Celestial Rite

 

It's a new sacrament

and it drizzles from each 

savage curve of the 

mountain 

and is preformed

by whatever shows up:

 

the first moan of daylight,

even its daughter, the rose,

brazen and moist 

for a minute of freedom,

 

and it knows nothing about

the heart shaped inferno,

the glittering abyss,

I came from

where love is dangerous

and never enough.

 

The earth is a grave that

swallows what it loves

and brings it back again—

so here I am back 

in this wide space

that devours shadows and

a few gasping memories;

and what are they

but crushing pits where our

dead dreams used to dance?

 

I am no lotus,

not even the chickweed

on the side of the road,

but I believe I glimpsed

my kind of religion 

in a mossy creek that

moves like a priestly chant,

 

a liturgy,

 

and I didn't have to trudge

across the Himalayas 

or climb a Yucatan pyramid

or drink the waters of Lourdes

to find it.

It was all here in leaves and 

pebbles and 

the vastness within.

 

And you thought 

they were real:

the chains you dragged through 

life as if they were 

issued at birth,

while all this time you

were weightless

in the Arms you had forgotten—

 

you were music

from the highest court,

perfect in your flaws,

 

a wisp of cherished Light,

another reason to believe,

the first note of your 

undying song.

 

Remember . . .

 

Patricia Joan Jones

 

Author's Notes/Comments: 

My thanks to Starward for providing the prompt of "liturgy". 

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Cascade's picture

Now THIS is the kind of

Now THIS is the kind of sermon that will get me speaking in tongues and singing a thousand amens! Wow! Can I get a witness up in here?!!  Girl...these revivals always fill my chest with renewal and that living water that drizzles down the savage curve of the mountain quenches any thirst I have for the natural power and majesty of it all. Yes yes YES! Patricia... That's why I come here! I remember now... And I am reborn 

Phenomenal!

 

And p.s.   no mud no lotus!  You rock

patriciajj's picture

And that's my kind of "Amen"!

And that's my kind of "Amen"! Thank you so much for the beautiful, heartfelt response to my call. I cherish it. 

word_man's picture

touching write on lifes many

touching write on lifes many facets and journeys


ron parrish

patriciajj's picture

Coming from a poet who has

Coming from a poet who has created so many touching and memorable poems about the human experience, that means the world. Thank you so much! 

word_man's picture

my pleasure

my pleasure


ron parrish

Starward's picture

Thank you for the very kind

Thank you for the very kind ackowledgement; and my anticipation for the posting of this new poem has been well rewarded by its verbal beauty, and by the exquisite emotions it evokes.

   The poem's center of gravity begins in the stanza with the words, "I am no lotus," and continues to the stanza that ends with the words "the vastness within."  I do not know if the Poet was alluding to T. S. Eliot's poem, Burnt Norton (in the first stanza of the gravitational center) or to A.R. Ammons' various "backyard" poems (in the other), but the allusions are definitely there to this reader.  And, speaking of allusions, the final line of the poem, that tells us to "remember" definitely alludes to Plato's philosophical theory that the acquisition of wisdom is an act of remembering what had been forgotten by most.  These allusions are not necessary to the Poem's sucess; that is assured by the Poet's verbal skill.  The allusions, however, establish the poem as a part of the literary canon, and allow it to take its rightful place among other authoritative poems.

   This poem is prime evidence that the "crushing pits where our / dead dreams used to dance" (which is, by the way, one of the most brilliant metaphors I have ever read on postpoems, or elsewhere; a metaphor, I think, that Stevens himself would have applauded) do not have the last word, which is, instead, owned by the cosmic liturgy that the Poet describes with such verbal precision.  "Liturgy" means, or at least I was taught that it means, "work of the people"; and it is one of the failures of the Church that it now seems to be the work of priests and of a hierarchy, rather than of the common believer.  Church buildings---cathedrals or chapels (as is the common Welsh usage, which I admire), sanctuaries, sacred enclosures---have their enormous value, and I would not disparage it.  But when they begin to exclude the cosmic aspect, they begin to exclude an aspect of the Divine.  Our first parents are depicted as being placed into a Garden, not an enclosure with a ceiling; I think we often forget that detail.  The poet mentions a "mossy creek" that participates in the vision of religion that any liturgy presents:  and we, too often, forget that mossy creeks are as important to the Divine Creator as the distant Nebulae that, even as I write this, are busily constructing and launching protostars.  God is more aware of even the individual hydrogen atoms (of which the entire universe is constructed, in one way or another) than we are aware of tomorrow's mundane appointments and career responsiblities; and whether we will have unlimited access to the mustard at the lunch counter (thanks for that, F. M, Crawford).  Therefore, in this Divine Awareness (which has no respect of persons, or of created things) a pebble, a stink-bug, or a mossy creek are no less important than the most emininent theological or cosmologist).

