Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesday Poem: from Firefly, Brightly Burning



Was It A Crow You Saw?

Or a priest as you flew down the highway,
his black cassock waving in the cold air?
And you picked him up, didn’t you,
with his pack and his traveler’s hunch
although you never really slowed down?
You picked him up imagining the possibilities
he carried with him: where he was going
with his young face, his anointed hands.
What hand moves him along?
Is it the same hand that moves you,
that moves the deer to leap
across the highway and be killed?
That gives you the blessing of horses
lying at ease in the chill, haloed by the steam
before winter chases them into the barn?
Ah, but then you catch yourself.
Who said it had to be a hand?
It could just as well be tentacles, or a claw.
It could be an oozing polymer, you haven’t a clue.
And maybe what you saw was a crow after all.
This game you’ve been playing
makes you hungry, doesn’t it?
Too bad his pack is empty;
all that he carried now circling
darkly in your head.

The poems in Firefly, Brightly Burning were written and compiled over many years. When I first put the manuscript together, it seemed like a patchwork of unlike things, perhaps because it contains a number of serial pieces. I tended to see those as discrete from the other work I was doing. Many of the poems come from a fictional, narrative impulse, though certainly not all. The Anna God poems, in particular, were instigated by a photo in the newspaper of a college girl asleep on a couch in a triangle of sunlight. Her name was, yes, you guessed it, Anna God. Some of her poems come from my direct experiences as a teacher at a university, one comes from an incredible newspaper story, and one from reading Lorca. Nevertheless, one's own concerns have a way of sneaking in despite our intentions,  don't they? 

Recently, I read a quote from Melissa Pritchard's book, A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, And Write, that, "art [is] a form of active prayer." That seems true of this book, which moves from frustration with organized religion, and the way it fails women, in particular, to direct glimpses or experiences of the divine that have been there all along.