Faith And The Modern Poet
There are ground rules for the serious poet who, at twilight, sets aside the everyday, to experience the challenge of expressing the incomprehensible:
– God is beyond the sum of every faith. I am a Jew, but that is a baseline only. This morning, an article appeared in the MIT Technology Review detailing hard evidence that our cosmos was bruised by collisions with other universes; I hurry from the tent of the House of Israel to see fresh light.
– Your poetry is not personally yours; it is the product of the unconscious and it is –I’m convinced — collective, and with ancient memory. But the creation of the Torah, the Upanishads, the Qur’an and the Gospels were formed perhaps by more than the creative genius of our long lived souls. The King James Bible bettered Shakespeare by voicing faith; in “Kaddish”, the troubled Allen Ginsberg found the very flood of David’s songs. At night, when we are asleep, God may refresh in the waters we make.
– Science is the ally of faith. A poem masterwork has in common with the discovered law of a theoretical physicist that both are known to be right by their beauty.
There is then, no room for dogma:
I think when God
walked shy to Moses,
stars clustered in his hands,
he led our rabbi down
to the orchards of the heart.
The two walked near the other
and traded dreams like brothers
before sleep. They paused
afield and watched the sun,
lifted by themselves in unison,
race overhead. And Moses knew
not to disappoint this man
with faltering steps or speech.
God wept uncomprehending
of his artistry and Moses scratched
some lines in stone to honor
a beloved friend.
©Copyright Charles Bane, Jr, 2010
Because, if we are trapped by dogma, every poem will be a regret; As Mary Oliver writes, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world”. Better to leap out into the night sky, with your desires in tow:
The Universe expands for ever
As does the Heart
Plunging these melting words
Into the Heart-Universe
They no longer have a centre
Burningly I desired Your Being
Now our nature is released throughout infinity
– Gabriel Rosenstock
That doesn’t mean we don’t feel a stranger among the stars: “Are you out of place here as I am?, writes poet Jacqlyn Costello, “as though we’re in a crowded bar”.
In the end, we can believe in and express a “monotheism of we”. It is, perhaps for the poet, the True Faith, that supersedes an Eden of waking universes. By writing down, poetically, what and whom we love, we catch hold of and give voice to what religious faith and the stars themselves are too impersonal to say:
When Masai raise
spearheads to Ngai
at his falling wordless
leave, they mirror unsheathed
swords of city heights, wavering
in the breath of the unseen.
All mystery is powerless
before the respiratory fate
of light as you wash your
face, your back to me.
It is time to admit, as
I brush sand from
your feet, the odds
that a universe dimmed
will draw you in again for release.
You will be lost as four hundred
planets at first count are waterless,
or put in safekeeping of molecular cloud.
Somewhere distant, I will be noble
gas or fleeting charge. We will
meet, but incorporeal as gods.
©Copyright Charles Bane, Jr, 2014
– By guest writer Charles Bane, Jr.
Charles Bane, Jr is the Pushcart Prize-nominated author of The Chapbook (Curbside Splendor, 2011) and Love Poems (Kelsay Books, 2014). The Huffington Post described his work as “not only standing on the shoulders of giants, but shrinking them.”
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