Indigenous by Jay Ramsay
This is a poem continuing the theme of working through my illness, which has produced Surgery (Yew Tree Press, 2015), Left Field, and Al-Chemo (the last two unpublished/work in progress). This kind of writing has not only helped me explore a very deep and challenging process, it has also been very much about sharing it with others, not least because much of it is uncharted territory. All of this deepens the emphasis in Places of Truth (my main individual Awen collection so far) into a ‘poetry of the body’, which is also (it seems to me) largely unwritten, or written certainly more by women than men, closer to biological reality, less attached to logos-as-transcendence. The body means eros, and that is why it is so rich and healing a subject for me right now; and of course its domain is deep ecology—it has to be ! The body is perhaps our ultimate place of truth, even though we go ‘through’ it and beyond…
Left side, left field, after all that hard driving
it rises, a silent mound as if with a mouth
an O on the left of the throat, neck
swollen glands, lymph. How
does the body speak ? How else—
the truth is always beneath.
To read it you have to bend or kneel
as if to a tiny wild flower…
you have to have a conversation.
The doctor does drama
erring on the side of caution.
You do instinct—you do indigenous,
swelling means ? Immunity compromised
infection associated. Swelling feels?
It’s true, I’m a little tired
in the truth beneath.
And it’s trying to drain
the poison that remains
the paradoxical two-sided snake.
You go non-linear: you swell with listening
you receive, and the swell is abating
taking its time
you don’t hurry this Indian.
He walks as you could be walking
fasts as you are fasting
to the point of stillness
where your spirit begins to grow strong.
Long ago, in a café of my childhood
where we had fish & chips with tomato sauce
(cod always, and mushy peas) the proprietor there
sported a goitre on his neck.
We were fascinated, repelled, in awe.
What did it mean? How had it come to be?
Had he lost control?
Poor man, he looked like Frankenstein
bolted through his neck—
but commanding respect.
We were drilled to be polite,
and of course never mention it.
And we dreaded his fate.
The body’s fate is to speak, always
healthy or sick, striding or limping
in the truth beneath.
Ours is to learn the language
always before it’s too late
and there are no more Indians.
They are everywhere here, invisible
where we become invisible
immersed in listening.
And then we rise, and Mother of God
we will grow strong.