Welcome to earthweal’s open Link Weekend #12.
Link a poem that best suits your own theme or mood, be it new or oldie gold. Include your location in your link so we get a feel for the breadth of global reportage. And be sure to visit your fellow linkers and comment.
Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for Monday’s weekly challenge, which I haven’t figured out what it will be. (We may stay with pandemic a while, as it is doing the same for us.)
Join the campfire with a song!
For the past 30 years my daily life has kicked off with an early morning vigil with the muses mid their tombs. Knocking down a cup to bold java while pooled in lamplight, I’ve read a bit of poetry and a bit of prose before writing. I’ve delved into the vast res of human yearning, exaltation and explication, half of me excavating, the other half singing back.
Lord knows how the habit came to me; my father’s intellectual interests were closely akin to mine, but it was my mother who was the early riser, reading her Bible and writing her prayers. I suppose I ride the early dolphin due to both of them
For decades I’ve written notes in journals and cobbled poems, first in comp books, then straight into a computer. (The median step of first writing with a pen seemed unnecessary by 2008, when I inherited my dead brother’s laptop.) My shelves have filled with must-keep books on mythology, psychology, folklore, ancient history, criticism, novels and, of course, poetry. I dunno, I walk in my study and sense a vibrant chorus of dead voices, delving, praising, roaring, hushed. Maybe it’s just all those moments I read something and said Yes! and wrote something down, to keep it closer in mind or sing it somehow back.
Around the year 2000 my wife needed space for her growing sewing business, and that study morphed into a co-working space. The main desktop space (two work surfaces on three file cabinets) are taken up with her embroidery machine and serger and packed all around are bags of fabrics and pillows. I yielded my workspace to her, moving into the living room for my daily work, loading a cabinet out here with stuff for present work and used the study for overspill, packing extra books into the closet or upstairs in the attic.
In my hurried former professional life, stuff has been tucked away for eventual filing for decades. Needless to say, it’s a cramped space: But finally unemployment has given me a chance to do some reclamation in there, throwing out old drafts of poems (printed out our in the comp book they were first written down), photocopied research dating back to the 90s, extra copies of stuff I’ve created at my various jobs. Four boxes with books I just know I’ll never touch again headed for the public library used book nook, and ten hulking black garbage bags went to the curb. After decades, I’ve got my share of that room organized and in place. You could almost feel the breath of breadth return to the room.
But part of me has been silently lamenting the massive jettison. I’m not sure I would ever return to any of it, but still some essential part of the conversation feels diminished, maybe even lost. Songlines are built over millennia, and reconnoitering them took a lifetime I’ll not have the chance to repeat. It felt like letting a dreamed-of life go. There were folders of research for degrees I’ll never work for again, stuff for classes I’ll never teach, criticism I’ll never write, mythological studies I never found any local presence for.
Maybe there’s an acceptance in that letting go. Certainly I’ve made my wife’s job easier should she have to tackle all that in my absence. The stuff which remains feels more essentially myself.
The thicket is trimmed, the great tree thinned: Such measures do prepare one for coming seasons, and Lord knows what this next one will bring. Having banished some ghostly possibilities of my accumulated self, I do feel more on my feet for the stiff breeze of changes now coming at us from every direction – no job, no prospects, virus closing in, an entire human globe going on lockdown.
Still, there is work to do—more daily forays into the Deep, more exchanges here at earthweal, new vistas of marriage (Lord help us). We’re getting to know our neighbors a different way. I’m discovering AA can survive on Zoom meetings. Daily life in the uncertain has its edges of fear, but it also yields new possibilities. I got that study finally organized.
I was reading from a 2004 study journal this morning – pulled from a shelf now lined with them—and read an Emily Dickenson poem I had copied out in full. As back then, I heard an old voice affirm something in my own, and reminded me of the great chorus of which all poets are a part:
The feet of people walking home
In gayer sandals go,
The Crocus, till she rises,
The Vassal of the Snow—
The lips of Halleluja!
Long years of practice bore,
Till bye and bye these Bargemen
Walked singing on the shore.
Pearls are the Diver’s farthings
Extorted from the Sea,
Pinions of the Seraph’s wagon,
Pedestrians once, as we—
Night is the morning’s canvas,
Death but our rapt attention
My figures fail to tell me
How far the village lies,
Whose Peasants are the angels
Whose Cantons dot the skies.
My Classics veil their faces
My Faith that dark adores
Which from its solemn Abbey
Such resurrection pours!
I thought I had copied the poem out of a volume of Dickinson’s poems from my library which was one of the older volumes in my collection, one I had bought back in college in the ‘70s. But the numbering was different, and I actually found it in a 1942 Little, Brown & Co. volume edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson—one which my mother had when she was attending Duke University and gave to me when she found out I was writing poetry with daily passion. Now that she’s gone, if feels like her voice is an added resonance on that other side where Dickinson’s poems all went, a place all of us pedestrian poets will eventually go to sing in the vast Choir.
So there you go—much to remember and celebrate as the invisible comes to roost with us all. Maybe it’s a footing of sorts—an Abbey, from which such resurrection pours!
Works for me.