Sunday, April 19, 2009

Robert A. Rees: "Blind Tears"

In "Blind Tears,"* Robert A. Rees becomes a mother in Cambodia. Speaking from her "I," he strives to put on this fictive woman's skin, to walk in her shoes, to see the world through her eyes and thus to connect with her and her world in a very personal way. This effort requires a great imagination, a cognitive force that can bolster and sustain our empathy when directed toward understanding others. In "Blind Tears," this effort results in a very poignant sequence through which we follow this woman's descent into "hysterical blindness," a psychological disability that manifests itself in a loss of sight, a loss brought on by the intense grief she experiences at having to watch the slaughter of her people, at having to watch them starve, to watch them burn, to see their "bodies [...] / floating like dead fish / on the water" (lines 7-9) and stuffed in "shallow graves" (12) in the "rice fields" (11).

Such grief permeates the imagery here and throughout the poem as this woman and the universe around her mourn such violence. And yet, she presses on, becoming something of a Christ-figure (though without the power to raise her dead) as she loses her sight and strives to bind the wounded earth by burying the bodies of her beloved and, "[a]lthough it was forbidden, / [...] plac[ing] a flower or plant[ing] / a seed" (94-6) in memoriam of those lost.

The ultimate power over the bodies in and the body of this poem, however, rests in the poet's parallel movement as savior of this world. As mortal representation of the Word made flesh, he (like Christ) enters this woman's experience in order to feel as she felt, to see (or not to see) as she saw, and so to save her, to preserve her experience in ways that help her live beyond the lifespan of any particular flesh and blood body.

And by so doing, he's moved me into a greater sense of empathy and connection with this world, with people who are very far-removed from my life in I.F. I appreciate the power of language to move me in such ways, to help me become more like Christ, who is, after all, the embodied Word.

Rees has another poem in this same issue of Dialogue, "Heart Mountain," wherein he puts on the mask of another woman's "her" and strives to connect us with her world in a similar way as he's done in "Blind Tears."

*You can navigate through the multiple pages of this poem by using the links in left-hand column.