Monday, January 30, 2017

Magdalena Ball - City Child 6 - Memory and Sleeping Pills

Memory and Sleeping Pills

Not everything in the memory
banks is linguistic

tapping into pre-language experiences
requires a different mode
a blurring of the distinctions
between speech-specific processes
and other forms of perception.

I wasn’t quite one
I had a few words

for example, I was able to shout “Mommy”
while banging on the bathroom door

I was able to walk, label things
to clearly articulate what I wanted

I didn’t know the word for fear
it was more of a smell, a colour, a sensation
with its origins in the stomach
rather than the prefrontal cortex

I felt it coming on
a buzz through the skin
a sensation I could do nothing about

my mother was tired, pacing the small apartment
not cooking, not eating, just crying
I was too little
aware but not aware

in the moment when she disappeared
into the bathroom of endless sleep
I knew I had to get that door to open

so I banged, chubby fingers blackening
against the solidity of that door

I shouted until the sound of my voice was 
pure vibration

I don’t remember what happened
beyond that point
help must have arrived

at the hospital
my grandmother spoke sharply
to my coughing, teary mother
about my future and her obligations

she took over our house
cleaning, cooking, sorting, smoothing
the smell of fresh coffee 
penetrating my pores, teaching me 
what safety meant

after that language flooded in
and everything changed.


  1. this is v powerful and important stuff
    I feel that some of it is v finished and some of it (for instance the ending) is a kind of shorthand notation of what is required

    on the other if you started with

    I wasn’t quite one
    I had a few words

    and left out the last stanza
    then I think yd have a pretty finished poem

    personally though I'd be coming back to it in a month
    and see if anything else connects

    it's too important to not be sure how it's supposed to be

  2. Kit - I agree with you completely - the languaging is really what I want to explore here - not so much 'what happened’, and I appreciate you picking that up in your excellent suggestions for reordering and perhaps coming back to it once it’s surrounded by other work that picks up the language thread - which is very much a theme I want to work with (though subtly - hence the need to remove the notation!). Thank you!

  3. sometimes I feel with this kind of poetry material that it's an opening onto what should be a deeper, more minute investigation ... and that should somehow capture the recurrence of traumatic thought to us ...
    and I don't know whether it's prose or poetry that goes to or prose poetry some kind of haibun ... ? is there a genre word for a senryu kind of haibun I wonder ?? ... or maybe there simply need to be different versions, in different places, in different parts of the world?

  4. I agree with Kit, If I were you, I'd drop the last stanza and the two first ones. As for the languaging, the language thread, maybe it's possible to give a hint of it in the title ...

  5. This is so vivid Magdalena, and your pre-language premise opens many furtile corridors of perception that inspires and calls for more! This could work really nicely as an episodic foray. Well done & good luck to you.:)