You are the one who made us
You silver all the minnows in all rivers
You wait in the deep woods
To find the newborn fox cubs
And unseal their eyes
You shower the sky with stars
You walk alone
In the wild royal darkness
Of the heavens above the heavens
Where no one else can go.
When the fragile swallows assemble
For their pilgrimages
When the hummingbirds
Who are scarcely more
Than a glittering breath
Set out for the rain forest
To drink from the scarlet flowers
On the other side of the world
With only now and then
The mast of a passing ship
For a resting place and an inn
When the Canada geese
Are coming down from the north
When the storks of Europe
Stretch out their necks toward Egypt
From their nests on the chimney tops
When shaking their big wings open
And trailing their long legs after them
They rise up heavily
To begin their autumn flight
You who speak without words
To your creatures who live without words
Are hiding under their feathers
To give them a delicate certainty
On the long dangerous night journey.
Light the first light of evening, as in a room In which we rest and, for small reason, think The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous. It is in that thought that we collect ourselves, Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:
Within a single thing, a single shawl Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth, A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves. We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole, A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.
Within its vital boundary, in the mind. We say God and the imagination are one… How high that highest candle lights the dark.
Out of this same light, out of the central mind, We make a dwelling in the evening air, In which being there together is enough.
I discovered this poem on the blog Kingdom Poets, where the poet-blogger D.S. Martin wonders if Stevens ought even to be “mentioned in a blog about Christian poetry.” Martin also quotes a few speculative lines from a biographer of Stevens, as to the lifelong skeptic’s motives for receiving Christian baptism on his deathbed. I’d like to read more of what he wrote later in life, but the images and evocations of this poem are familiar enough to me to make me think that Wallace Stevens had truly tasted of the Kingdom of God, that Holy Spirit-quickened heart where Christ dwells, of which He spoke when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
St. Porphyrios said provocatively, “Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet.” Father Stephen Freeman has quoted the saint when he writes about “what can drive us both to poetry as well as theology”:
“The reduction of the world and its ‘history’ are the tools of those who lack the imagination and patience to find the truth. The Fathers tell us to ‘pay attention.’ This is true with regard to the heart, but it is also true with regard to the world around us. Attention does not solve the mystery, but it at least acknowledges its presence and gives rise to enough wonder to make understanding possible at some point.”
“Evil is never creative. It is destructive and occasionally diverse in its activities. But creativity requires energy and commitment. Evil’s own entropy always reduces it to banality and boredom. It prefers prose: poetry is too much work.”
Fr. Stephen also quotes a poem from e.e. cummings, including the lines, “i do not know what it is about you… only something in me understands…”
The type of somethings that e.e. cummings refers to can’t be known intellectually, but they are the testimony of our own experience that “mystery is not only an aspect of the divine, but part of the nature of all reality. Everything is far more than it appears.”
I am eternally grateful to writers like Wallace Stevens who commit their strength of mind and length of days to sharing their glimpses of the mysterious reality behind the obvious,
…since we are poor, a warmth, A light, a power, the miraculous influence.
In the midst of destruction, smoke, fear, and drama of the worst sorts, I rested for most of last week as though at a peaceful (indoor) oasis, with my dear friends. First it was the two evacuees, and then a third who was merely on her way home to Ohio. After all were gone, I hurried to prepare my part of a church school lesson, attended Liturgy…
…and a new week had begun. Whoa! While I had my head turned, a new season had suddenly arrived. The nights are cooler again, the sun is slant. When the wildfire smoke thinned out a bit, I could notice the fall feel of the air, and skies turning from orange to blue. It made me weep with relief.
The butternuts needed to be brought in, the zucchini yanked out, and a general clean-up begun. I had planned to plant peas in September; now I hope to do it before the first week of October is gone.
The zucchini plants were disgusting; for many weeks the white flies have flown up in a cloud every time I rummage around to pick the perfect fruits; those insects are still present, and now ashes blow and drift down wherever I move a stem of salvia, or a fig branch.
I try not to keep talking about cinders, but they have gone from being an unusual element of the weather to being constant, and hard to ignore. When it doesn’t include smoke and ashes I find the weather to be always interesting, but in a more satisfying way. Of course, I am merely inconvenienced; those of you who experience tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have your own reasons to not be exactly “satisfied” even with more natural weather made up of rain and wind.
When the zucchini was gone this flower was revealed, its bloom pristine though its leaves are sooty. My Seek app can’t identify it, and I don’t recall seeing such a plant here before.
The two 4-inch zinnia starts I planted in June have grown gloriously bushy. It took me months to get around to deadheading them; this week was only the second time. A few flowers had formed seeds, which I scattered in hopes of finding some sprouts next spring. But they are likely hybrids, so who knows?
The figs keep coming, and I plan to make this autumn cake again. But I can’t eat the whole thing… who is in my “bubble” that I might invite to share with me? I could give the whole cake to a neighbor! Actually, I had thought to make two, and already planned to give one to a neighbor…. I don’t have my thinking cap on right now to work out this problem.
Because while I was typing, the smoke thickened. I have shut the windows, taken the laundry off the clothesline, and turned on the air purifiers again. Since I did make a little start in the garden, and brought in a few of the red zinnias, I am content. If no new fires start, we can expect the skies to clear more and more, just in time for cold weather and wood fires in the house. I hope.
I know that many of you pray for us who live in wildfire country, for the firefighters, for rain. Thank you!