Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fear Not: Behold the Corn

I stumbled onto a book of poetry in the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy Friday morning. It was sitting on a short table in a clothing store that dabbles in tasteful home accessories and adornments. No doubt intended as a coffee table book suitable for Christmas giving, its simple title, Evidence, sat boldly over a stunning, ethereal photograph of a river running through grassy fields toward a skyline of gray and gold clouds--at once majestic and familiar, like a snapshot from some distant dream.

Sucker for words that I am, I picked it up to flip through and found myself unable to put it down again, my soul drawn into her poems like a sojourner to home. Her language was clear and simple but absolutely precise. Her poetry offered reflections on the profound beauty in nature's smallest and most grandiose characters: a sparrow, sweet grass, the sun. Though I gravitate to nature--and couldn't imagine leaving our house where pine trees greet us through the windows every morning--I'm not generally drawn to writings on nature. But this poetry touched at something bigger than "just" nature: it spoke to the greater mysteries of existence as illustrated in the extraordinary details of a world that seeds and grows and flits and flies and rushes and pools all around us, every day, with or without our notice.

I managed to put it down only because I knew my final stop that morning would be a book store where I could see more of her work. Indeed, I later found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor beneath a bookcase labeled "Poetry," my heavy bags resting beside me, holding book after book of this woman's wisdom, reading deep the nourishment of her verse.

As I read, I thought of my dear friend, for whom this poetry would make the perfect gift, not as a book to be tastefully displayed on a coffee table but as a comfort to hold close and savor slowly in the quiet moments of a difficult day. I gave it to her today, and saw her also drawn to the words and images of the poems. And I thought, the only thing better than a world you never want to leave, created by the simple stroke of ink on paper, is someone who wishes to stay there with you. A friend whose soul speaks the same language and hears the same music and asks the same questions and marvels at the same truths.

Literature, friendship, ingestion of the word, shared wonder: communion.

And now, to share with You:
Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith
by Mary Oliver
Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

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