NaBloPoMo April: Poem

So this month’s blog­ging theme is “Poem.” Not poet­ry, but “Poem.” 1 It’s in hon­or of Nation­al Poet­ry Month. It’s been a few years since I wrote any poet­ry, so to hon­or the theme I’ll point you to poet­ry I’ve shared else­where on this site from a favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle.


1 You can tell that I didn’t choose that theme.

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Madeleine L’Engle’s Poetry

I’ve been ter­ri­bly sur­prised that most peo­ple have nev­er even heard of Madeleine L’Engle’s works oth­er than A Wrin­kle in Time
. She has writ­ten many oth­er books for young adults, fic­tion and non-fic­tion for adults, and sev­er­al vol­umes of poet­ry. Her Cross­wicks Jour­nals are very spe­cial to me, but the bits of the poet­ry are eas­i­er to share with you. Both of these were reprint­ed in a fair­ly recent book, The Order­ing of Love.

There is a line that haunts me, and I can­not find the source now but I know it was from some­thing Ms. L’Engle wrote. She speaks of reach­ing out in the dark of night to her sleep­ing hus­band, sim­ply to rest her hand upon him in “affir­ma­tion of incar­na­tion.” The image is so sim­ple, yet so pow­er­ful. If you find the source, I’d very much appre­ci­ate it if you would let me know.

To a Long-Loved Love

(i)

We, who have seen the new moon grow old togeth­er,
Who have seen win­ter rime the fields and stones
As though it would claim earth and water for­ev­er,
We who have known the touch of flesh and the shape of bones
Know the old moon stretch­ing its shad­ows across a whitened field
More beau­ti­ful than spring with all its spate of blooms
What pas­sions knowl­edge of tried flesh still yields,
What joy and com­fort these famil­iar rooms.

(ii)

In the moon­less, lam­p­less dark now of this bed
My body knows each line and curve of yours;
My fin­gers know the shape of limb and head:
As pure as math­e­mat­ics ecsta­sy endures.
Blind­ed by night and love we share our pas­sion,
Cer­tain of burn­ing flesh, of liv­ing bone:
So feels the sculp­tor in the moment of cre­ation
Mov­ing his hands across the uncut stone.

(iii)

I know why a star gives light
Shin­ing qui­et­ly in the night;
Arith­metic helps me unrav­el
The hours and years this light must trav­el
To pen­e­trate our atmos­phere.
I can count the craters on the moon
With tele­scopes to make them clear.
With del­i­cate instru­ments I can mea­sure
The secrets of baro­met­ric pres­sure.

And there­fore I find it inex­press­ibly queer
That with my own soul I am out of tune,
And that i have not stum­bled on the art
Of fore­cast­ing the weath­er of the heart.

(iv)

You are still new, my love. I do not know you.
Stranger beside me in the dark of bed,
Dream­ing the dreams I can­not ever enter,
Eyes closed in that unknown, famil­iar head.
Who are you, who have thrust and entered
My very being, pen­e­trat­ed so that now
I can nev­er again be whol­ly sep­a­rate,
Bound by shared liv­ing to this unkown thou?
I do not know you, nor do you know me,
And yet we know each oth­er in the way
Of our pri­mor­dial for­bears in the gar­den,
Adam knew Eve. As we do, so did they.
They, we, for­ev­er strangers: Aus­tere but true.
And yet I would not change it. You are still new.

(v)

Words must be said, and silences be kept,
Yet, that word bet­ter left unheard, unspo­ken,
Like that unsaid, can wound. O Love, I’ve wept
From words, have thought my heart was bro­ken
From the looked-for word unut­tered. Where
Silence should speak loud, we speak instead.
Where words of love would heal we do not dare
To voice them: From sound and silence both have fled.
Yet love grows through those qui­et deep­en­ing hours
When silence fills the emp­ty bound­less spaces
Twixt flesh and flesh. Word­less­ness is ours
And love is nour­ished through unspo­ken graces.
But O my love, as I need dai­ly bread
I need the words of love which must be said.

