Day of Rage (new poem)

kandinsky glass painting with the sun

Day of Rage

Diana Senechal

From the first morning tremor of my toes,
I recognized this as the day of rage,
so I arose at dawn to choose the cloth
to wear up to the highest nearby hill
with hopes of being heard by the bored sky.

A red dress? No, that would knock the wind
out of my words, and I meant to be heard.
The deep blue one was of the essence now,
the one the sky had dropped on me by chance.
That was to be the vestment of my rage.

As for shoes, sneakers would have to do.
Who cares how the feet look when their role
is just to take me up the mount of rage?
There it’s the mouth that matters; pure ire
has no release except through syllable,

so I brushed my teeth and downed half a liter
of sparkling water to levitate my thoughts.
Time to set out. The hill I chose was some
twenty kilometers away. I took the bike,
even at risk of burning off some spleen,

and pedaled up it, proud to have arrived
at the place in life where I can finally say
exactly what I mean, unsanded by
shame or apology, just the words
that fall loose from the craters of the mind.

But what came out wasn’t at all like rage.
First, nothing. I looked around the droopy
still-waking fields and thought it might be rude
to rush their rhythms all for the sake of my
sloppy paean to problems shared by none.

Then, when I kicked away that sham excuse
(what do the fields care?) and began to sing,
I saw that there were other hills nearby,
each of them topped with someone a bit like me,
staking their day on a hope of being heard,

and then I knew. Even now, even
with every ounce of ire my will could cast
into a form of sound, whatever, whoever
it was that hadn’t answered me before
wouldn’t be shaken into answering.

Worse still, I wasn’t mad. Nor were the others
who cried on dots of hills from sea to sea.
This is where music comes from, the unanswered
prayer, text message, private turn of thought,
this cry into the vault that turns away.

Had our hills been closer, our eyes might possibly
have met. We might have spent the day together:
skies to each other, forests interleaving,
words interchanging, tempered in their timing,
finding their harmony in joined rage.

“But you just said there was no rage!” No,
I said I wasn’t mad. That’s not the same.
The rage is everywhere. I’m going home,
but tomorrow I’ll get up early again,
put on a different dress, head for the hill,

and thrill up there with all the holy gadflies,
and maybe, one blind day, the rage will sing
such thunder that the sky will clap and smile,
and I will do the same, owning at last
that I, too, am the vault that turns away.

Image: Wassily Kandinsky, Glass Painting with the Sun (Small Pleasures), 1910.

I made a few changes to the poem after posting it. Thanks to Jon Awbrey (see comments below) for the “holy gadflies” in the final stanza.

Leave a comment

16 Comments

  1. Veronika Kisfalvi

     /  June 27, 2021

    Diana, it has taken me a few days to respond to this poem; to be able to fully hear it and digest it. I was moved by so much in it, saw my own rage in it, but primarily by what I identified as the process through which I am oh so slowly coming to terms with old rages (and the grieving of losses, for that matter). Being in a place where I feel safe enough, whole enough to allow myself to truly feel them, to express them without the fear of being devoured by them – only then can I open up to the work of letting go of them (a little), to transform them. But then, at some point, I will be heading up my own mountain once again, as the wave of rage recurs, but hopefully with a slowly loosening grip – or rather, my gripping onto it might slowly loosen, to allow for the opening of gates that let some new and unexpected understanding enter. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Vera, for this open and thoughtful response to my poem. My poems usually meet with silence, which I have no way of interpreting, so I am grateful for Jon’s linguistic comments and your responses to the meaning. I am rather proud of the poem; I wrote it early in the morning on Friday and kept pushing back against the iambic pentameter, a meter that comes to me a bit too easily. It’s still mainly iambic pentameter, but with a bit of resistance. And yes, there was something like an opening of the gates for me: the ending surprised me, as did a few things along the way, and then when I put the “holy gadflies” in there, I was surprised yet again.

      When it comes to rage, I often have a hard time admitting that I actually have it, because I really don’t stay mad at people or things for long. But in the poem I realized that these were two different things. Being mad at someone or something is circumstantial, but rage is existential and in some way eternal, though it does change once it is let out. I think the poem is also getting at the need for a ritual, a way of putting the rage into form.

      Thank you.

      Reply
      • Veronika Kisfalvi

         /  June 28, 2021

        And thank you for your reply, too. I reread your poem this morning to catch the iambic pentameter, which I admit I did not notice on the previous readings. When I read the poem before, I simply read it as if each verse was a paragraph or sentence, and the rhythm created worked very well for me. The “holy gadflies” (had to look it up) add a wonderful touch.

        Music, singing, harmony are such a part of the poem, so when you spoke of ritual, what came to my mind is something that is musical, perhaps a chant (calls and responses from mountain to mountain). My favourite phrase, though, is “forests interleaving”.

        Best,

        Vera

      • Meter you don’t notice is the best kind.

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

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    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

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