Life Lived in the Open Wound

I’ve lived most of my life, particularly my writing life which is a significant amount of time each day even on weekends and yes, holidays, too, in what I call the open wound. I don’t think I am alone in this, but believe the poetic disposition is particularly tuned into wounds. Some may have been incurred in adult life, others engendered in childhood. I have many wounds from my beginnings, practically since conception, as both my parents were abusive. They were masterful in their capacity to be brutal.

All of us are among the walking wounded, but for the poet, wounds are wombs where poems take root. Sometimes I see my soul, literally so, as a wounded web and consider that my work is to transform that web into a cocoon. Poems incubate in these cocoons, sometimes for years, even decades, till suddenly a wing appears. That wing is the word and the forward motion of that wing is to migrate. Poems, then, as winged migrations. Some migrations are exhilarating, others so exhausting the wings feel leaden and the labor is all about survival for both poem and poet.

The journeys are long and when we imagine the treks of birds and butterflies it seems impossible that these tiny creatures can travel such distances. Poems, too, must go the distance and when they do, it’s breathtaking, even the darkest of poems is utterly breathtaking.

Wound as womb I want to say, wound as womb in which seeds tick. That tick, tick, ticking is what creates the poem’s rhythm and cadence, the poem’s musicality, a trait too often overlooked. I was first trained as a singer so the study of music preceded the study of poetry. I sang all the time, but when I truly encountered poetry for the first time some thirty-five years ago, I knew that all I wanted to do was sing on the page. My wounds, then, are also musical. A scar can’t sing, but a wound can as it has both voice and a story to tell.

In the end, that’s the gift wounds bring us—a story set to song. If I ignore my mortal woundedness, I risk ignoring my humanity. Imagine the wound as sacred. Imagine the wound as schooling us. For me, that’s where the pull of the poem is and if I can manage living in the open wound, I can also believe in healing.

Wounds can blossom, flower in time, through time, over time and at this moment I see the battered child I once was as a flower girl attending the wedding, the till death-do-us-part wedding that married me to poetry with complete fidelity. Finally I see the wound as a vow. I once wrote, make love with your wounds, and I do that, just that, day after day, year after year and the consummation, my friends, is beautiful.

Filed under: Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose