Denise Riley in the “Bad Words” chapter from The Force of Language has a very visceral evocation of the lasting hurt of words meant to injure.
Old word-scars embody a ‘knowing it by heart’, as if phrases had been hurled like darts into that thickly pulsating organ.
That thickly pulsating organ reminds one that offerings of one’s heart à la Valentine’s is not all sweetness and light — what is on offer is damaged goods. That is all we may offer — broken hearts.
“Fado” the opening poem from D.M. McClatchy’s Hazmat begins with the supposition of a broken heart and runs on to imagining the reception of a proffered mass of dangerous tissue set afire. Here is the heart of the matter:
Suppose my heart had broken
Out of its cage of bone,
Suppose then I could hold it
Out towards you, could feel
Its growling hound of blood
Brought to heel,
Would you then stretch your hand
To take my scalding gift?
There is a hint of ambiguity of reference in the stanza devoted to the metaphor of the hound. One is not sure who can feel the hound brought to heel. Is it the speaker of the poem or the addressee? But that is an effect of too rapid a reading for the comma makes it clear that the initial feeling is that of the speaker preparing the way for the addressee to consider after the heart is exposed as a synecdoche (“Its scarred skin grown taut / With anticipating your touch, / The tentative caress / Or sudden clutch.”)
What juxtaposing Riley and McClatchy uncovers about the somatic preservations of pain is that pain exposed comes into the orbit of exhilaration by a sort of contagion through language. The poet offers us a type of verbal homeopathy. And permission to pick at our own old scars and be mindful of the pulse accelerating and the beat skipped and the ever-breaking broken…
And so for day 1045