Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

A Poetic Investigation: I Had No Time to Hate—Pt. 1

It’s the holiday season. Cold, stress, and a worried hurry. Up-to-the-minute information, down-to-the-t lists, and, of course, last minute doings are floating my “tête” in mixed musings. And so I pause. I pause for “us” in writing–my writing, your reading. We take a breathe, remember the cold, this year’s cold as though always there and always new. It’s cold here and suddenly it’s cold everywhere. Or so it seems. We’re still taking that breathe. We’re there, together, in the so “mentally” passages of sens/e. You and Me. Us. In you’re being there in reading, me remembering you—there—in my writing, even though, and here’s the echo, even though unfinished phrases remain—for me, for you, and for us—to complete together.
Let’s read a poem. Let’s take a break from the holidays. Let’s investigate together a poem. Let’s not interpret it, even though we’re already interpreting in listening. Let’s read the poem together in listening, in writing, in repeating. Peaceful sharing with me here, hearing, and you there, thearing. Together.

Emily Dickinson says to us: I had no time to Hate. A first line echoed in the title. The title reflected in the first line. The author, Emily, has left us no distancing title. We are up close, left repeating I had no time to Hate I had no time to Hate – in reading, speaking aloud inside us. We repeat. We, the carriers of titles, carried the title from the first line to the title. We’re just repeating, because we can’t—no, we’re not supposed to speak the work in speaking our own personal title. The poet owns the title like they own the work. And the work should be the only voice. We receive it. We read it. We interpret it from the work. The work seems to be all that speaks. We interpret by listening to the voice. Here we are and the work there. The work speaks. We listen. The work once written in pen, hidden in her days, found in ours is transcribed, printed, then, revolutions later, digitalized, passed through, over, under, between real hands and virtual passages. It’s now there on the virtual world, netted. But, we arrived together. The poem and I. Reading. We’re there together now.

I’m the only one reading. The poem is just there. Sitting there, like a turd. A thing, non-living, non-moving, non-reproducing. Dead. Worse, never alive. A poem is just scratches on a contrasting surface. Black on white. Black on another. White against another than herself. Writing is the annihilation of black-on-black, of sans-contrast. The slightest difference was and is always there. Everything is, was, will be based on this slightest of differences, these bigger than slight differences, and these so-different differences. I’m supposed to be reading this poem. All we have read is the first line in title and in and of itself. We got distracted. We got distanced. The poem stopped speaking. The poem was never alive. We stopped reading. The poem died for us, hid from us in the folded margins.

The poem has to be read. We are the reader. The Poem (I had no time…) so silent that we hardly noticed it, notice it.

But then we read the poem and the poem speaks.

It’s not quite so non-living. It’s dead. It’s writing. It’s us. We wrote it. We spoke. We heard. And in reading it, it lives now there for us, even though writer unknown, lost, never knowable. They left their words for us—to live in reading. Language always of us, of our. Preserved words speaking seemingly still our words. Or at least we can now, here, saying and hearing, repeat them and repeat our meaning with their words.

We’re speaking and preserving our words, a shared thing, a shared language, our shared expressions, our collective sprit of the language, our communal language of the spirit. We speak the poem. The poem says nothing without us, readers, still speaking, still repeating. The poem was never sent out. We never received it. We—you and I, the language, the poem, our ghosts—embraced and were embraced by. Language over language. Poetry spoken to us, us speaking the poem. Intertwined destinies.

(And this is only the first line. I leave the rest of these investigations for another day as I leave you the rest of the poem.)

  • *

I had no time to Hate

*I had no time to Hate –
The Grave would hinder Me –
And Life was not so
Ample I
Could finish – Enmity – Nor had I time to Love –
But since
Some Industry must be –
The little Toil of Love –
I thought
Be large enough for Me –

–Emily Dickinson