Common Book Pillow Book

by Priscila Uppal

copyright ©2006 by Priscila Uppal

Long enough since the genre was popular
we’ve forgotten what to call it: weird mix of quotes and collectibles, private
thoughts and uncensored meditations in brief, like locks of hair and
child height charts of your considerations
and ponderings. An abandoned art, you practise it with care: each quote
equal to the other, simple entries like coordinates of unmarked
appearances
in the sky – twenty years, over
8,000 days – the weather is “what you make of sunshine,” and only
women “can
make a man successful,” haven’t you heard
“God is the messenger, and we are all brothers and sisters,” organizations
of hate “must be fought with the ultimate crest: humanity,” and you
note a quote with a love reserved
for precision and the unattained, and I
suspend like cracked meteors in the ether
of your common message: go to bed, what is truly important in this world
has already been said.

“When people deserve love the least
is when the need it the most,” we are the axis
of cliche, “like mother like daughter,” sign your name
on this one before I turn out the light
and resume my interrupted prayer.

Notes on the Poem

We miss Priscila Uppal's vibrant presence. We are so grateful she left us countless gifts of her urgent, provocative and stirring words, in myriad prose and poetic forms. There seems to be a tussle going on in Priscila Uppal's poem "Common Book Pillow Book", starting right from the title. Let's revisit what it might all be about. The "common book" in the title is probably what the poem's narrator means as a commonplace book. Notebooks used to collect various kinds of information of interest or pertinent to the note taker, commonplace books are not meant to be diaries. They are supposed to be compendiums used as aids for remembering concepts and facts. Of course, no commonplace book capturing someone's interest in a subject or subjects is likely to be utterly dry and devoid of perspectives. A pillow book, by contrast, is intended to encapsulate personal work - observations, musings, sketches, fragments of poetry and more. Even the name, in comparison to the commonplace book, sounds much more intimate. Has Uppal then created some kind of hybrid, in what she describes as a ... "... weird mix of quotes and collectibles, private thoughts and uncensored meditations in brief, like locks of hair and child height charts of your considerations and ponderings." Is that mashup of the factual with the wistful creating tension for the "you and I" of this poem? The dismissive "go to bed, what is truly important in this world has already been said." ... seems to suggest that, don't you think? But as we revisit this poem, perhaps what we originally perceived as dismissive could also be read as practical and, in its way, strangely comforting.

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