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Patrick McEvoy-Halston

English453lQ0l
ProfessorDougBeardsley
19August2002

PoetasPhysician:Healingfrom a Woundanda Word in DaphneMarlatt's "Healing"

Wordsareloadedwith possibilitiesfor thosewho well attendto thsm. We may chooseto

limit our responseto themto creatingour bestsimulationof the meaningwe intuit its speaker(or

writer) wantsfor themto depart.Or we canplay offthe visualsoundsandoral propertiesof the

\*IJ word-- which so oftenwant to takeus placestheir speakermay neverhaveintended--and


use

themto travel elsewhere.Words,though,do not alwaysinvite activeplay; if a word impacts

uponus asa blow, if it almostliterally "haspunch,"our reactionmay be limited to recoil and

recuperation.DaphneMarlatt's "Healirg," with its appropriateoneword title, exploreshow we

canuselanguageto respondto thepowerthat a singleword canhaveon us to curtail creative

play.

How might you dealwith the painful experience


of havinga lover vulnerablein an

operatingroom,beingoperateduponby a knife-wieldingsurgeon?As the form our

of this experiencemight takeis thatof animplosion,of a contractionof all the


encapsulation

energy,of all the pain andworry funnelinginto a singlemoment,a singlecut, we might reactas

thepoeVloverof "Healing" doesandsrHroundthis experience


with an evocationof natue so as

to cushionandchallengeits impact.

"Healing"beginswith soft andsofteningimagesof nature."Petals,"oblueirises,"

"moss,"and"dandelions"accumulateinto a pastoralimage,andthepoetis alonerestingfia

field unhurriedby time. Words,here,seemto relateto eachothertenderly;they"kiss" the

"middle distancebetween"themselves.Thenwe encountera word, "incision," which interferes

with the flow. "Incision" is not somucha word with dramaticimpactasit is, by itself an entire
--\.
\N,tp-Y drama. More thana word, morethana wound,it is the entirestoryof emotionsthatbeganwhen

two loversrealizedthat the powerof the lust andlove betweenthemwould be challenged,


\
.-$f
of a strangesurgeon'slunge. Nestled,
\A.o9- replacedby the anticipatedimpactandrepercussions
though,amongsta softeningscene,thepoetuseswordsto helpher anticipatea time whenthe

impactof surgery,ffid of the surgeon,no longerfilled the "middle distance"betweenthem.

Our first senseof the play of languagetransformingandeasingtraumais the word


'hours without touch." Thereis an expressionof loss,of absencehere--hornsdenied
sequence,

touch. But the samevowelswe both seeandhearin eachof thesewordsevokemeaning,too,

thatof accumulation, growth."krmo'nffirt;;aptures whatthepoetis tryingto do:


addition,
slowly she replacesthe invading image of a strangerinflicting a wound on her loverowith an

of intimacy,of the loverstqggther,of woundshealed- 4l


imagethat resonates le of this

surgery,but not only replacesthe surgeonwith herself,shealsosubstitutesa wound'spain with

the butterfly'sbeauty. The arenafor the operationis alsoshiftingfrom the hospital("openyou"

still bringsto mind an operatingroom)to nature.

Y The entiresecondstaruacanbe imaginedasa re-creationof the momentof the surgery

but within nafire. The eagles,with their talons,with their predatorial


andits after-effect(s),

positioning(surveylngfrom above)overprey,arenatures'substitutesfor the knife wielding

the impactof the implosion,of the wound,with an


surgeon.And their "scream"challenges

explosionthat will help healit. Wordshelpmimic the dispersionof the eagles'soundacross

both distanceandtime. "Glee," "glass,"glisten,""glare," glide us throughthe text; andasif

eachword modulatesthe effectof the screamon thepoetasmuchtN on ourselves,shereclaims,

with "(g)listen,"the right to actupona word asmuchasa word'has impactedupon" her.

Presented
first with "glisten,"shebracketsoff the letter"9," andtherebyleavesherself

with the word "listen"--surely,to a poet,oneof themostpowerfulof words. To listenwith care


\,-IJ
is the coillmanda poetmakesof her reader,andaswe takeher directionandattendto this word,
g

andits challengeto "insision." Sheproves


we both see,hear,andfeel both its clearrese,mblance

that if we listen to her, we will indeedcometo know how powerfirl a phpician a poet is. fire

surgeonhasmadehis mark. "[[ncision" hashadits impact. We know, however,shewill 'te-

knit" her bond to her lover, andthat they will beginto know "lust . . . all over again."

Work Cited

Marlatt,Daphne."Healing." @. Ed. GaryGeddes.Toronto: OxfordUP,


2001.

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