Monday, September 22, 2008

Frank's Monday Service: The Poem "On Earth" by Carolyn Forche (excerpts)

Usually I do this sort of thing on Sundays, however I was much too busy for blogging on any topic, especially spirituality. Besides today is the autumnal equinox which is far more ripe for meaning than any given Sunday.

This time of year seems to conjure head to toe reflection for me. During this time it's especially important to surround my consciousness with words that inspire reflection upon the passage of time & those that I have loved. This includes past relationships that didn't work & memories of youth that I may not always wish to acknowledge. I cannot think of a better poet than Carolyn Forche & her unequaled poem On Earth. I can't post the whole poem here because it's some 45 pages long. Instead I'll give y'all pieces that have moved me most & hope the words carry you to deeper areas of yourself this fall.

From On Earth
as if with the future we could replace the past
as in childhood of terror and holiness
as light or the retreat of light

between here and here
between hidden points in the soul
between hidden points in the soul born from nothing
between saying and said
beyond what one had oneself done

God not being but a force, and humans, the probative tip of that
God withdrawn from the world

how secretly you died for years, on behalf of all who wished for themselves
a private death
how the soul becomes an inhabitant of flesh

it became what it was because of us--in that sense loved
it is as if space were touching itself through us
it is more ominous than any oblivion, to see the world as it is

it was the name of a time, and over there, a place
it was the simplest way to know one another...

she went with him willingly and without knowing where she was, she
saw the country very much as she would have had she walked
through a film about herself
she within me
she would never again wander too far into the past

that even this refuge might be taken:
that ing-ing of verbs in an eternal present
that light traveled from the eye to the world
that nothingness might not be there
that you might become one among others
the after-touching memory of relief

the four-a.m. bombing of a newspaper office
the fragility of social orders
the furthest edge
the future destroying us

the hand moving of its own accord across the page
the happy life life itself
the hidden world and its inhabitants
the hole of my mouth
the hole where my ancestor stands burning

the name I am becoming
the nine lights of thought
the open well ending in its moon of water
the opening of time

the soul cannot leave the body of a suicide until she comes
the soul weighs twenty-six grams and is migratory like the birds
the soul, enamoured of greatness
the soul with its sense of destination, the soul exiled, a stranger to earth

the truck-rutted fields the burnt sorrow
the twenty-two bones of the skull
the uncertain hand of a lost spirit
the vanished present visible on earth

there is a reason you have lost him. for the rest of your life you could
search for it

they will gladly go to the precipice, but where is the precipice?
thinking against the world
this end and the beginning within it
there is a musee hypothetique:
this is a transit camp, a squatters' camp
this is how things were for us then
this is the city. this is a photograph of the city

this is the city. this was the city
this only death can write
this open-air asylum

this ossuary of world, what is the phrase for it?
this reversal
this shattering of indifference
this sudden incipience of event--

those things are obvious which are invisible
those who have entered and have left unharmed
thoughts turned back into ink and paper
throwing light upon light
time--"a severe border guard"--becomes imaginary
time lapsed in one country is only beginning in another
time, to which we are exiled

what God does or does not forgive
what is closest to us
what is it? must be answered who is it?
what sees us without being seen
what waking life is to the dream
what was before, imperfectly erased
what were we doing as far away as this?
what do you see is the beginning of life after death
what you see you shall become
when did we know?
when I opened the door
when it was possible to walk across the river
when one could hear, behind the curtain, the whole thing
when the thing had gone beyond the limits of a room
when this sunlight reaches the future
when time seems to us a queer thing
when we wake from our deaths

your hand awkward between us in the absence of love
your heart in the guise of mysterious words
your light narrow coffin
your mother waving goodbye in the flames
your notebooks, the sorrow of ink

your things have been taken
your things have been taken away

photo courtesy of unprofound

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