Barbara, Christmas 2013

If you put all my joy over all our pots together,
It would not touch how I feel about this cast-iron pot.

Let all my joy from all our pots be plopped together
and it slops around, with room, inside this iron pot.

I never thought I’d see a black utensil packed together
with black lids of iron and be thrilled to feel a pot.

When I’m old we’ll need to lift it’s weight together
or I’ll bend beneath the iron.  But today I waltz this pot.

 

Daniel

We ate our people’s roots but no-one’s meat
or wine, and hung our harps on willow wands
unplayed by winds.  I read our people’s book
and found the number there of years we must
be slaved.  From sorrow we’d forgot to look.

I turned toward the wall and would not play.
I told Yahweh it must be His to count
the years, I said “We are your portion
in the earth.  You’re poor.  We’re all you’ve got.”

The instant when our sins should slash a vein,
when lambs are hushed their crying by a blade,
the legate Gabriel enpierced my room.

A word went out.  He said.  An actual word,
resuscitating sentences, germ cells of books,
as books are matrices for nations.  Words
went out at dusk and I have fought celestial
orcs to bring them home.   Get up, get out,
go virgin to a virgin couch and and kiss a virgin
mouth, plant stories in your fields, fire
pots for wines, and sing new wedding psalms
beneath your virgin vines.   Go home.

Mockingbird

For Barbara.

I wonder where the mockingbird is from, and where it went, you said.

You’re Job, I said, when Yahweh sphinxes him for fun.

You said it came a second night but then last night was gone.

He blanked, I said, on when the mountain-goats give birth,
He blanked on where Leviathans cross seas,
He blanked on why the wind both woos and kills.

You said it sang beside our bed two nights, not three. Not three.

I said I can’t explain antiphony.
Amen is its own reward.

Helen Vendler, on Gerard M. Hopkins: “…second-order reflection…”

“The subjects that interested Hopkins were chiefly intellectual ones; even his most sensuous responses to the natural world were immediately referred to the intellect, which, in the poetry, meant referral to philosophical or theological thought. Although it has seemed regrettable to some readers that Hopkins grafted religious sestets onto octaves of natural beauty, it must be acknowledged that if he had led a different life, his penetrating sense-perceptions would even so have had to be presented to, and mediated by, his intellectual preoccupations (which, in that alternative life, might have been philosophical rather than religious). In any case, the two aspects – the senses and the intellect – would still have had to struggle into stand-offs, reconciliations, suspensions – the very things that happen in the religious poems.

The overwhelming elation Hopkins felt in the presence of natural phenomena (and his consequent grief at the destruction of natural beauty) could not exist unaffected by second-order reflection.”

Helen Vendler reviews ‘The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Vols I-II’ edited by R.K.R. Thorton and Catherine Phillips · LRB 3 April 2014

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