Hey Y’all. Thirty years ago I was listening to a poet being interviewed on the radio. Apparently such things happened back then and sometimes still might. I don’t remember who he was, I was busy driving on a busy Omaha winter road at the time. He read a poem of his that had something to do with urinating outside on a winter’s night underneath the clear light of the Pleiades. I don’t remember the name of the poem. If by some miracle this rings a bell with someone and they can help me with this reference, I would be a happy girl indeed. I do remember that he said that poetry is the art of getting from this shit to stars as efficiently as possible. It is a dizzying prospect to travel together with the poet in the starlight or the dark night. When a fine poem pulls me in its beam, it is difficult for me to disengage. It is as meaningful to give a reading of a poem as to write one, for without the reading, a poem is torn with violence from its purpose. I want to share a sample of my comments and thoughts about four amazing poets and a representative poem from each. This will be first in a review, then a rumination, then a reaction, then finally a repose.
Review: “Body’s Raw Wound” by Lance Sheridan.
The vocalizations of werewolves are typically limited to violent snarls, threatening growls, and long sad soulful howling. In his poem “Body’s Raw Wound,” Lance Sheridan has presented us with the beautiful and wrenchingly painful translation of those utterances from which we heretofore could only vaguely divine the heart and mind of the werewolf. The fact that it is presented in three tight perfectly metered septet stanzas does nothing to diminish the visceral burning terror of the transformation, revealing the careful precision and soul of his art. While the werewolf is often an engaging literary subject, we are rarely if ever presented with the archetypal universalities of the werewolf dilemma from the perspective of the creature, rather, such commentary is usually left to some outside shaman or elder who interprets the signs of coming doom that stalks the bitten changeling-to-be. But Lance has laid the vivid pain and alienation of having become the beast straight to our own wild hearts, with a gorgeously beautiful reflection on how the self inevitably changes and eventually passes. In this poem we are shown not so much the death of the self, but rather its total subjugation to an emptiness from which we once had the hubris to emerge. We cannot avoid the uncomfortable realization that we share the common bond of the predator in order to make our way in the universe, the need to consume is inescapable and cannot be forever hidden under smooth pink skin as in these lines where we are told that the…
Shadow like a black wolf, each paw on
Me a brier; my doom consummates a bodily need;
It snares me, hungry, hungry. It eats
To satisfy a need
…while also realizing that the energy which drives us to hunt and feed on the earth, the air, the flesh of other beings is but a part of the cyclical rearrangement of energy and matter in a dark universe, as entropy itself stalks us…
“Its tread is a weighted enemy, my heart shuts,
It peels me like linen”
Even as we become more aware of our place in relation to this cold directionality – the bad dream of consciousness at this point starts to feel like hell, and it is here that the wolf seeks for a power, a cohesion, a meaning, a god that can deliver – in the end seeming to be dissipated and turned from raging fury into mere drops of dew and unbound featureless eternity.
We all feel the press of change and dissipation, while we rage against the change and loss of body and autonomy. Like a wolf, we may be robbed of our reason, and often will lash out while grief at our demise and strange new status silences or in worst cases destroys those we love. As I look out tonight at a round August moon, I ponder the beautiful but tender gift that Sheridan has given me tonight. I can live now as I feel its light upon me, and howl a little at the change I know is coming, and hug my pups a little closer, and maybe enjoy the moment with them with more life, more carpe, more diem, secure in the knowledge that this moment is chased by the person I will become in the next moment and the memory of this sweet time will soon lie among the silent dew reflecting rather than gazing back at the moon. Perhaps I can choose to live, secure in the knowledge that each of us will someday shed our skin. Thank you Lance. Lona.
Bonus Link to “The Silver Leash”
Rumination: “Partitions” by Amaya Engleking of Gospel Isosceles.
I read this from perspective of your voice and it was beating (note from Lona -originally I meant to say it was beautiful but it was auto-corrected to beating), I woke up this morning and for some reason read it from the perspective of Christ in Gethsemane and in his passion and it became overpowering, I felt a subtext of “let this cup pass from me” in the words
“Are we not to live free
Beyond the shelter,
The cause of the storm?
My soul presses into the walls of this body”
The infinite mutually recursive inward gaze that then is witnessed outward shattering walls in the vision and hope that not only does God know us, but God has also condescended to be us. Truly Christ knows how to succor us, even if we are shut in. I love your words, holy – personal- I was blessed to find this today. Thank you friend and cister.
