Metaphysical conceits have always intrigued me. Imagine the complexity of love being explained through something as commonplace as a pair of geometric compasses. Or, the nuances of sexual attraction being explored though a flea! What other literary technique offers the fascination derived from incongruous comparisons, reversal of scales, and shock-provoking arguments?
If metaphysical poets had taken it upon themselves to explain abstract, esoteric phenomenon such as death, love, loss, spirituality etc. by the use of logical arguments, then conceit was their most reliable tool. For example, John Donne in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning (published in the early 17th Century) lucidly compares love, and companionship to a pair of compasses where the beloved is taken to be the fixed end and he, the lover/speaker, is the movable end. The speaker attempts to convince the beloved of his fidelity by explaining how both their souls emanate from the same source, almost like a pair of geometric compasses, which are joined at the top. Moreover, if one end is able to move, it is only because the other end keeps it stable. Hence, even though the speaker has to go away from his beloved, she will always be his starting point, his vantage point, which he shall eventually come back to.
Modern-day use of metaphysical conceits can be far more quirky, and interesting. If love and geometric compass were incongruous, then imagine love being compared to an onion in Carol Ann Duffy’s Valentine, a poem published in the second half of the 20th century.
When the idea of this post for the TSBC Blog came to my mind, I was in a process of shortlisting abstract concepts that one grapples with on a day-to-day basis. Love topped the list, but loss came a close second. And, it is the latter that I decided to explore through this post by using a technique that I have always admired as a reader.
Form: prose, or prosetry, as a friend rightly remarked about my creative vents
Conceit: a house, or home, if you will…
I unlock the door to my home, and enter a house that’s not my own.
Ivory warmth, oh, my walls smelled of a glass of warm honey-milk. These walls reek of dull hospital bed-sheets, and gape blankly at me. I enter the kitchen to taste your loud, unselfconscious laughter even as you’d laugh over a silly joke shared by an aunt on the phone, and my tongue tastes the bittersweet tears rolling down my cheeks instead.
The untouched, yet dirty dishes in the sink remind me of hunger, of digestion, assimilation, life, and the world that must go on without the horribly milky, and utterly sweet tea that you’d clumsily make every evening. I will finally go back to my black tea with a dash of lemon, and the tea stained copper-bottom bowls won’t haunt me anymore. I enter the kitchen to look for all the tea-stained copper-bottom bowls, for I have to dispose of all of them. Funnily enough, I don’t find a single one, and the kitchen ceases to be.
The bedroom door is locked. I don’t look for a key. I knock at the door repeatedly. I know you’re in there, at the workstation, as always, and your lack of response fills me with hope. I push the door hard, and it opens into a void. A cloudy, moist void of floating ties, trousers, stoles, bags, and shoes, as if our bedroom is shedding its skin to renew itself. As if it will forget your smile, my nudge, the tip of your fingers on the laptop, the tip of my wet toes on the rug, the traces of your footsteps even as you walked out, the traces of my fingers buried deep into my pillow… Perhaps, it has forgotten, forgotten to lock itself firmly, as you’d have liked.
There is a workstation inside, but a neater one. I find the book on Management Marketing that you’d been telling me about only a week ago. You seem to have left it in the traces of my memory, for I can see the book floating. The rug is still here; partly wet, and I rush to pick it up only in order to smell in it your loud, irritated, shrill voice that you used each time I stepped on it with wet feet. The rug is perpetually wet here, in this house, in my memory.
I step outside the bedroom to look for our coffee table, where we’d enjoy endless rounds of horribly milky tea. I sit on one of the chairs with a mug of strong black tea, and the lemony tang reminds me of the last time we had fought, and the first time I realized that you could abuse too. Was it the last week? I had been pleasantly surprised, for you seemed all the more human all of a sudden. I loved them literary abuses that you used, but I can’t seem to remember any. This must have been a year ago, then. Or, a decade, perhaps? I gape at the sharp corners of the coffee table, but wasn’t our table a round one? And, the chairs? Why don’t they assume a colour? Why are they transparent? Why can’t I remember the colour precisely? Brown, timber, mahogany, or rosewood? Why can’t I remember? Did we have a coffee table at all? I get up from the chair with a start, and feel the need to get out of this house, which is perhaps not even mine.
I lock the door, and surprisingly the key fits in once again. I close my eyes and walk away from the house into a void, afraid that the next time I might not even find my way back to my house. I am forgetting, and will forget. I will forget you, and move on to another house, another kitchen, another bedroom, and perhaps a square shaped coffee table. I wish I could hold on to you in the deep recesses of my memory, to our house, to us, forever, but I suppose this is what loss is all about. Unlocking a door in your mind, and entering a house that’s no longer home.
Anamika Purohit tweets from @OnlyAnamika has this to say:
It started with reading, and a certain fascination with words. The power of words to soil, to heal. This was my home, then, and my refuge, now. Other than such random musings, I find myself pursuing research, watching films, teaching undergrad students, listening to music, and simply wallowing in engaging thoughts & conversations…