Darkness and Light

We have suffered the loss and slow dying of friends and relatives in the last few months. Death has been smoking up our life like a prairie fire, inching close before retreating before the cool breath of life. It’s easy to personify Death, this non-life, because it seems to reach in and snatch away the breath of those we love, leading them away. Some go in a flash, some inch away from us neuron by neuron, word by word. And if the fire hasn’t burned our own flesh, we need only glimpse the news from Gaza, Israel, Syria, Ukraine—you name the place.

The fire taunts us to run, to hide, erase it from our consciousness. But we can also speak into it, sing out of it, and dance, paint, and play all around it. In poetry there is mourning as well as praise, gratitude as well as pain, for it is words composed to fill the darkness beyond words, the Light beyond the Word. So I share a couple of poems today through which I have tried to see through the smoke, discern the cooling water, walk into the light. These are walking sticks, if you will, that I have used to climb some steeper paths. Feel free to share your thoughts about your own in the Comments below.

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Preparing for death

it might be instructive

to go to some funerals,

see how they do

with a best friend,

feel how he’s washed

in a bath of words and music and tears

clean of the earth

ready for new clothes.

Death ruptures the life-lines of love. It cuts off our race, even when it looks like we have reached the finish line. If it is love that leads us through life, then it is also true this love takes many forms, even in the run of a beloved fish.

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Emerging

            from the hidden pool

            the Salmon

            glides into the stream,

            takes the ribbon of waters

            hard against the rounded rocks,

            in turmoiled foam

            finds an opening

            into the broadening river.

Leaping in the roiling flood

            the Salmon swims

            with millions

            as with one

            to reach the cascade spume

Delivering

            the Salmon

            to the ocean’s waiting arms,

Releasing

            him

            to life

            among the songs

            within God’s sea.

Astronomers have led us into an incomprehensible mystery that easily becomes a metaphor for what confronts each one of us. Each life we live is like an expanding universe of accomplishment and possibility. I’ve written poems like this before. This one is the latest permutation.

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They say the earth

            is slowing down

            perhaps a nano-

            second

            every century

            battered

            by the asteroid dust

            the oncoming solar light

            the nothingness,

And it will fall

            in ten thousand million years

            into the sputtering sun

            reaching out to swallow it.

The say the suns

            in our entire galaxy

            will fall

            as sparks and cinders

            into the darkness

            at the center

            where all the light

            will gather

            and explode

            into another universe.

I contemplate and wonder

            as I ask

            “What did you say?”

            and mutter

            “Excuse me, I forgot your name,”

            and stumble on the curb,

            if I will fall

            in such a  cataclysm

            of rebirth.

 

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3 Responses to Darkness and Light

  1. Nancy Sehested says:

    Into the sputtering sun…beautiful imagery to carry us, Bill. Thank you. Thank you.
    Nancy

  2. Penny Morse says:

    Bill, thank you again for your insightful sharing, helping us to have perspective.
    I particularly embrace the lyrics to a song on a Celine Dion album, \”FLY\”. The album is titled: Falling into You. Skipping some lines but it states to the dying soul:
    Fly beyond imagining. . .
    Escape the sorrow and the pain to fly again. . .
    Hold this memory bittersweet until we meet
    Be on your way, don\’t wait for me
    The moon will rise, the sun will set, I won\’t forget
    Go now toward the Light.
    (I believe we must have healthy mourning for our earthly loss, yet we must release each soul to go on their journey.)
    Penny

  3. Aneliese says:

    WONDERFUL!!! Love and awe.

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