(vi)

Nei­ther sadist nor masochist, I still
Must turn to vio­lence: break, be bro­ken.
False image of myself I beg you: kill.
Help me destroy the one of you I’ve spo­ken
With­in my wil­ful heart. It is no more you
Than I am all that I would wish to be.
I can­not real­ly love you till I hew
All these pro­jec­tions of an unre­al me,
An imaged you, to shards. Then death
Will have a chance to free me for cre­ation.
God! All this dying has me out of breath.
How do I under­stand rein­car­na­tion?
But if I burst all bonds of self-pro­tec­tion
Then may I find us both in res­ur­rec­tion.

The Monkey

Silence is dan­ger­ous
We nev­er per­mit it.
Our vocab­u­lary may not be large
But there is no ques­tion that we put it
to con­stant use.
That’s what things are for:
to be used. And used.
And used.
Who knows?
If we didn’t talk and chat­ter from morn­ing
till night (it doesn’t mat­ter
whether or not any­body lis­tens; that’s
not the point),
Words might start using us.
We nev­er allow silence.
If some­times it catch­es us unaware,
I am the first to screech across it
And shat­ter it to echo­ing frag­ments.
You nev­er can tell:
if I lis­tened to the silence
I might dis­cov­er
that I am real.

Instruments (1)

The sky is strung with glo­ry.
Light threads from star to star
from sun to sun
a liv­ing harp.
I rejoice, I sing, I leap upwards to play.
The music is in light.
My fin­gers pluck the vibrant strings;
the notes pulse, throb, in exul­tant har­mo­ny;
I beat my wings against the strands
that reach across the galax­ies
I play

NO

It is not I who play
it is the music
the music plays itself
is played
plays me
small part of an innu­mer­able
unnum­ber­able
orches­tra.
I am flung from note to note
impaled on melody
my wings are caught on throb­bing fil­a­ments of light
the wild cords cut my pin­ions
my arms are out­stretched
are bound by ropes of coun­ter­point
I am cross-eagled on the singing that is strung
from puls­ing star
to flam­ing sun
to

I burn in a blaze of song.

Instruments (2)

Hold me against the dark: I am afraid.
Cir­cle me with your arms. I am made
So tiny and my atoms so unsta­ble
That at any moment I may explode. I am unable
To con­tain myself in uni­ty. My out­lines shiv­er
With the shock of liv­ing. I endeav­or
To hold the I as one only for the cloud
Of which I am a frag­ment, yet to which I’m vowed
To be respon­si­ble. Its light against my face
Reveals the wit­ness of the stars, each in its place
Singing, each com­passed by the rest,
The many joined to one, the might­i­est to the least.
It is so great a thing to be an infin­i­tes­i­mal part
of this immea­sur­able orches­tra the music bursts the heart,
And from this tiny plo­sion all the frag­ments join:
Joy orders the dis­uni­ty until the song is one.

Lines Scrib­bled on an Enve­lope and Oth­er Poems, Copy­right &© 1969 by Madeleine L’Engle Franklin, pub­lished by Far­rar, Straus and Giroux

The Weath­er of the Heart, Copy­right &© 1978 Cross­wicks, pub­lished by Harold Shaw Pub­lish­ers

For more Madeleine L’Engle:

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R.I.P. Madeleine L’Engle

I start­ed this post on Sep­tem­ber 7, the day after the grand lady moved on to find out what’s next. I find myself cer­tain that she wasn’t afraid, that she looked for­ward to a reunion with her hus­band Hugh and oth­ers who had gone before. And yet I, who nev­er even met her in per­son, was too upset to fin­ish the post or even look at it again for two months. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rumbles from the Recliner

Not from the grave, oh no, not yet!

