Sunday, 2 August 2015

Late Fragment

Tuesday was Wolf and Fox’s birthday (if this means nothing to you, I explain a bit more here as part of my Jenny Ringo Saved My Life blogs).  We had a lovely family day out, treated the Boy Wonder – and ourselves- to fish and chips for tea and put the living kids to bed.  Washed up, tidied away toys, checked emails and settled down in front of the tv to watch our first film together since forever: Birdman.  We made it to halfway through the 20th Century Fox logo before Batgirl’s high-pitched shriek came over the baby monitor.  By the time she was settled again, neither of us was really in the mood.

The Writer by Night had a rare night out tonight.  We decided that rather than wait another forever before we could sit down together, we’d watch Birdman separately, so I dug out my knitting and on it went.  Resume Playback? Said the bluray player.  Yes.  

Less than 30 seconds in, the screen went black and letters started appearing.  

‘Did you get what you wanted in this life, even so?’

This is the first line of a poem etched on my heart, found in an anthology in the days after Wolf and Fox were born, when my only children were dead children.  We needed words for a funeral, and we had none.  Some people have written poetry specifically for such an occasion but any we found were (at best) maudlin and trite.  Raymond Carver’s Late Fragment did what all the best writing does; in expressing how I wanted to feel, it helped me feel it.  It is a poem that should be available as an NHS prescription.  It has healing properties.  

Did you see Birdman?  I think you should, it’s certainly an admirable achievement and I’m sure it’s very good.  But I could only watch it – while also knitting a present for a happy, healthy newborn baby – through the prism of those words and think about the strange synchronicity of it.  Perhaps it’s best we didn’t watch it on Tuesday, because I’m not sure we (I) could have made it past the poem. And when the Writer by Night came home last night we had a big discussion about this and he pointed out that every film you see, you see through a prism of that moment, so my response is no less valid for that. He's brilliant.

So this is what I saw through that prism:

The film is about the public, the private, the image of ourselves we cultivate and project, and touches on the role of social media in this.  On Tuesday I wanted to post something on Facebook about what a significant day it was, but couldn’t figure out how.  Something on the spectrum between ‘Remembering my beautiful angels’  and ‘Dead Baby Day – we’re off to the zoo!’ .  I thought about posting this Amanda Palmer song, picking out the lyrics ‘No one’s ever lost forever/ they are caught inside your heart/ If you garden them and water them/ They make you who you are’ but I did that last year.  I thought about posting the Raymond Carver poem but I kind of wanted to keep that just for me.  Yes, I am aware of the irony.

I dithered.  I talked to the Writer by Night about it, about how we have handled our loss and grief differently and why I feel the need to be more open about it.  I questioned my impulse to say anything at all about it on social media, and then didn’t.  I’ve kind of regretted it all week.  The closest I can come to explaining the regret is this: if they had lived (oh, what an if, that requires the infinite possibilities of a quantum universe to contain it), Wolf and Fox would have taken up space and time.  Mostly ours, but some of yours too.  They didn’t, and they don’t, unless the Writer by Night and I, and a few people closest to us, give it to them.  Talking about them and writing about them is the only space and time I can give – and as that’s so little, sometimes I want to steal a little bit of space and time from you too, by demanding that you listen and read.  So more irony – if I had written one sentence then, they wouldn’t have had this blog.

Ps. I should probably note that Birdman passes the Bechdel test with a healthy number of named female characters.  And they wear clothes and everything.  I can't really give it the full feminist critique because that's not where my head was at when I watched it.  But the bit of the 'making of' I saw afterwards was all about how clever the men were.

Also, for anyone interested, here is the full poem.  Obviously the context in Birdman is completely different, but that’s kind of why it’s so brilliant for all its simplicity:

Late Fragment – Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.