Monday, March 1, 2010

I brake for poetry

Change of pace -- this is something I wrote roughly twenty-five years ago and filed away. I was intrigued at the time by the idea of something in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poetry that a critic labeled "inscape" -- the use of an external landscape to describe the condition of the soul. So I played with it in an attempt to capture what the soul -- my soul -- goes through in coming to repentance.

Inscape: The Prodigal Turns

Prologue: Narcissism

In a far country, dreams grow like ivy up the sides of the valley;

all they touch is trimmed in gaudy green

with streaks of brilliant red.

The earth turns. Emerald leaves wither and die.

An avalanche of brown precedes the snowline

as it falls from the hilltops.

Autumn: Hubris

A cat, death brooding in its eyes, stalked a sparrow.

The bird neither sowed nor reaped, nor took measures

for its own defense.

Cats may levitate if need be, rising slowly

above brown earth for a mouthful of bloody down;

mine did. I mourned silently for the bird, but cried out

in awe of the spectacle: Life from death.

My cat only chewed hollow bones

and left a scarlet-black stain on the earth.

Winter: Recognition

Hell is bright days in winter

when the sun has no power to warm.

I cannot open my eyes, partly for the cold

and partly for the light jabbing icicles

through my eyelids. Ice-crystal rainbows

obscure frost-rimmed trees ringing like bells

in the breeze, or cracking like a firing squad at sunrise.

Too grand for me, this miracle-laden landscape

must remain external, and behind my eyelids

I stand face to face with my pettiness.

Spring: Surrender

Aggressive freshets of meltwater steer

downhill; they seek a river. Before reaching its banks

they are a flood to give even Noah pause.

Death swims these raging waters.

As days go by, the deluge recedes;

I see muddy fields, barren and fertile as my own soul,

awaiting the sower.

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