Wednesday, April 14, 2010

splinters of fire

Having a child has done a lot to muddy the steel trap of my mind--if I ever had such a thing to begin with. My mental edge has long gone soft. Last week, running up the street to get our car out of the garage, I heard the subway train pull out of station on the track below the street, and I thought, "oh no! my car is leaving without me!" It took a moment to remind myself that unlike the subway, privately owned cars do not actually take off without their passengers. I remembered then the time when I was in high school, when my mother was telling us about something that had happened in an elevator, when she corrected herself and said, "whoops, not alligator, I meant to say elevator" and I replied, "But, Mom, you did say elevator!"

Perhaps motherhood, or merely being somewhat muddled, could be viewed as an asset. That is, reason--at least the steel trap version--can be, as Levertov says, "toxic in large quantities." These days I sometimes wish I had a bit more of this toxicity, but I am ever appreciative of the ways muddledom brings God closer. Splinters of fire, indeed.


C O N T R A B A N D

by Denise Levertov

The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That's why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
We stuffed our mouths full of it
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It's toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise,
Not that God is unreasonable—but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of the mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn't
quite touch the ground, manages still
to squeeze in—as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, than heard again.

{ Poetry Wednesday }

6 comments:

Molly Sabourin said...

Nice! Man, I loved that poem.

"Not that God is unreasonable—but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces."

Brilliant.

The other day I scoured the house, digging frantically through drawers, for the very cell phone I was talking on at that exact moment.

I like to think of my muddledom bringing God closer.

Thank you.

Bethany Patchin said...

Good one! (My poem today involves fire, also.)

Beth said...

That makes me say ahh and feel a tinge of sadness. "A strain of music heard, then lost, than heard again." Love that line. Love this poem. I have become much softer in my older age and in becoming a mother too. Somehow experiencing it all has become more important than understanding it. Perhaps because there is no use trying to understand it. No God is not unreasonable but so often what He wants from us does not make sense. I mean of course, does dying in order to live make sense?

Must share with you that I once make the reference that my mind had become a steal sieve. Yep. This former theology student's mind has gone to mush.

Jenny said...

Oh Amber,

That was hilarious about you thinking your car was leaving without you! My kids often repeat back what I've just said, which often makes no sense anymore. Like the words can't find their proper places in the sentences...I love the last line best of your poem, "like filtered light, splinters of fire, a strain of music heard then lost, than heard again."

Kris Livovich said...

The fruit should be dried and used a pinch at a time. I really like that idea. Too much knowledge is dangerous to the soul, is it not? I prefer to be dumb and faithful, I suppose.

Tonight at Subway I told my youngest, "no sandwich until you eat all your cookie." You should have seen his eyes light up.

Jennifer said...

I praise God that He has made salvation so accessible and easily understandable! I, like Kris, "prefer to be dumb and faithful"! Well said!

I love this poem, especially the last lines.