It’s been too long to do a real “this is all that has hap­pened in my life.” Writ­ing it would exhaust me, and read­ing it would like­ly bore you. If you want to know about some­thing in par­tic­u­lar, please ask.

I’ll be post­ing a few things short­ly that I had “ready to go” and just didn’t post, for what­ev­er rea­son.

The girl is enjoy­ing life as a teen, or as much as any teen can. I wouldn’t want to go through those ups and downs again! She’s always my most pre­cious, beau­ti­ful God­dess gift baby, even if she will be 17 this week. That’s our “big thing” right now.

She con­tin­ues to amaze me with her cre­ativ­i­ty. She’s the head pho­tog­ra­ph­er (or what­ev­er they call it there) for the year­book, which has had her run­ning around to all man­ner of events for which there must be pho­tos! Now! Yes­ter­day! Couldn’t they hold Home­com­ing in July? Come ON peo­ple! And she loves it. She com­plete­ly filled her 1GB com­pact flash card with live pho­tos from Fri­day night’s foot­ball game, then had to switch to her small­er, old­er card and be very judi­cious in her shots to fin­ish the game. She obvi­ous­ly needs a much big­ger card!

Yes, she uses her own equip­ment. Her cam­era is head and shoul­ders above the qual­i­ty of those the year­book staff owns, even the few dig­i­tals. That makes sense, con­sid­er­ing the expense of them, the time it takes to real­ly learn to use a dig­i­tal SLR prop­er­ly, etc. Most of what they have are point-and-shoot 35mm film cam­eras, which aren’t such big a deal if a stu­dent los­es or dam­ages them.

Sam is still work­ing at the same place, help­ing peo­ple with com­put­ers and net­work­ing and phones and so on—even A/V equip­ment at times. If you can plug it in, his depart­ment is the one every­body calls first for help. I’m sur­prised jan­i­tors don’t show up with vac­u­um clean­er com­plaints some­times (and I don’t know that it hasn’t hap­pened at some time at the past).

The help­ing peo­ple part is, of course, the most impor­tant thing. He loves it, he does it well, and he finds wells of patience that must come from Some­where Else.

I’m reg­is­ter­ing for fall class­es (DeVry is on an odd sched­ule, but you may have noticed that). We’re look­ing for a place to move to, but not find­ing what we can afford where we want to live. I sup­pose that’s an eter­nal lament, isn’t it?

I’m still a gimp, and now have a (man­u­al) wheel­chair of my own. I real­ly need a ramp for the front entrance of the house, but I’ve delayed try­ing to have one put in here since we want to move.

We’re still in lim­bo with Social Secu­ri­ty. In Geor­gia, the wait to have your case heard by an admin­is­tra­tive law judge is (accord­ing to the SSA office near me) about 36 months, aver­age. That’s the lev­el I’m at now.

It’s damned frus­trat­ing not to be work­ing, not to be able to work. I don’t want to be on dis­abil­i­ty or need it! I want to find a job I can do for a decent wage!

But I’ve had yet more icky health stuff, so… Sam and Katie are more of a bless­ing than I can say, cer­tain­ly far more than I deserve.

I real­ly want music. I mean, to make it. Noth­ing else seems to be able to replace hav­ing a piano (not a lit­tle key­board) in my home. That’s when I sing the most, as I accom­pa­ny myself. (I don’t play all that well, so I don’t play in front of any­one else.) I was think­ing of tak­ing a new vocal class Elise Witt is offer­ing, but it con­flicts with a fam­i­ly com­mit­ment.

I’m re-read­ing Madeleine L’Engle’s Cross­wicks Jour­nals and poet­ry as I mourn her pass­ing. Yes, there will be a sep­a­rate post about that, but for now, I’ll leave you with a tiny quote from her:

I learn my lessons slow­ly, sel­dom once for all. Con­tin­u­al­ly they have to be learned and re-learned, not with solem­ni­ty, but with awe and laugh­ter and joy.

Namaste,
Cyn

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