Getting There - Christopher Buckley
I want to talk about direction today. I want this poem to fall into your hair like dust, to make friends with your loneliness and to gently tease out that moment when you were “waiting to be taken by the hand and told where we are going”. Buckley, of course, wrote a lot about his relationship with his parents, and his journey of coming to terms with it. You can look up his book “Losing Mum and Pup” as well. But the story that he tells in this poem means so much to me today, and I want you to stay with the persona through this aimless wandering, this seemingly futile quest without meaning, resolution or destination. The poem constantly shifts and comes into greater relief, before gently falling back like distant hills in winter sun. The tonality for the same sentences read again and again moves from conviction to irony, wonder to despair. The language embraces both clarity and uncertainty, and it teaches the reader to venture into the forest of uncertainty. I like poems that mean many things at once, and convey even absurdity with such a degree of accuracy.
The sharp edges of Buckley’s photographic imagery are deepened by the haze behind them. This deeply personal sense of disorientation and despair (I’m reminded again of Warsan Shire’s Home) becomes universal for me.
I wonder sometimes if there is a difference between the loneliness of individuals, and the loneliness of entire countries, of oceans and rivers, of patriarchs, dictators and of the moon before dawn. In Hong Kong they talk about the endgame, about wanting to be told about “home”, in India, we are “waiting” even though we “can see nothing beyond the smoke and the midnight haze”. I think there is something to be said for the tremendous power of the young who dredge out meaning in darkness, who are comfortable with uncertainty.