I wept with the world at the tragedy that happened to Notre Dame on Monday. I had been thinking and thinking about what poem I might post for today, and I wondered if there were any poems written to that magnificent cathedral.
I considered this poem on Monday night. But, the loss of the stained glass – especially that glorious rose window – made Kerrie O’Brien’s words almost painful to read.
Then I considered Edmund Kemper Broadus poem about a gargoyle. But, the fate of those gargoyles is yet uncertain.
Finally, I stumbled across this poem, written on Monday by Mary Angela Douglas and I knew that this is the poem I will carry with me today:
Beauty Itself Is Burning Down
by Mary Angela Douglas
beauty itself is burning down
a newsman cried
with Notre Dame lit like a torch
against the sunset sky
what can we say
will the rose windows melt inside
I wondered, can it be so many saints have died
and now their images too their agonies renewed
for another contract, lease
is the name for Paris, rue,
not rosemary, please forget me
what I knew of thought I knew of
Hugo, I thought ramdomly
cathedrals burning in a green April
april, the cruelest
does the world skip a beat in an afternoon
of eight centuries
the world within the world
we never see
not being visionary
the cathedral erupting into great roses
in a penultimate Spring
the cathedral a great green candle
consumed for the Lord
as if by example, we should be shorn
of our somnambulance
in the lily of this hour
with the traffic no longer surging, transfixed
in the rose of its crumbling
singing, singing singing
the bell into the tower
the tower withstanding
the bell in the tower
the bell in the tower
beyond all wars and scars
the little mockeries in peace time
and yet, crowds grew
and thronged the singeing avenues
willing the walls to stay
for hours and hours
the spire of Notre Dame
our lady’s arrow-sorrow
lit in a golden flame, flickered, floated sideways
what next? The flaking, flinging down of stars. the moon falls into the earth, a mirror no longer
ashes for beauty?
time itself collapsed in a deep black hole
remnants of a single spring twilight
our souls in the rubble still singing.
will not cease, will not leave it this way
on this, no calendar’s day.
Photo by Adrienn from Pexels
It has been a hell of a week and I have been eerily reminded how history repeats itself. Yet, knowing how history happens does not make the here and now less stressful. Yet this morning gentle rains filled my senses with a sense of calm and then I found Sara Teasdale’s poem. Her words filled me with a sense of calm – someday all of what is happening right now will just be history and “no one will care at last when it is done.” May these words give you peace as you welcome the weekend, and may you spend more time listening to the robins “whistling whims” than worrying about the latest news. Have a wonderful weekend and I will see you back here next week.
There Will Come Soft Rains
Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Michael Eric Dyson Spoke in depth about James Baldwin in his book What the Truth Sounds Like. My knowledge of James Baldwin was non-existent but thanks to the internet, I found a beautiful introduction to James Baldwin and his works. I found this poem most interesting and thought I would share it with you all today!
The giver (for Berdis)
By James Baldwin
If the hope of giving
is to love the living,
the giver risks madness
in the act of giving.
Some such lesson I seemed to see
in the faces that surrounded me.
Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,
what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?
The giver is no less adrift
than those who are clamouring for the gift.
If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,
if their empty fingers beat the empty air
and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer
knows that all of his giving has been for naught
and that nothing was ever what he thought
and turns in his guilty bed to stare
at the starving multitudes standing there
and rises from bed to curse at heaven,
he must yet understand that to whom much is given
much will be taken, and justly so:
I cannot tell how much I owe.
Finally, a tiny postscript to last week:
If you did not find anything wrong with the post that lit the internet on fire last week, Karen explains beautifully what should have made you uncomfortable here.
And, then perhaps this perspective will open your eyes even wider.
Bonny stirred my interest last week with her review of Fox 8 – luckily my library had it and on Saturday I picked it up with a few other books, including a volume of Ted Kooser’s poetry (Thanks, Honoré!!)
I have been reading and rereading the poems in Delights & Shadows… and they are wonderful! This is a book I have added to my “need to buy” list!
I share some words for thought today from Delights & Shadows:
A Jar of Buttons
by Ted Kooser
This is a core sample
from the floor of the Sea of Mending,
a cylinder packed with shells
that over many years
sank through fathoms of shirts —
pearl buttons, blue buttons —
and settled together
beneath waves of perseverance,
an ocean upon which
generations of women set forth,
under the sails of gingham curtains,
and, seated side by side
on decks sometimes salted by tears,
made small but important repairs.
P.S. The Google Doodle is most appropriate – today would be Nelly Sachs’ 127th Birthday. You can read a sampling of her poetry here!
Since reading The Overstory, I have been more fixated on trees and really thinking much about this brilliant story that Richard Powers wrote. Recently, when I was flipping through a compilation of Derek Walcott’s poetry, I was struck by this poem and though I have not spent much time in eastern Pennsylvania, I can distinctly hear what he writes about.
I think this poem fits perfectly for Thanksgiving as well and perhaps this week when you are outside you will listen to the beautiful “mute roar of autumn” with deep gratitude.
Pastoral by Derek Walcott
In the mute roar of autumn, in the shrill
treble of the aspens, the basso of the holm-oaks,
in the silvery wandering aria of the Schuylkill,
the poplars choiring with a quillion strokes,
find love for what is not your land, a blazing country
in eastern Pennsylvania with the DVD going
in the rented burgundy Jeep, in the inexhaustible bounty
of fall with the image of Eakins’ gentleman rowing
in his slim skiff whenever the trees divide
to reveal a river’s serene surprise, flowing
through snow-flecked birches where Indian hunters glide.
The country has caught fire from the single spark
of a prophesying preacher, its embers glowing,
its clouds are smoke in the onrushing dark
a holocaust crackles in this golden oven
in which tribes were consumed, a debt still owing,
while a white country spire insists on heaven.
I hope your Thanksgiving preparations are going smoothly and whether you are traveling or are receiving travelers – may those travels be safe.
I will see you back here tomorrow for Unraveled Wednesday!