Dust - Dorianne Laux
I sometimes feel that I am living at the peripheries of reality - scrabbling away like a Kafkaesque bug on the windshield of a car that careens through the highway of life, leaving meaning and satisfaction in its adrenalin pumped wake. I chanced upon the poem I’m sharing with you today while being in this state, of being detached, disconnected from reality - merely performing the motions, biding one’s time - let’s say. It is a kind of FOMO, really - the idea that everything happens elsewhere (to modify Tishani Doshi’s apt phrase) or that everything of significance happens elsewhere.
Several pop cultural creations are engineered towards addressing this sentiment that has reached its peak in today’s times, where we can be comfortable witnesses of digitally curated events. Memes and pop philosophy capsules abound, customised with the magic wand of illustration and graphic design, and for a second we feel fulfilled - “Ah! Kya Baat hain!” or “WORD”. These are staggered bursts, aphorisms calculated to give measured dopamine highs - not that one realisation of truth, but a series of calculated truths scattered indiscriminately on our feeds. Dorianne Laux’s “Dust” came as an example of this missed experience of truth, from a more innocent time, perhaps. Ironically, the poem itself became a conduit for that unspeakable experience of seeing something meaningful but being too tired to take it in, or do justice to it. It is both a celebration of sublime moments, and the soft despair of not always being able to appreciate them.
Laux talks about the importance of poetry in documenting these, even if it is in retrospect - “Poems keep us conscious of the importance of our individual lives ... personal witness of a singular life, seen cleanly and with the concomitant well-chosen particulars, is one of the most powerful ways to do this.”