Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Poetry as teacher

THE LAYERS

                                    I have walked through many lives,
                                    some of them my own,
                                    and I am not who I was,
                                    though some principle of being
                                    abides, from which I struggle
                                    not to stray.
                                    When I look behind,
                                    as I am compelled to look
                                    before I can gather strength
                                    to proceed on my journey,
                                    I see the milestones dwindling
                                    toward the horizon
                                    and the slow fires trailing
                                    from the abandoned camp-sites,
                                    over which scavenger angels
                                    wheel on heavy wings.
                                    Oh, I have made myself a tribe
                                    out of my true affections,
                                    and my tribe is scattered!
                                    How shall the heart be reconciled
                                    to its feast of losses?
                                    In a rising wind
                                    the manic dust of my friends,
                                    those who fell along the way,
                                    bitterly stings my face,
                                    Yet I turn, I turn,
                                    exulting somewhat,
                                    with my will intact to go
                                    wherever I need to go,
                                    and every stone on the road
                                    precious to me.
                                    In my darkest night,
                                    when the moon was covered
                                    and I roamed through wreckage,
                                    a nimbus-clouded voice
                                    directed me:
                                    “Live in the layers,
                                    not on the litter.”
                                    Though I lack the art
                                    to decipher it,
                                    no doubt the next chapter
                                    in my book of transformations
                                    is already written.
                                    I am not done with my changes.

                                    Stanley Kunitz

Shared by Claire Beynon in her Feb. 12 post.  In her current post, she offers excerpts from Pablo Neruda's BOOK OF QUESTIONS and an introduction to this week's Tuesday Poem, which the editor calls "oceanic."  I would also call it mythic, ancient and exemplifying the truths we find nowhere but poetry.  While at Claire's blog, please take time to see her art.  For reasons I can't put into words other than "light," her current work speaks to me of William Blake.  My first job, begun when I was 14, was at the Huntington Library.  On coffee breaks and lunch hours I visited the exhibits.  Blake was just outside my office door.  Without poetry, without illumination,  how would we describe ourselves?  What could we possibly know?

6 comments:

susan t. landry said...

stunning images in this poem. i am fond of stanley kunitz, a devoted gardener and lover of salt air and that gorgeous cape cod light--which works so well with other sources of illumination...

T. Clear said...

" Without poetry, without illumination, how would we describe ourselves? What could we possibly know?"

Oh, oh.....

This resonates deeply with me, dear Marylinn.

Poetry saves us, pure and simple.

Thank you for this lunchtime interlude, this place of peace.

xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Susan - This touched me so...not done with my changes. Somehow Claire finds the corners of my mind or soul and pulls disparate pieces together. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

T - Poetry and poets DO save us, our sad, raggedy selves every time we turn to it, to all of you who write it. A place of peace. I could ask no more. Thank you. xo

beth coyote said...

scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

what a gorgeous line. I hear/saw Stanley read when he was almost transparent, he was so old.

~Beth

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Oh, I know. I went back and read it after your comment and am goosebumps from the wrists up. How fortunate to have seen him. I can imagine a clear hologram of self, the voice that is looking back in this poem. xo