Chapter 2- Wooden Horse
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The early childhood poems are especially touching; they convey a spirit and innocence strikingly different from the poems she wrote as a teenager and as an adult, when, at some point, a dark shadow fell across her work, one that
lurks over her music to this day. Who cannot be touched or perhaps saddened by the vanishing of the child inside of each of us, the one that could write:
The mermaids of the waters
Are the daughters
Of the sea
And they sing a lovely lullaby
Just for you and me.
(Just for You and Me written as a child)
Later, childhood becomes a more complicated and fearful place in Vegas writing:
I said, I am a little girl
he said, you never were
I said, I am not ready
he said, then tell me when you are
I said, I am too young for this
he said, you are not really
I said, I think I am afraid
he said, youre being silly
The girl came to the door of the judge and asked him to pronounce her
innocent or guilty so the laughing crowd could be appeased and would not
follow her through the town streets, looking and pointing.
See the little princess! they said, laughing. See how she picks through
the garbage she looks like no one here. She must be guilty!
(Judge and Justice and the Little Jury)
An undercurrent of guilt, of separateness, and of a need to escape would underscore Vegas writing for the next 30 years. Even in a musical statement as confident and mature as the songs on the album Songs in Red and Gray, one finds a shadow of this uncertainty in Penitent.
It is never made clear the source of this anxiety. Yet Vegas remembrance of things past is full of real and imagined violence, and the anxiety of sudden, irrational events beyond ones control:
Its not the fist, not the
Smack, not the
Its the unexpected
That makes you cry
Looking at the whole of her work, it is not hard to see her fascination with the story of Kasper Hauser, or how Luka came about.
I was growing and thinning, as if pulled. I was getting angry, as if pushed. I morally disapproved most things in North America, and blamed my innocent parents for them. My feelings deepened and lingered. The swift moods of early childhood each formed by and suited to its occasion vanished. Now feelings lasted so long they left stains. They arose fromnowhere, like winds or waves, and battered at me or engulfed me.
When I was angry, I felt myself coiled and longing to kill someone or bomb something big. Trying to appease myself, during one winter I whipped my bed every afternoon with my uniform belt. I despised the spectacle I made in my own eyes whipping the bed with a belt, like a creature demented! and I often began halfheartedly, but I did it daily after school as a desperate discipline, trying to rid myself and the innocent world of my wilderness. It was like trying to beat back the ocean. (Annie Dillard. An American Childhood)
I often think of Annie Dillard, and lines like these, when I listen to Suzanne
Vegas words. There is something edgy and angry in Suzannes writing;
a deeper passion and unresolved struggle that seems to extend to her childhood,
and lies beneath her skin like a coiled weasel.
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