Having just posted a tribute to Sarah Broom, I now have permission to post one of her poems: ‘holding the line.’ Picking a poem from her new book, Gleam, was no easy task. In the end I picked the poem that opens the book, an entry that unfolds upon the page like an origami bird. It takes flight. It trembles, hovers, and shimmers with meaning and music and tiny little freedoms.
This is a poem of utter economy, every word poised and perfect in its location and resonance. The lines sound out with exquisite music, each musical note, a chime for the ear.
There is the homely gesture — a gesture that signals self care (the full moon placed on the brow). There is the way the moon shining bright and cool in the night sky is an object of beauty in which to restore oneself. There is the quiet hint at the moment of despair (‘my heart/ is clapping out of time’). There is the extraordinary leap of imagination that is a leap of fortitude (‘I take it out/ and throw it among the stars’). There is the depositories of wisdom (‘who know all there is to know’).
But what grips me, what haunts, what unfolds and refolds and unfolds again for me, is the line that both starts and finishes the poem: ‘holding the line.’
Reading this line in the context of the book and the context of Sarah’s life, I see this as holding onto the thread of existence, the ticking heart beat, the line that leads faintly, beautifully to a moon or to the ‘drag of the sea’ or to the arms that embrace her. It is the line that is an anchor, the blood line that is family and loved ones, it is the line that is the line and length of friendship. Above all, and movingly so, it is the line that the poet inscribes in her notebook and then wings through the air to a reader. It is the line that makes poetry — that the poet held close and then let go for all to see.
holding the line
when I feel feverish
I take the full moon
and place it on my brow
like a flannel
it is so cool because it has just
been swimming in the sea
when I feel that my heart
is clapping out of time
I take it out and throw it
up among the stars
who know all there is to know
about holding the line
© Sarah Broom Gleam (Auckland University Press, 2013)