Archive for August, 2012

The words that bite

August 8, 2012

Have you ever read something that immediately brought tears to your eyes?  Yes, I know.  We all have.  It’s wonderful and terrible at once.  Like certain melodies that wrench your heart, reaching back into your subconscious and the sound of pain.

Some of them do it to everyone who reads them.  Remember the first time you read Robert Hass’s poem “A Story About the Body,” and you got to that ending line?  I defy your heart to not have leapt to your throat.

Coming across such lines is a shock to the system, a reset of the brain’s programming.  It’s like coming across that one picture… you know the one kept in a box, way in the bottom because you can’t risk looking at it more than a few times a year… that shocks you every time with the raw emotion it represents.  Good or bad emotion, doesn’t matter.  Your soul swallows hard and, like a tortilla chip going down sideways, you just have to wait for it to pass.

When I read Phantom of the Opera (which was honestly a fairly execrable book, even for the purple prosy era in which it was written), the line “I tore off my mask so as not to lose one of her tears… and she did not die!  She remained alive, weeping over me, with me.  We cried together!  I have tasted all the happiness the world can offer!” really stopped me… and now I can’t recall why.  But I wrote it in my little book and have gone back to it many times when I’ve felt the lack of inspiration.

Maybe the words speak to things we would like to say to someone, or have whispered in our ears.

I read something that brought me to that breathless edge recently, and it’s still unclear to me why it was so affecting!  Cheryl Strayed ( was asked by one of her readers what advice she’d give her twenty-year-old self.  Cheryl replied, “Be brave enough to break your own heart.”

Dang it, I’m not even really sure what it means!  But it struck a chord inside me, in a minor key no less, and I feel quite knocked about by it.

So what lines brought you to your metaphorical knees (or real ones for that matter!)?