   On a personal note---and the Poet is free to delete this comment if I am being too personal---I believe this poem has been the answer to my prayer to the Lord to resolve a spiritual struggle which has been pestering me, most recently since January, but, also, since as far back as the Easter season of 2012.  I have not been the same as I had been in those days; but, this evening, having read this poem, I am not the same as I was this afternoon.  In his first Epistle to the Corinthians, 7:20, the Apostle Saint Paul gives advice that I, personally, have not only deliberately ignored but also flagrantly and snobbishly violated.  This poem has reminded me to heed Saint Paul, who, after all, does have an authority I cannot question.  And in reminding me of this, the poem is acting on God's behalf, who deigns to speak to us in terms that do not short-circuit our minds but expands them.  For about a year, now, I have been applauding Patricia's work, and I stand by my words at all times, as I believe she commands a greatness beyond any other I have seen on postpoems.  But I have not felt as personally indebted to her, and her work, as tonight.  The Psalmist told us, in 22:3, that God inhabits the praises of the chosen people; it is not, as this poem reminds me, my privilege or choice to determine what aspects of praise God chooses to inhabit.  Leaves, pebbles, a mossy creek, and the poems of postpoems' greatest Poet are as fit habitations as the most formal Liturgy in the most Biblical language.  Tonight, through this poem, God has put me in my place:  not with a smack-down, an open rebuke, or a sabatoge (those are human responses that we often, and wrongly, ascribe to God, or blame upon God), but with the gently eloquent statement of a great Poet's vision, of which I have had the privilege of reading.  I thank Patricia for posting this poem; but I also thank God, for directing my reading, and her creativity, to the presence of this magnificent and salutary poem, which has so efficiently answered what I, in my spiritual life (such as it is) so grudgingly prolonged.


Januarian

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patriciajj's picture

I really don't know where to

I really don't know where to begin to describe the life-altering importance of everything you so beautifully expressed in your expansive and quote-worthy analysis. I was, honestly, astonished by your excavation of my thoughts and goals in fabricating something I hoped would open a crack in the walls of the deep illusion we dwell in and allow a small bit of light to seep through.

 

Your insights on the meaning of liturgy were far-reaching and stunning. At one point I was thinking there had to be a poem in there somewhere, and if you wanted to you could construct something magnificent, and knowing you, you will. Thank you for pinpointing the significance of my mossy creek. 

 

As an impressive scholar of poetry, certainly more knowledgeable than I, you discerned some allusions to the works of other poets. I would love to say these were intentional references, but they were entirely coincidental. (I know I should have read these great works.)

 

Being an expert on all things poetry, it's not surprising that you would make some connections, and in a way, you're absolutely correct, because many poets were influenced by the same ancient spiritual traditions I have been exploring and interpreting through my writing.

 

The lotus was a reference to the flower's symbolism in Buddhist art and philosophy; it represents the highest purity rising above the muddy waters of our physical existence, while "the vastness within" was my interpretation of several ancient belief systems that assert the Oneness of all creation and Spirit itself, meaning that all truth, and ultimate reality, can be found within. 

 

You were right about the allusion to Plato, but I was also influenced by the teachings of many others after him who understood that the veil of forgetting is the only thing standing between us and inner freedom, even perfect bliss. 

 

Finally, I'm thrilled if I helped you in any way on your journey. 

 

Completely and endlessly grateful for your wisdom and support. 

 

Starward's picture

I like that phrase in your

I like that phrase in your reply about a small bit of light seeping through.  And, immediately upon reading it, I thought of Ed Hubble and Milt Humason, the two observational (rather than theoretical) astronomers who, from small bits of light seeping through outer space and captured in the barrel of the Hooker telescope in Mount Wilson Observatory were able to deduce and prove the movement of the galaxies and the meaning of light when it shifts toward the blue or the red parts of the spectrum.  You make similar discoveries as you focus your poetry, like a great telescope, on the small bits of light; and then you magnify those bits, by your verbal skill, in order to reveal important metaphsical detail as you continue to construct a metaphysical cosmology.  During my elementary school years, I wanted very much to be an astronomer; but parental discouragement thwarted that.  Right after college, I thought again to study astronomy, but was discouraged (and in writing!) by a professional astronomer whose textbook had reawakened the  ambition in me.  Although these thwarts hurt, I am glad for them now because they did not obstruct or interrupt my study of poetry---which has allowed me to appreciate, and even intelligently (I hope) discuss, the grandeur of your Poetry.  Your poems have shown me, and all of your readers, great vistas, and for that I am very gladly grateful.


Januarian

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patriciajj's picture

What a brilliant and moving

What a brilliant and moving analogy! I'm humbled and gratified beyond words.

 

Such a tragedy, being discouraged from such a fulfilling career, but I like your attitude: the way you see the gifts in life's seemingly unfair roadblocks. 

 

Endless thanks for your valuable input and unwavering support. 

Starward's picture

Thank you for saying so. 

Thank you for saying so.  Actually, the failure at astronomical study was a great blessing, because, at that same time my study of Stevens' poetry began to accelerate; and I think the astronomy might have unduly distracted me from that.  Through his poetry, then, and through your poetry now, I am able to see as much of the stars as I wish anytime that I care to do so.  That is better than having to use an observatory on a schedule, lol.  Your poetry reminds me of the Hubble satellite telescope out there in space, as both enable us to see vast vistas that have been, otherwise, been previously closed to our sight or obstructed by clouds.


Januarian

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patriciajj's picture

What a positive outlook! And

What a positive outlook! And thank you kindly for your eloquent expression. It means the world to me.