Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Poem for a Wednesday

For today, I present you with a poem about juxtaposition by Fleur Adcock from her collection  Poems 1960-2000.

It's the sort of thought that I've been preoccupied with lately:  how can kindness and cruelty dwell so closely in the same spaces in our hearts?  What do we conceal of our baser natures to prove our goodness?  What does our "goodness" cost us?  How does one accept the ruder truths of self?    
I turn these age-old questions over and over in my mind like a well-worn stone.  

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful had,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still by words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
four closest relatives, and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to many another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
and we are kind to snails.
--Fleur Adcock

DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati Faves


La Belette Rouge said...

I love this poem. Don't tell anyone but whenever I see snails on the sidewalk I always move them to safety( always). I feel like it is the least I can do to compensate for the amount of escargot I have and will eat.

Cheryl said...

That's an amazing poem. I've read, in Deepak Chopra, that to have both kindness and cruelty in our nature is not something we should fight against. That actually it means we are whole human beings with every color of the rainbow, and all those in between too, within us. And our own cruelty makes it possible for us to choose to be kind. Our pain makes it possible to choose to be compassionate. Our fear makes it possible to be courageous. And so on. I try to remember that when I'm fighting against something in my nature I'd rather were not so. But, ah well, the journey of life...

The Seeker said...

Love the poem, my dear.
And those thoughts are very pertinent (?).
Like Cheryl says we have both good and evil in us as humans, but it's our free will that makes the diference.



Kirie said...

Belle: I know! I also move worms off the driveway after a rain, ferry spiders safely out of the house on a stiff piece of paper, and toss weeds into the woods instead of burning them or putting them into the garbage.
Ants, however, hold no safe refuge with me since they launched their attack on our kitchen last summer.
I'm nothing if not inconsistent.

The Storialist said...

Wow! So sweet and touching. And the photo is WONDERFUL.

Hilary said...

Well, that one made me think. The drowning of the kittens part I did not love. So many questions about the origins of that line. But I see that's not the point. I suppose as humans we do have a fine line between the capacity for kindness and the capacity for cruelty. Hmm ... food for thought. But I'm choosing to forget about the kittens.

Kirie said...

Cheryl, you say this so well! I am just now becoming aware of all of those conflicting elements in myself, and it's hard to find a way to hold them all at the same time, isn't it?


Kirie said...


You're right about free will--it is everything! I'm constantly working hard to make the best choices of action. And sometimes failing. But I know it's my choice in the end of how to act/react.

xoxo to you!

Kirie said...


Thanks--I love the photo too! I'm just starting to play around with photos. I took this one using a macro lens that lets you get very close to small subjects. Ada found these tiny snails last year, and they just begged to be photographed next to a penny for perspective. The background is actually a saucer.

Kirie said...


Great commentary. It got me thinking:
I had the same reaction to the line about the kittens. But you know, I think it's necessary and perfect there, especially because of that visceral "ick." Most readers almost certainly greet that line with denial, too. It's sort of like thinking "I've done some bad things, but I wouldn't ever do that. But of course our worst, most despicable thought or action is something that others would cringe at, too. It's not the specificity of the act itself, but the idea that we are not innocent. And still, we are not bad, either.

The other thing that really gets me about this poem is the notion of keeping face for the child. I know that I want so much for my daughters to see me as a perfect person, a heroine, faultless and shinywonderful. But to be that, I also have to lie, to hold back, to create some false images of safety and yellow light.
In lying or spinning sweet tales for them, am I leading them to a false image of me, of the world? I don't know. I do know I want to foster a view of the world that is loving, accepting, resilient, faithful. To do that, I find sometimes I'm sacrificing the truth that not all in the world is sweetness and light. When I rationalize my deception, I figure there is time enough in the world for them to see the harsh. Until then, home will be a haven.

Complicated, hmmm.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.