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Thursday, January 26, 2012

a thimbleful of marrow

I am a tutor. Today, I was helping a student understand a poem titled "How to Splint Things on the Run". It is authored by Carmen Giménez Smith. It reads like this:

"Take the nearest escape route and find yourself the fig tree. Find it's best arm, buried in the topmost canopy, and snap it loose with your one good hand. Press it against that one day in History until you make friction. This might require a binding. Compass it until it all goes white and you can't see what went upended. Cinch the edges of the wound until it spells out your name, murmurs it like the lover did. Wrap your own body over the wound so it becomes center hollow. Do this for forty minutes, and in the meanwhile retrace your steps to curse yourself. It happens, but never to you. Or it only happens to you, at times like this, to the one you love, etc.

Wrap it with silk, if it's handy, or wrap it with the best scarf you own. It should be a token fraught with scents. Hold your arm/leg/elbow over healing fire (the one that's left burning all day) for minutes you count with your heartbeat. Repeat until layer after layer singes away. There will be little left but the glowing bone. That's what you've wanted: to get back at it, to see it still humming with poignancy.

Pluck out a thimbleful of marrow and drink it. That's your final step. That and all the limping home you'll do, buzz like a desk lamp for 15 to 30. What's left hairline will get fickle in the rain."

It is one of my favorite poems of all time, but it wasn't when I first read it. Originally, I was impressed by the imagery, but less than thrilled by the rest of it. It did not seem applicable to me; Ms. Giménez Smith had obviously lived through more heartbreak than I, was obviously wiser.

Looking back on the first time I read "How to Splint Things on the Run", I realize I was not properly applying the meaning of the poem. What the poet wishes us, her readers, to learn is that the brokenness brought about by life - when it is most ugly - is not healed by finery or earthly pleasures and comforts. It is healed by stripping ourselves down to our basic state, that which is most natural and most powerful for that - the glowing bones which support our bodies.

Carmen Giménez Smith ends by reminding us that once we have found the glowing constant within, we must swallow it down and make that light a part of ourselves. So, once we have returned home, we are poignant still.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.


  1. You are, without a doubt, the most maginificently fabulous person I have ever had the fortune to meet. I wish I could be as insanely talanted as you. Everything you write is beautiful and incredible.
    I love you with all of my heart,