Thursday, June 5, 2008

On poems making my spirit leap

I've had a poem on my refrigerator for the last couple of months. It is from the February 25 New Yorker. Chinese Poem by J.D. McClatchy. I never cut poems out of magazines but this poem I had to. I read it over and over every day. I am floored by how each time I read it I am still entranced and undone by the language.

Whatever change you were considering,
Do not plant another tree in the garden.
One tree means four seasons of sadness:
What is going,
What is coming,
What will not come,
What cannot go.

When I read poetry that moves inside of me, then I realize that maybe it is something inside of me knowing. I don't know if that is the right description, I am a little bit out of practice. But when I read a good line or even if in conversation the person I am talking with says something a little bit beautiful I get a jolt.

Not that I am religious but it reminds me of when in the Book of Luke in the Christian bible Elizabeth sees her cousin Mary. They were both pregnant; Elizabeth with John and Mary with Baby J. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting her baby did a happy dance inside. (Luke 1:39-45) She said "For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

Yes, things spoken to me or things I read can bring me not only great fulfillment but this tremendous sense of longing that pervades every molecule around me until "real life" shakes me out of it. I pull certain books down off of the shelf almost instinctively sometimes because I know what will happen when I read a certain part. Rilke does it for me often as does Lorna Dee Cervantes. I have been listening to Neruda read his poems on an audio book I bought last year. There are times when I have to stop what I am doing just to let the words take me over. I love how Neruda reads his own work. It reminds of my great-great uncle, "Bingolete" who was old-school and read his poems the same way. Here is Neruda reading his work:

Me Gustas Cuando Callas
Pablo Neruda

and in English, read by Glenn Close:

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