Each poet probably has his or her own cupboard of magnets. For some, it is cars; for others, works of art, or certain patterns of form or sound; for others, certain stories or places, Philip Levine's Detroit, Gwendolyn Brooks's Chicago, Seamus Heaney's time-tunneled, familied Ireland.
It was a cruel city, but it was a lovely one; a savage city, yet it had such tenderness; a bitter, harsh, and violent catacomb of stone an steel and tunneled rock, slashed savagely with light, and roaring, fighting a constant ceaseless warfare of men and of machinery; and yet it was so sweetly and so delicately pulsed, as full of warmth, of passion, and of love, as it was full of hate.
He tunneled into stories where weak men changed into strong half-animals or used eye beams or magic hammers to power through steel or climb up the sides of skyscrapers. He was the Hulk when angry and Spidey the rest of the time. When he felt his heart hurt he turned into something stronger than a little boy, and he grew up this way. A heart that flashed from heart to stone, heart to stone. As I watched I thought of what Grandma Lynn liked to say when Lindsey and I rolled our eyes or grimaced behind her back. "Watch out what faces you make. You'll freeze that way.
Adelia began to get cross. Why was it women who were to blame for everything-everything, from the Fall of Man to these blasted hedges? 'We are not in a labyrinth, my lord, ' she said clearly. 'Where are we, then?' 'It's a maze.' 'Same difference.' Puffing at the horse: 'Get back, you great cow.' 'No, it isn't. A labyrinth has only one path and you merely have to follow it. It's a symbol of life or, rather, of life and death. Labyrinths twist and turn, but they have a beginning and an end, through darkness into light.' Softening, and hoping that he would, too, she added, 'Like Ariadne's. Rather beautiful, really.' 'I don't want mythology, mistress, beautiful or not, I want to get to that sodding tower. What's a maze when it's at home?' 'It's a trick. A trick to confuse. To amaze.' 'And I suppose Mistress Clever-boots knows how to get us out?' 'I do, actually.' God's rib, he was sneering at her, sneering. She'd a mind to stay where she was and let him sweat. 'Then in the name of Christ, do it.' 'Stop bellowing at me, ' she yelled at him. 'You're bellowing.' She saw his teeth grit in the pretense of a placatory smile; he always had good teeth. Still did. Between them, he said, 'The Bishop of Saint Albans presents his compliments to Mistress Adelia and please to escort him out of this hag's hole, for the love of God. How will you do it?' 'My business.' Be damned if she'd tell him. Women were defenseless enough without revealing their secrets. 'I'll have to take the lead.' She stumped along in front, holding Walt's mount's reins in her right hand. In the other was her riding crop, which she trailed with apparent casualness so that it brushed against the hedge on her left. As she went, she chuntered to herself. Lord, how disregarded I am in this damned country. How disregarded all women are... Ironically, the lower down the social scale women were, the greater freedom they had; the wives of laborers and craftsmen could work alongside their men-even, sometimes, when they were widowed, take over their husband's trade. Adelia trudged on. Hag's hole. Grendel's mother's entrails. Why was this dreadful place feminine to the men lost in it? Because it was tunneled? Womb-like? Is this woman's magic? The great womb? Is that why the Church hates me, hates all women? Because we are the source of all true power? Of life? She supposed that by leading them out of it, she was only confirming that a woman knew its secrets and they did not. Great God, she thought, it isn't a question of hatred. It's fear. They are frightened of us. And Adelia laughed quietly, sending a suggestion of sound reverberating backward along the tunnel, as if a small pebble was skipping on water, making each man start when it passed him. 'What in hell was that?' Walt called back stolidly, 'Reckon someone's laughing at us, master.' 'Dear God.