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Of Mice and Men



Of Mice and Men


Fragments have been in my mind recently.

It’s partly because I’ve been reading poetry to people with dementia, when memory literally fragments – thoughts and words becoming blanked out, lost temporarily, if not permanently.
Which itself reminded me of those pages of text we’re becoming accustomed to, where chunks have been redacted – heavy black lines descending and obliterating what was once there.

It’s not original at all I know to suggest that we’re living in disintegrated times, not so much in terms of being separated, aware of differences, even broken apart, but arguments get blocked, discussions halted and attention spans seem shorter.  Rushing on to the next thing means an extended line of thought is at risk of fragmentation.  

Still, we can live with, if not on, crumbs as well as wholeness: they might even offer an opportunity for creativity.

My poetry study group is presently reading Ezra Pound.  Here is a poet interested in scraps, picking up bits and pieces often from far away, both in time and place, and making them into a fresh whole.  His translation (sic) of Love Poems of Ancient Egypt, for example, is a reconstruction of incomplete pieces into a new, apparently complete poem. But he was also happy to break off and chuck away a chunk, as in the last section of his version of The Seafarer.  In fact, despite many of his poems being lengthy, his own poetry is often fragmentary – as, famously in that Metro station.

Ruminating on shreds, shards and slivers, I thought I’d try to write a poem that had been part destroyed.  Moth and rust might be responsible, but for some reason I liked the idea of a thief breaking through and stealing. We’ve got a cheeseboard shaped like a wedge of cheese with its corner apparently chewed off.  A mouse sprang to mind.

So I wrote a sonnet, and then blanked out the ends of the lines varyingly, as if the mouse was moving down the edge of the paper, nibbling a bit, then – her attention drawn away – scampering on to the next, so that the fragmentation (redaction even) seemed arbitrary.
In the event, it took quite a long time in the effort to make what remained seem interesting, and the whole poem make some sense even in its half-lost form.

All this happened some time ago.  I put it to one side (where the moth and rust might have got to it, if not a mouse) and came across it again recently. My various notes and workings have long since been lost – it was just the ‘complete’ sonnet that I discovered.  And as I read the broken off lines, I found I’d forgotten what had once been there.  Like someone living with dementia, I couldn’t remember the words – words which I’d once written, and then redacted.  So in an unexpected way, my artificial creation became authentic, even if no mouse was involved.


A Mouse   ten   net

The writer wrote 
the ends and sense have been consumed
so poems lose their meaning 
and mice find value in
With gaps like this
an edge, irregular with holes
destroy enough.  
disease and moth and rust
It’s only man who makes his lines complete
at least to start with.  Then the mouse
the most of what she finds.  So she will eat
and turn his loss to gain
Remembrance of forgetfulness is best
when words are lost, you still can build your nest.













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