Poetry Friday: Burn like that.

h1 September 4th, 2009 by eisha

Photo by Starfire - click for link.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pefectfutures/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

First, an apology: I have bailed on Poetry Friday for the past two weeks running. I know! Shocking! Two weeks ago, I just flat out forgot. No excuse. And then last week, I burned my finger and thumb on a hot baking sheet and couldn’t type, what with all the bulky gauze and searing pain and such. So, I’m sorry. But I’ll try to make it up to you, by sharing something extra good: it’s “A Young Woman, A Tree” by Alicia Ostriker.

This poem gained a bit of notoriety a few years ago, because Kurt Cobain quoted it above a self-effacing caricature in his published journal. But this is a poem that deserves all kinds of notice on its own merit. Check it:

Passing that fiery tree—if only she could
Be making love,
Be making poetry,
Be exploding, be speeding through the universe
Like a photon, like a shower
Of yellow blazes—
She believes if she could only overtake
The riding rhythm of things,
Of her own electrons,
Then she would be at rest
If she could forget school,
Climb the tree,
Be the tree,
Burn like that.

Read the rest here. I love it for the vibrant imagery, for the driving pulse created by that litany of verbs, and for its strangely affirming twist of an ending. But what do you think?

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Today’s Poetry Friday Round-up is brought to you by the uber-classy Kelly Herold at her blog Crossover. Thanks, Kelly!

13 comments to “Poetry Friday: Burn like that.”

  1. Firstly, I hope your fingers are healing well.

    Secondly, I am in love with this poem. Who among us has not wanted to “climb the tree, be the tree, burn like that”? Who hasn’t wondered where our youth and energy went, expending time and energy in the wondering? And who hasn’t found, on another day later in that month or year, that for that day, they are “speeding through the universe like a photon, like a shower of yellow blazes”. I’m in love with this poem today, Eisha, and I thank you for posting it. It was new to me, even though the sentiment was well-known.

  2. That’s got a lovely surprise in the last couple of lines. In fact, the whole poem turned out to be quite different from what I’d thought it would be. Just great, Eisha. Thanks!

    (Aside: very glad to know you can use a keyboard again. From your description of The Incident, I feared you’d end up with, like, lobster claws. Although it could be fun if you turned out to need a personal amanuensis — a Boswell to your Johnson!)

  3. This is a very visual poem, with such an intensity of expression that I felt a rush of energy just reading it. I think the desire to “burn like that” is with all of us.

    I really liked the tie-in with the glorious fall tree, Eisha. Fall always gives me that “driving pulse” you mentioned, so it’s a perfect time for Alicia’s poem. Thanks for sharing, and I hope your fingers are ready for safe baking activities again!

  4. Fabulous poem. It makes me want to reread Whitman’s “I sing the body electric” lines.

  5. Eisha,

    You more than made up for the Poetry Fridays you missed with this poetic gem. It has a wonderful rhythmic momentum that builds as you read it. I love it. I hope your hand is healing.

  6. Lots of juice in this poem!

  7. Kelly (and everyone), yes, my fingers are almost entirely better now. Thanks! And I totally agree – I feel like I have always wasted a lot of time wishing and wanting rather than doing and being.

    JES, are you volunteering for the job? I wouldn’t mind having a personal scribe – gives one a certain cachet, no?

    Jill, I got really lucky finding that perfect tree photo. And I always feel a rush of energy around the start of fall too.

    Laura, yeah, that would be a good match.

    Elaine, so glad I’m forgiven!

    Miriam, that’s an apt description. Love it.

  8. LOVE this poem!!! I laughed with the old lady at the end, tickled both for her and for myself and my burnings!

  9. Glad to hear your fingers are getting better. This is such a thrilling poem – especially the ending. I always like to see the old lady get the best lines. *grin*

  10. Oh. That. Tree.

    The poem — the tree — what a lovely symmetry.

  11. Mary Lee, so glad it tickled you.

    Andi, agreed! Score one for the old ladies.

    tanita, like I said, I got lucky. I just googled “fire tree” and that was the first thing that showed up.

  12. Am inspired to find a tree, take a photo like that and the poem rocks!

  13. This poem makes me want to go out and BURN. At the end I was feeling a bit sad and all too aware of the sands of time. Time to seize the day!

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