Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where thought goes by Helen Lehndorf

'Now, lift the heart' my yoga teacher always says.

I envision my heart levitating outside my body,
at eye level. Its heavy pulsing, a slight squelch
as I cup my hands under it, and guide it upwards,
trying not to recoil from the very meat of it, the
shudder of it as the aorta gapes air like a tiny mouth.

My yoga teacher tells us to imagine we have strings
attached to the tops of our heads. 'Imagine I am pulling
your string', she says. I imagine I am a flabby puppet
and she is trying to get a taut line so she can make me
jump and dance. She mimics string-pulling and I yank myself taller.

My yoga teacher says 'You are a baby, you are a flower,
you are stirring a giant pot.' I am a woman in a yoga studio
trying to remember I have a body. She says
'Where thought goes, energy flows'.
She is dying of cancer. Where does that leave us?
Maybe we will donate her to science.

Science will play her body like an instrument, strumming her veins,
blowing air between dermis and muscle. They will lift her heart,
gently, with surgical tools which look like two giant spoons.
But look at that, she is not dead yet. She is right here, in triangle
pose. My thoughts go west, go wayward. My thoughts are cul-de-
sacs. Dead ends. I am a sick baby, a cut flower. I am not safe
around a visual metaphor.

Editor: Emma McCleary

I met Helen Lehndorf on the internet. She was on Flickr, I liked her photos, she liked my blog, I liked her blog – it was all very 2008. Ignoring the first rule of meeting people from the internet (aka potential serial killers) in real life, I happily trotted around to Helen’s back yard where we ate chocolate cupcakes on a rug in the sun. We’ve been firm friends ever since.

Therefore, when it came to my Tuesday Poem editorship I knew I wanted a poem by Helen. I’m not very objective – I think everything she writes is fantastic and it thrills me no end that she’ll soon have her own book of poems. The Comforter is being published by Seraph Press later this year.

I asked Helen to send me three poems to choose from and this was my standout favourite. I always have a weakness for death references and I love the language and the imagery. For me this poem is strong, cheeky and relatable (and that last line sounds like a bad wine review).

I’m not a poet – I get to do this because I’m the Web Editor at Booksellers NZ and happen to like poetry, so we contribute to the Tuesday Poem every week. I’m really keen to hear what others – readers and poets - think too.

When you've read Helen's poem, try the other Tuesday Poems which pop up every week in the sidebar, including the Booksellers' Tuesday Poem.

This week's editor, Emma McCleary, is not only Web Editor at Booksellers New Zealand, she also blogs about her life in Featherston, runs her craft empire Emma Makes and is a printmaker.


Emma said...

Woo! I love the last line. Go Helen!

Helen Lowe said...

I think it's a strong poem.

I hope the yoga teacher is fictional.

Claire G said...

What acute observations. Language really is powerful, and a metaphor in the wrong hands can be lethal!

Helen Heath said...

I love Helen's work. Beautiful :)

Tim said...

I'm looking forward to Helen's book, too. I like very much the physicality of her images, that anchoring in the body.

AJ Ponder said...

Yoga metaphors meet reality, Helen is indeed a dangerous woman.

Meliors Simms said...

gorgeous and acute, moving and funny. Can't wait for Helen's book

Helen Rickerby said...

This is one of my favourite poems by Helen too. It's so visceral. I love how it's talking about several things at once, and manages to talk about death while also being wryly humorous. Glad you're all looking forward to the book! (I am too)

Harvey Molloy said...

I'm also looking forward to Helen's book. Great poem.

Anonymous said...

Far out - thanks so much for all the lovely comments! It made my day to pop in here and see them. I should add that the yoga teacher in the poem is an amalgamation of all the yoga teachers I have had over the years, and alas yes, one of my yoga teachers did die of cancer.

Thanks again!
All the best,
Helen L

susan t. landry said...

chiming in here, late but charmed...like others, i'm sure, we have our yoga teacher stories and their voices in our head that reverberate immediately with this poem. as tim says, the physicality, the anatomical images are wonderfully strong.
thank you!

Mary McCallum said...

I have become a fan of Helen's work, too, and this poem is a wonderful thing. I love the physicality of the heart with its little mouth, and the movement of the whole poem from the heart through wayward thoughts to the defeat of the narrator at the end, and through it all the sense of impending threat, of death, of defeat - a marvellous marvellous ending.