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Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Summary of Sorts

Having written about my faith and its wounds, I felt this may be an opportune time to share one of my all-time favorite poems with each of you. I fell in love with this poem twenty years ago. I've carried it in my heart ever since. Perhaps, now, you'll understand why. It was written by Michael Blumenthal. It is a masterful work laced with powerful imagery. It captures the yearnings and philosophy in my soul. I wish I could write poetry half (oh hell, one-tenth) as well.

In Assisi

This morning, in Assisi, I woke
and looked into my wife's face
and thought of Saint Francis:
how he explained to Brother Leo
that Perfect Joy is only on the Cross,
how he told him that, if they should come
to the Convent of Saint Mary of the Angels,
soaked with rain and frozen by the cold
and soiled with mud and suffering
from hunger, and if they should knock
on the gates and a porter should come out
and beat them over the head with a knotty club
and throw them down into the mud and snow
and cover their bodies with wounds, only then
might they know Perfect Joy. And I thought
of how Saint Anthony converted the heretics
by talking to the fishes, and of how blood flowed
from a picture of Saint Francis' stigmata,
and of the beautiful death of Brother Bernard.
And I looked again into my wife's lovely eyes,
both green and grey at once in the Umbrian light,
and I swore to myself, rolling over beside her,
that I would never be a man who flings his body
like dirt against the thorns, that I would never
lie down to sleep on a bed of stone; that,
if I were ever fit to preach to birds,
I would sing to them in praise of their wings,
I would urge them to fly off in all directions
at once, over the trees and the hills and
the lustful bodies of small animals. And this
is how it was this morning, when -- after
making love in the large bed -- we walked
through the Porta dei Cappuccini toward the
Eremo delle Carceri, where Saint Francis
is said to have blessed the birds, and past
the thousand-year-old oak, now supported
by steel bars, and watched the white doves
kiss atop the stone balustrade. And I looked
at my wife, and praised her body and my body
and all the bodies of this earth for what pleasure
they can give. And I bathed my eyes in salt,
as Saint Francis did, for the little love we find
and how we cling to it and how, once we find it,
we live constantly in dread of losing it, as
the Buddhists say. And I blessed this life
once more for what it has given me, and
for what is has failed to give me, and will
fail again tomorrow. And I held my wife
in these dust-driven arms and spoke to her
in this one language I know so well: the old oak
creaking in the blessed air, the pious fishes
singing in the stream, this all I know of Perfect Joy,
and all the white doves kissing in its name.

* * *

5 Comments:

Blogger michele said...

Thanks for all of this Jon.

I am trying to do things right by bringing my daughter up with religion, and having grown up Catholic that is what we chose. It was easy. I fear I have the same ambivalence towards the religion and am finding it very hard to not bolt when the issues come down to abortion rights and the beliefs (right or wrong) of the new Pope. I worry for my daughter, and I wondering if I am casting the wrong line. So of course since the public, government run schools around here have GA ranked 50 out of 50, she has applied to a Catholic private high school.

You give me lots to think about. And the poem was/is fantastic. Thanks for sharing.

Tue Feb 28, 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Hi Michele! Welcome to my tiny corner of the blogosphere. Thank you for visiting.

If I had children I would raise them in the Church. You can't go wrong by following Christ's moral teachings. As for all the rest, that is up to the child/adult to evaluate over time. I don't question people's faith - only their hypocrisy (my own included). Faith can be a powerful moral driver, a source of deep comfort, a foundation for a life. Conversely, it can result in much the opposite. It's up to the individual to find his/her way through the maze that faith presents. Christ's words...well, they're beautiful.

Wed Mar 01, 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger michele said...

What you are saying is so true! Its the hypocrisy thing that I struggle with because I am not following the true line of the church. However, I do trust my faith, and I think that even the church would be happy that I have an opinion. I suppose if it was all easy, I wouldn't question it. Carry on.

Wed Mar 01, 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger krishmd said...

I didn't know you had a blog. I'm going to relish the indulgence of sneaking a read of your archives between cases at work.

Fri Mar 03, 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you for stopping by, Doc. I’m flattered that you might consider my musings an indulgence of sorts.

It was a conscious decision not to advertise the existence of my blog. There were several reasons for this: First, I couldn’t be sure my thoughts and feelings had merit. All I know is that they fill my head and heart…and they are what they are. I can’t presume they offer value to anyone other than myself.

There’s also the charm of taking a Zen approach to such things. I throw my musings out into the universe. Let chance or fate determine who finds them. I rather enjoy the thought that those who may find my words worthwhile will, somehow, find their way to them. I prefer to live in a world of serendipity and romance.

Finally, it gives the Fates something to do. Left to their own devices, the Fates may choose to indulge in a bit of mischief. Fate can be cruel, no? I’d rather they apply themselves to relatively harmless things like blogs and their readership.

Anyway, thanks for visiting. I hope you find something worthwhile here.

Fri Mar 03, 02:59:00 PM  

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