Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vladimir Propp's Elements of Fairy Tales: A Poem with an illustration by Fumi Nakamura


ABSENTATION: How could I have left them? The boy with his small, fierce body. The girl with lupine eyes. They stood weeping in the doorway between the light house and the night. Their warmth still lingered on my cold hands even after I was gone.

INTERDICTION: “Don’t go!” they wailed. “Don’t go with him.” They ran to the window and watched me get into the long black car. I saw their faces shining there, like little lights. Like stars reflected in the dark pool of the glass. He was hunched over the wheel and wore a ruffled shirt. His eyes were an interdiction, too but I did not recognize.

VIOLATION of INTERDICTION: He carried me away into the night. Trees bloomed in the fluorescence and strange electronic birds sang. He picked a flower and put it behind my ear and read me poetry. I swooned. It did not take much.

RECONNAISSANCE: We went to find my mother in a weird old restaurant that smelled of meat. She was sitting fragile in a huge red booth like a piece of garnish. She, too, was tricked by him. She took me aside and said, No other man has deserved you yet, my darling.

DELIVERY: Where is the cancer? he asked her. She told him and he laid his hands on her as if he were a healer. We gasped with gratitude and relief. How little we knew him.

TRICKERY:.When I went home with him that night I took off my clothes and we stepped into the bath. The warm water, the sight of his pale body and my grief and fear lulled me into stupor. I had never thought my mother would ever leave me. I opened for him like a Japanese paper flower.

COMPLICITY: How can I help? I asked him. Stay up with me each night and love me, was his reply. Never close your eyes for then the dark may win and take your beloved mother away. Each night I stayed awake with him trying to keep the dark at bay. In the days I stumbled with fatigue and yelled at my children. Flesh seemed to be evaporating from my bones. My hair fell out and my nails peeled off. Still I stayed awake and loved him. My mother worsened.

MEDIATION: The doctor removed a part of my mother’s body. I stayed at her side and tried to keep from leaving before she did to avoid the pain. My children called to me from far away. Do not leave, they said. I offered up only one eye in exchange for my mother’s life.

BEGINNING COUNTER-ACTION: Take my eye, I said to the dark.

DEPARTURE: There were sharp things and pain and tearing. I went into the dark where the doctor sewed and bound my severed eye to save what sight he could.

FIRST FUNCTION OF THE DONOR: For five days I lay with my head hanging down and gauze over my bleeding orb. I could not speak or move.

HERO'S REACTION: My mother was not fully recovered. The cancer could come back. I had failed the test.

RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT: I had only my small, flocked notebook. I wrote in it furiously without looking while he slept beside me. Sometimes I wept onto the pages.

GUIDANCE: My mother told me to draw images of what I had been through. I drew an eye on an operating table, an eye in the palm of his hand. I drew him standing behind me, like a shadow.

STRUGGLE: My kin fear that I suffer at your hands, he said. I looked at him with one eye. You suffer? There is something evil behind you, he said. You have closed your eyes and the dark has come.

BRANDING: Now I wear the scars on my eyelid. My iris looks too large and quite dead. A black shade comes down over my children’s faces. But if they stand quite close to me I can see the fierce little body, the lupine eyes.

VICTORY: He sent me a goodbye letter that said I might suffer forever from what I had been through. But he was gone.

LIQUIDATION: No, my vision did not return.

RETURN: But I returned.

PURSUIT: My fear pursues me every day, dressed like a bird with wide black wings. One wing dips down over my sight.

RESCUE: I have learned that no one can rescue us. No heroes exist. It is only a constant struggle for survival aided by the few who love us truly.

UNRECOGNIZED ARRIVAL Since he came I am different. I am deeply changed. My self left with my sight.

UNFOUNDED CLAIMS: No, I was not the one who made him suffer. I did not ask him to save me.

DIFFICULT TASK: I face death and blindness; false love is wasteful and irrelevant.

SOLUTION: My mother is still alive and one of my eyes can see.

RECOGNITION: You can tell who I am not only by my strange eye and the book I clutch like a necessary organ. You can recognize me by the way I walk alone.

EXPOSURE: He’s no healer, that one. He lures broken women to his tower and makes them fear. Then he takes their body parts in exchange for the well-being of their loved ones. But it is all a lie.

TRANSFIGURATION: No man will ever see my eyes. I wear dark shells over them and stay in my room.

PUNISHMENT: In his small room in the tower where he lives with the witch, he moans in pain. He no longer has my pain to help him forget his own.

WEDDING: I have no groom. My children play in the garden. I can see them through the window with my partial sight. At night I gather them inside, we lock the door and shut our eyes.

8 comments:

  1. This was so incredible. So beautifully written, and so brave. Your words have always felt like my talismans.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Are you synesthetic?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful and haunting and so sad, but full of hope. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I cant even explain the way this makes me feel. Trapped in the cloud of swirling words.

    ReplyDelete
  6. so much truth in these mesmeric words, anything but a fairytale, surely a parable...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Really beautiful.

    ReplyDelete