Monday, November 27, 2006

Bars of My Own Body

Photo: Randall Jarrell

-Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!
The world goes by my cage and never sees me.

--From: "The Woman at the Washington Zoo," by Randall Jarrell
(1960)
--------------------------------------------------
As a freshman in college, I read two poems by Randall Jarrell that I remember: "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" and "The Woman at the Washington Zoo." I remember getting a great adrenaline rush upon reading about the gunner who hunched in the turret until his "wet fur froze." It is a harrowing poem about the death of a young man, unceremoniously washed out of the airplane's belly "with a hose." Back then, I didn't know poems could be written about such things.

I had almost no reaction at all to "The Woman at the Washington Zoo." I only remember reading it because our instructor, a young man with writing aspirations of his own, loved Randall Jarrell and spoke at some length about him.

Reading "The Woman at the Washington Zoo" this evening, the lines jumped out at me: "Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!" How is it I didn't notice this before, sitting in that classroom so many years ago, listening to that eager young instructor? I wonder.

3 comments:

beths front porch said...

I love these two lines. I wonder if it's me talking :-) Maybe we receive great wisdom when we are ready. That's what I like to think, anyway.

Cynthia said...

I think that sometimes we shut out what we're not ready to receive. What powerful lines though.

ggw07 said...

"From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
that it no longer holds anything anymore.
To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
bars, and behind the bars, nothing."
The Panther, Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by Robert Bly
http://www.thebeckoning.com/poetry/rilke/rilke1.html

"He spins from the bars, but there's no cage to him
More than to the visionary his cell:
His stride is wildernesses of freedom:
The world rolls under the long thrust of his heel.
Over the cage floor the horizons come."
The Jaguar, Ted Hughes

Hughes also has a different take on "boredom" in his "Jaguar."
http://perso.wanadoo.es/joan-navarro/tigre/tigre3/hughes.htm#The%20jaguar

Thanks for the post Thanksgiving
nourishment!

Gretchen

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