For What Binds Us
There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down --
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest --
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
My friend Jim Ashe, a very talented analyst and psychiatrist, once read me this poem on a day we spent telling each other war stories from our lives. Technically, the “proud flesh” scar of a horse is in fact weaker than the normal tissue it grows over, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the poem. As someone who bears the scars of a love that went horribly wrong, I thought there should be a word for the quality of Resilience, Humility, and Love that lucky ones can take away from such heartaches. I found it in this wonderful poem from the collection Of Gravity and Angels by San Francisco poet Jane Hirshfield, who is gratefully acknowledged. Virtue, thy name is Proudflesh.
May we see the gates of Proudflesh, and perhaps make a home there.
Graphic mended heart of stone by artist d.goth also gratefully acknowledged.