Category Archives: writing

All the airy words we summon.

Following on the theme of language, I’m re-posting this poem from Dana Gioia. As my situation is different from seven years ago when I first put it up here, so is my response to the poem. Then, I was often with my late husband, and we would tell each other the names of things, and amplify our knowledge and appreciation of the world together. Or, we would simply be together in silence, in those moments of happy existence in the world that does not need words.

Nowadays, I still have the impulse to tell all these things, or attempt to bring my readers into the wordless experiences I have — by means of words! Of course, I can’t even attempt to describe more than a fraction of the moments, the stones and sunlight and shadows. So I am learning — a little — to just sit with the things, “no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.” There is Someone with me, after all, who doesn’t tell me the names of things, but Who is the Reality from which they came into being. He also needs no praise, so we praise Him always.

WORDS

The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other –
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper –
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads. To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always –
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

— Dana Gioia

 

A secretary of the invisible thing.

SECRETARIES

I am no more than a secretary of the invisible thing
That is dictated to me and a few others.
Secretaries, mutually unknown, we walk the earth
Without much comprehension.  Beginning a phrase in the middle
Or ending it with a comma.  And how it looks when completed
Is not up to us to inquire, we won’t read it anyway.

-Czeslaw Milosz

A Milosz poem in the original Polish. I like the doodlings that resemble my own “secretarial” scribblings, though I feel I am not as good at taking dictation.

Writing light and sage.

John Gower was a friend of Chaucer. He sounds like someone who, if he had lived seven centuries later, would have enjoyed writing a blog.

Confessio Amantis (Prologue: Motivation and Intent)

Of those who wrote before our lives
Their precious legacy survives;
From what was written then, we learn,
And so it’s well that we in turn,
In our allotted time on earth
Do write anew some things of worth,
Like those we from these sages cite,
So that such in like manner might,
When we have left this mortal sphere,
Remain for all the world to hear
In ages following our own.
But it is so that men are prone
To say that when one only reads
Of wisdom all day long, one breeds
A paucity of wit, and so
If you agree I’ll choose to go
Along a kind of middle ground
Sometimes I’ll write of things profound,
And sometimes for amusement’s sake
A lighter path of pleasure take
So all can something pleasing find.

-John Gower (1330 – 1408) England
Modern English version by Richard Brodie

John Gower

 

Vaporous lists form and drift…

That idea I grabbed onto last month, to make lists when I’m incapable of the kind of prose that would be more satisfying to writer and reader, has not worked well for me.

Maybe it boils down to priorities… life is too short to dash off an easy type of list when one might instead use the precious moments to 1) Think on how to make just one list item more beautiful,  or 2) Forget trying to preserve in writing anything in particular from the experience or contemplation, and just BE. Play one more game with the children, sit on the deck in the dry and sunny air — or sleep!

But now, near the end of my stay in Colorado, out of desperation I’ve condensed a few thoughts into words, at the extreme boring level, the list of lists to write:

LIST of LISTS to MAKE

  • Big and little ways Soldier and Joy are kind and generous to me.
  • Additional friends and family I’ve been able to see while I’m here.
  • Books the children and I have read together.
  • Names of the children’s dolls and stuffies.
  • Plants that the Seek app hasn’t been able to identify.
  • Delicious meals that Joy has made.
  • Darling things the children have said.
  • Topics of helpful and informative conversations I’ve had with Soldier and Joy.
  • Internet links and articles to follow up on.
  • Walks we have taken.
  • Species of willow trees.

Maybe I won’t get around to writing even one of these lists — think of that!

Glory to God for all things!