The gestures poems make are the same as the gestures of ritual injunction — curse; exorcism; prayer; underlying everything perhaps, the attempt to make someone or something live again. Both poet and shaman make a model that stands for the whole. Substitution, symbolic substitution. The mind conceives that something lived, or might live. Implicit is the demand to understand. The memorial that is ward and warning. Without these ancient springs poems are merely more words.
The real protagonist of the story, however, is the magic ring, because it is the movements of the ring that determine those of the characters and because it is the ring that establishes the relationships between them. Around the magic object there forms a kind of force field that is in fact the territory of the story itself. We might say that the magic object is an outward and visible sign that reveals the connection between people or between events. . . We might even say that in a narrative any object is always magic.
Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem for the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.
It was almost painful to watch, that kite of mine.
Tethered to the string in my hand. Dancing in the sky all alone.
My breath caught in my throat, my pulse beating wild and crazy on my chest. My heart soaring with every dip and turn of the kite, as if I were flying along, instead of standing with my two feet on the ground, squinting against the sun to see the dance.
What if it fell?
What if the breeze took it away?
I counted the seconds until I could reel it back in.
I was that kite.
Fragile against the wind. Soaring one minute. Spiraling straight down next. Just looking for something to hold me up.
Before I spun out of control and flew away.
Disappearing from sight.
To be rejected by someone doesn’t mean you should also reject yourself or that you should think of yourself as a lesser person. It doesn’t mean that nobody will ever love you anymore. Remember that only ONE person has rejected you at the moment, and it only hurt so much because to you, that person’s opinion symbolized the opinion of the whole world, of God.
―Jocelyn Soriano, Mend My Broken Heart
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
But is the unicorn a falsehood? It’s the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol. It stands for Christ and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin in the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters’ snares.”
“So it is said, Adso. But many tend to believe that it’s a fable, an invention of the pagans.”
“What a disappointment,” I said. “I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood. Otherwise what’s the pleasure of crossing a wood?”
She dreamed of driving off bridges: into a lake beneath some twisting highway of her youth, into the reservoir on the country road to home, into the San Francisco Bay. Sometimes, she drove off those bridges alone, sometimes with her long-dead mother. And sometimes too with her baby boy in a car seat in the back…
In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted “tiger” of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Paraná, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can only be faced by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: this is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.