Cordelia Hanemann

Shear Madness: An Existential Dilemma

I murmur “It’s a seat,” a little exorcism.
— Jean Paul Sartre in “Nausea”

Passing through the living room that is also the library
on my way to somewhere else :
something is changed

My lovely library, its array of books,
so nicely arranged and catalogued, sequential,
nothing inconsequential here, my treasures.
something not quite right

Peering over the edge of the coffee table,
itself dangerously covered with books, open
to vulnerable pages, favorite pages perhaps.

What are the pruning shears doing here,
their dark, smacking lips, closed against action,
against time and being / being and time?

What gardener-self leaves cutters in the library :
the room of words and sentences/ stories/ ideas :
thoughts that tell me who I am,
or is it the cutters, themselves?

Why are they here and not somewhere else–
the porch, the yard, the shed where they belong?

And what if in the garden
there is a branch or a root or a growth
that needs severing, a body that needs
shaping, a design that needs the hand
of the pruner, and the shears are nowhere
to be found, not ready to hand
in their accustomed place?

Are they here — at this moment — present at hand
in order to do something? Have they been waiting
for me, for me to move them, or do they
intend to move themselves : to do
what it is they do: chop/ clip/ prune/
trim/ snip/ nip/ shear/ sever?

What if these loppers were to exercise their will,
walk over to my books / take matters into their own–
jaws : erasure, excision, eradication :
language, words, stories, my precious dears
in the presence of clippers.

And what does the library become
when sheers, balanced on their long sturdy legs,
hulk over the table watching / determining:
what do these shears become? What do I,
I, a gardener without my clippers, my cutters,
my pruners?

What kind of world do we live in if
things are not what they purport to be,
do not live up to what they are?

And, if they are not what they seem to be?
This now remote and alien other? Who
am I to be then? How can I understand?
How am I to proceed? What am I to do?

I feel invaded : my space/ my privacy/ my–
no longer me alone in my library
with my books and my poetry.
All the lovely words purposefully assembled,
carefully edited, and lovingly bound.

No longer me alone in the room,
no longer the cutters alone in the room.
but me and the cutters/ the cutters and me–

Pause. How familiar they look.

I believe I can decide. Today, at least, they are merely
loppers in the library. Today, how silly they seem
propped against the edge of the coffee table.
Perhaps I will remove them.



raucous caws of circling crows
harbinger some coming darkness
a great wing sweeps
Blue Heron explodes in desperate flight
its deep shadow sweeps across the ground

standing on the path I don’t know
where to go what to do
strange edge of night at noon
moon’s umbra coming between me and the sun

light changes / light disappears : black depicted
from the underside painting itself
on my retina I watch without looking
blank the sunflower’s eye droops

unaccustomed darkness : the flattened landscape reels
landmarks vanish : become their own shadows
roads barely roads turn away
through eerie silence I am lost

the bloodless apple falls is falling
dream or act the choices i’ve made
all my arguments wails of lament race
soundlessly from my mouth in my voice
screaming i face a wing-beat of fleeing angels

who will answer if i call out
save me as i reach across the breach
to draw in my own flawed breath
those choices this dark all my own tangled
passions suspended between desire and act
sorrow and certainty despair and hope

all eclipsed my familiar angels now strangers
yes my weary heart afraid confesses
it knows nothing of the price
exacted for life on earth

until light like the edge of dawn
inches back into view : a relief
familiar shapes return / roads resume

veiny blues transpire into the bruised yellows
of the sun’s new flower

crows whirl away like black dust
into the distance
Great Blue circles : a play of silver wings

sweet air sweeps across the ground
like breath in the lungs
of the landscape and I breathe