Sunday Morning

Yesterday a friend of mine asked, “how does the act of creating a poem effect your healing and general well-being?” Her curiosity comes from her connection to a writing program in which youth participate by creating poetry, often from what hurt they have encountered in their own movements toward healing. I feel honored to have the opportunity to answer a question such as that. It is the age old question recast: “Why write?” There is a lot more to my answer than what I am about to suggest, but one thing that echoes in my mind as a poem draws to its close is the question, more given than spoken, asking as if it comes not from anywhere inside of me, “Can you imagine the alternative?” Meaning, when I set out to write it is because I have grabbed the tail end of some meaning reeling past and there is nothing to do but follow it and watch where it goes. But that is what’s hard, a poem often needs to be harnessed, sometimes wants too, it is the mind longing for order, the “momentary stay against confusion,” as Frost would call it. So often the poem lands you where you never thought you’d go, but as the author it remains within you to decide if that place you end up is also where you’ll stay. In the case of the following poem, I couldn’t help but imagine the seagull, diving toward the water only to encounter  it’s own reflection; and dipping it’s beak into the cool otherside of itself, ascending, mouth empty. But it does not have to be so for myself. Even if the seagull and the poem end up empty handed, I have found something to write against: hopelessness.

 

Sunday Morning

 

Between readings, as the lector pauses

Before the cross, in that fixed moment

Of silence through which we’re forced to wait,

The unlearned wailing of a hungry gull

Scavenging relief from an empty sky,

Clarifies the vision of perishing birds

At the end of Stevens’ Sunday Morning;

Where the wide water without sound

Is the vast ocean of consciousness

As Jung renders it, a deep reservoir,

Paradise blue, to me, a bit cliché

When imagined. But reimagined now,

With the burning particulars of the sun

Weaving jealousy into everything,

Into the voices of diminishing tides,

Into the breaching fin of porpoises,

Into the long legs glistering bronze,

The mind becomes an adolescent heaven,

Where the woman that Stevens praises

Lays like an hourglass atop the sand,

The curving mirage of her lower back

Disappearing into the white bottoms

Of her bikini. The second of two pieces

Discarded beside her, upheld perfectly

Weightless, like a gift too delicate to touch,

No single grain of sand could hope to bare it.

 

 

All this, and now the Priest has finished

Blessing the sacraments, and I return again

To the ocean-side desert of California

As a boy still shy in his clothes, living

Among the archetypes Jung suggests order

Our symbolic world, stranded on the beach

Like an exile, protesting the water,

Which one must be shirtless to enter.

Or unembarrassed. And if not for them,

The habit of looking down, discovering

A body I deny to be my own;

To teach me love in the waist-deep sea-foam,

The seagull’s pointless beauty overhead;

Buoyant sunlight shrinking the genitals,

And my skin receding with the rising tide.

 

And the moon, likewise, sanctions our devotion,

As all stand, accustomed to gravity,

Are given to rise and falter forward

Toward the alter, toward the gravity

Expressed on our knees. Elbow down, open

Your hands. Eat.

No longer a mystery—

Changing bread into carbs; wine into calories.

The mind multiplies the bite-sized loaf

Into a hundred added pounds, enough

To deny myself the invitation

To the after service brunch I’m convinced

I no longer need. I’m told, No amount

Of what you do not want will satisfy you.

Although, what one wants is different from

What one remembers:

The flesh-loving gull,

Encountering briefly the image

Of its own likeness, in the sharp sea-glass,

Sinks its beak into the cold underworld,

Loosening some sunlight from the water,

All burdens and all unburdenings,

Drawn up—aired out; like the now perfect breasts

Turned toward the sun, fully-human—fully-light.

 

I welcome your thoughts

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