But I like “beating.” I read “alive,” which is more than I can say for the way I am/feel during these very hard days and nights. Sometimes I say things that I want to believe but do not quite yet, and I know they might shatter walls and that they might also make angry those who need those walls. If the shelter causes the storm, why do we do it? Why do we leave heaven, as God does, to come to inhabit walls and separate ourselves from Love and from each other? I think you and I have even talked about this before, but sometimes I just want to summon everything I am, all I am, and be resplendent in all my/God’s spiritual glory. How our earthly problems and storms would be made diminutive, nothing at all. But that’s not the purpose of this place, is it?
If we had been created just to have lived forever in the resplendent glory of God’s love, never having left his presence, to have known no other possibility, would we have been truly free, or would we have just been like little knick-knacks on God’s shelf? By leaving and inhabiting these rooms, we are left to the desperate inadequacies of our own devices to make our way in a world that seems outside his love, a world that seems real, where we are given the choice each moment to feed on the weakness of others in order to survive, or to learn to mirror his love and care with each other – this is not always easy, in fact it is never easy, but it may be impossible to have the freedom and perhaps the very possibility to learn to love without a separation from God’s presence. We might feel like we become lost along the way, and the more we become predators rather than nurturers, the more lost we become. The more we seek to mirror God’s love, the more we feel lost in this world separated from him, but also the more likely we may be to resonate with those whispers of the Spirit, those longings, that let us know that this love is the path, the very interstitium, really, of what we truly are. Without this gift of walls and partitions, our love would not be real. You are right, we are not here to summon and dwell in all the resplendence of God’s glory, but to spark little candle’s of it in whatever dark or sweet little corner we may have been placed. It seems a dicey proposition, it is temporary, our skin is fragile, our bonds are fragile. But as those walls shatter in little ways from time to time, we feel the possibility of what the purpose might be of dwelling in eternity to eternity. We are not meant to be decorations, but offspring. Grace and Atonement is but the comprehensive binding together of the way. The blood was real, our pain is real, colic is real, depression is real, fires are real, cancer is real, hunger is real, hard days and nights are real, but then again the blood was real, the blood was real, the blood was real, the blood is real, and thereby, we will one day be real. You light a part of the path every time I touch your words. Oh, sweet dimunition, there is no other way.
Reaction: “Yosemite – The Poem” by Jim Feeney.
Those who have been to Yosemite will no doubt carry the memory of the grand and overwhelming scale of its natural beauties with them throughout their lives. Those who have been to Yosemite, but don’t remember having been there, might carry a memory more like the one presented by Feeney on his site “Stop Dragging the Panda.” I read this while traveling in a car to my daughter’s soccer game with my family (I was not driving), and it made me laugh out loud.
Step One: well you might know what to do by now.
Step Two: well you know… if you want, there is my reaction presented below.
I am in the backseat, my daughter is at the wheel, my wife is buried in memes, my son is learning about the GMAT, I am trying out someone I haven’t met on dVerse’s Mister Linky yet. The second incarnation of Khan is on the audio trying to help someone who used to be a werewolf come to terms with a military-industrial complex conspiracy to torture him with a huge drug-induced hound illusion. A loud burst of laughter escapes my lips or my mid-section I can’t quite tell which. Everyone, and I mean everyone inquires of me in some fashion what was so funny. I read the bit and nobody gets it so I start a lengthy explanation of how Patrick Stewart isn’t really Captain Picard how he is really a Shakespearean ninja prince, and of course you would deduce that Billy was involved, but what is really funny is how Branagh is no where to be seen, even though he should be because he has been piling up Hamlet’s and Richard’s and Much Ado’s like hotcakes but with more syrup but none of them know who he is so I say he was the second doomed instructor of defense against dark arts, and now my daughter smiles and says that oh yeah, she just thought all of those were just Guildiroy Lockheart just wanting to take credit for those movies, and that makes laugh again but she scowls and says it wasn’t that funny. But gosh I enjoyed Feeney’s poem, it is much better than the audio which is merely the least of the Sherlock’s. And now my left thumb is sore, so thanks to Feeney for that too. Lona
Repose: “the wind is blue” by Jane Dougherty.
I am going to write very little about this perfect little poem, except to say that I cannot get it out of my mind. I am dumbfounded by the fact that Jane says in her post that the poem perhaps is not very coherent. Well, I think it is so beautiful that to say much about it might only ruin it. I would like to meet Jane someday, if she writes a perfect little poem like this and calls it incoherent, then she probably also farts rainbows. Ok, enough noise (and I am sorry about the flatulence joke)… Breathe the poem.
Step 1. Read the Poem
Step 2. Shhhh. Hush. Don’t say anything, just read the poem again, this time softly out loud. Then read it to your love. Then read it to your kids. Shhhh…
Good night Y’all and Luvs! Lona