile would understand...or a fellow poet, maybe an avid reader from the other side of the earth who happens by this post and says, 'aha, so we must share a piece of the same soul.'

I love my books, my poems, poets I meet, authors long-dead before my eyes ever graced their words. And I think it is the human experience, the essence of blood and vein and heart and the soul (a mere visitor), the hardships of our lives, the bitterness, betrayal, hurt, happiness, tranquility of turning each page (and the brave vulnerability it takes to even put a thought of one's own on paper) that drives us each to read and write (rather one or both).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that books are my friends.  Quotes are a lifeline.  And each separate poem is transcendence into another's life.  And so I read well, heartily as a hungry child...and am never full enough!  Hence, the poem and the title, I do believe I have a rather obsessive love affair with the printed text.  And I'm totally okay with that dysfunction.

On a side note...I really, really love the accompanying picture....that is totally me...practicing a yoga pose against the headboard as I read....later complaining of my aching back!


  1. like you, i enjoy text, words in books, words in songs. love expressing myself, challenging my ability to come as close to explicating my true thoughts and feelings on paper. enjoy living the lives, going to places that someone has put in print or pics. when i do, though, sometimes i feel conflicted about living a vicarious existence vs spending this most precious time living my life. i wish to see with my own eyes, touch, smell, taste, traverse the world, although mostly mundane, but the only world i know or able to experience in this narrow cognitive existence.

    presently in this time line of my life where days are oh so precious because of my aging, i enjoy my books, my music and the small circle of those i love and those that love me.

    sometimes i exercise the escape by transcending my self into something else, like a tree or a bird or the wind or the river or the sky where the stars wink at me. you know the one where one escapes the self becoming that which makes them selfless.

    in this, i believe we share a common space

    gracias for sharing

    1. what an awesome reply!

      i love the idea of going where writers have been and trying to experience what they experienced.

      sometimes when i read, i feel as if i almost embody the authors terms of what they are eating, how they dress, etc.

      also love the idea of transcendence and writing from the perspective of something not human. all wonderful ideas!

      thanks for sharing your thoughts. you really made me think this afternoon! :)

  2. Stacy, what a treat to find this blog post! And especially lovely because I had just decided to put up some of my poetry in my own blog, and here you've done it. Interestingly, just a couple of weeks before you posted this, I suddenly returned to working intensively on my poetry for the page after a number of years of focusing on music, often incorporating poetic spoken word, but still, a different genre from "pure" writing. So I feel as if you somehow heard me. For which I am grateful. Best wishes for your own writing and explorations, Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein)

  3. BTW, I just noticed there's a line missing (the middle one here):. Should read..."Her shoulders sloped like the letter f, his black haunches bent/in a pair of g's. The stone walls went white/to the edges of the page..."

    1. oh wow! i so admire your writing. i am beyond honored to have you find my blog and comment! :) i will include the line i missed!

      thanks so much for stopping by! can't wait to read your new work, please keep me informed!


Thank you for taking the time to comment, it is so appreciated. Your thoughts and critiques are always welcome! I will be by to visit your blog soon!