Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A TERRIBLE BEAUTY



[*title taken from W.B.Yeats]

Where has it all gone,
scattered like pebbles
from a toddler's pail,
profligate,
as if there will always be More,
until, suddenly, there isn't?

Look back, look back,
down all of those sun-dappled years,
to the very beginning,
all fragrant with apple blossoms -
the dark and the light,
the bitter and the sweet,
such a terrible beauty*,
that catches at the throat,
mixed, as it is, in the
crust of parched earth,
slaked by a madman's draught
at the very last moment
before expiring.

The  dying's last request
is always for water,
my grandmother's long white finger
pointing at the glass
when no more was she
able to speak.
And water,
that single tear
rolling down her cheek,
as she said goodbye to it all
and began that slow slow walk
across the mountains of the moon.

The older one grows,
the heavier that backpack of grief,
an endless well
we can draw from at random:

a paean of gratitude with its counterpoint of pain,
(so beautiful! so beautiful!),

a lament that catches in the back of the throat,
joy that aches, stirred like a slurry,
prickling, like cactus,
a lump of regret
that can never be swallowed,
as the hot tears roll down one's cheeks
because it is too soon,
too soon,
to be faced with leaving.

Too fast it all goes.
Towards the end, one’s life
begins to gallop like a willow-whipped horse,
frothing and frantic  to escape the lash,
hooves relentlessly pounding, pounding,
carrying us off, all unwilling,
with still so much to do,
doomed riders
in a race to the unknown,
on which we wager
the biggest long-shot of our lives:
that somehow
we will still continue on
after death.

My worn old kit bag of memories
is filled to the brim with all I was given:
more laughter than tears,
more challenge than ease,
song and story and a high, hopeful  heart,
an optimism I hold like a mantra,
refusing to surrender in the face of all that is daunting,
and more gratitude than can be put into words
for this magical realm,
where a leaf is a miracle
and a red fox sheer brilliance,
where the owl calls from the forest
in her quavery voice,
beckoning us in with her feathery wing,
where the grey wolf howls through our very souls,
where loneliness and fullness
compete for the same square inch
of living space in the hearts of the solitary,
and where  daybreak and hellfire
alike streak the sky
with a Van Gogh's palette of vermilion and indigo,
whose silvery stars set us dreaming
into the soft sighing dark
of that welcoming Night.


* from W.B.Yeats

Ha. I submitted this poem for CBC's poetry contest (such hutzpah!) and the winner has just been announced. So now I can post it, as we had to submit unpublished work. The young man who won, David Martin,  is a poet to be watched. He wrote about the tar sands, and  I am amazed by the way he uses words, imagery, and a dream-like quality in his writing. Congratulations to David!



46 comments:

  1. Dearest Sherry,
    Some of your best work, here. I read it, then read it, then read it again. So much is conveyed here, so much I felt. Thank you!

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  2. wow...amazing write...the bringing back to the request for water...and the water in the tears...really a touching part...really solid piece sherry

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  3. love how you close with the van gogh night... that is a moving piece sherry...wow...held my breath while reading... and i love how hope and strength shines through every single line....

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  4. Yes this is an amazing poem.. so much to ponder.. life's wandering going faster faster and faster.. and the image of wandering on the moon.. wonderful write Sherri...

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  5. This is an absolutely beautiful poem Sherry. I am amazed at your soulful talent. I dislike contests because they select a winner rather than let each entry shine for its own merit. In my book, this wins for its wisdom, its honesty, its wondering about truth, its wish for longevity of existence and perhaps because it speaks to my soul and aging body. Congratulations Sherry!!! You have written something of great value, beauty and with a piece of your soul. What a winner you are.

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  6. Ah yes, where has it gone? I think at certain times in our life we all look back and wonder that. Hopefully, as we do, we can also say to ourselves "so beautiful, so beautiful" as we reflect on what we had been given. That worn out kit bag of memories we have stored up hopefully will serve us well.

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  7. Wow. A spiritual experience, Sherry, each step of the way. I love the image of a child's pail and scattered pebbles. History as "a terrible beauty" when crushed apple blossoms are visible in the crusted earth. The last request, Grandmother's long white finger and tear, grandmother earth. The long walk, the backpack of grief, the endless well of each and every extreme of emotion and thought. Beauties among the Badlands, my dear Sherry--this poem is the look back it speaks of in stanza number 2. (Maybe I should do that interview again?)

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    1. Again, this poem lifts me out ogf whatever impassiveness i could ever feel:
      "where loneliness and fullness
      compete for the same square inch"
      My heart.

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  8. I agree with Susan I was going back over your poem before I made a comment so that I might recap the parts that really stood out for me but Susan has said it all. Aside from the amazing reflection on our morality, your imagery is amazing. I love this poem. Learning so much from everyone. Well done. :)

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  9. "doomed riders / in a race to the unknown,"..in spite of this fate we, the riders, will keep our eyes open to the starry night dream...I read this message from your magical poem Sherry...each and every word is gold here...

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  10. "The dying's last request
    is always for water"

    That blew me away, Sherry.

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  11. I agree that this is some of your best work, Sherry. Your writing lately has been so profound and so beautiful!

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  12. Such magnificent poetry, Sherry. This really got to me:
    The dying's last request
    is always for water.. and the description of your grandmother's finger pointing...

    Above all your optimism shines through - life should be lived.

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  13. I like it all, Sherry. Looking back as we do more and more with aging, we remember those pleasant sights and smells.

    There comes a point when one looks back, counting down in years or months from a possible end. I count now, single digits in years.

    It's okay, I've done more than most, my bucket list is empty except for a few I really hadn't shucked. I've done all I need or want to do, it is all Lagniappe (lan-yap)(the word is Cajun for "something extra) now.
    ..

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    1. Adi was a therapy dog, we were a certified Animal Therapy Team. She loved to visit, both kids and older people. Our regular visits, her favorite, included a stop at the Alzheimer wing of the local assisted living home.
      You can search my blog for "Adi" using the upper left search function.
      ..

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    2. That would be the "Jim's Little Blog"

      Delete
  14. Sherry - this is a triumph! The stanza 'a paean of gratitude...' is so perfectly expressed - just in awe, my friend, honestly, a beautiful beautiful work.

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  15. that long white finger touched my heart

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  16. This is a very touching poem, Sherry, as well as a deep reflection on the passing of time and what each of us has been given. I like the feeling of gratitude that permeates your words. Very well-done!

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  17. "..still so much to do" how reluctant we are to leave what we want to say to others. Even so I wish I had written these words of yours.

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  18. I love the story here... Every time I read your poems, I feel like you've pulled me into your world, so truly see what you see and feel what you feel.

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  19. So beautiful and filled with optimism ~ life should be lived to the fullest. Lovely imagery, Sherry. I especially like the closing lines drawing from Starry Night, one of my favorite paintings :)

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  20. I, too, know how fast it all goes, and I'm getting frantic. I have so much I want to do and see and be before I die!

    Whirling with Alberto

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  21. Sherry,
    I know this resonates with all of us 'of an age.' Very stirring work.
    Steve K.

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  22. this is an amazing work Sherry.deeply moving and full of striking images and lines.overwhelming stuff.

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  23. Sherry, I love this poem. You cover a thousand years with your words ... and a thousand places ... and a thousand feelings!

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  24. I could just read it and read it.. amazing! One of the best you've written, in my opinion.

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  25. One of you best work Sherry ~ I am very moved specially by the last stanza ~ These lines are stellar:

    Van Gogh's palette of vermilion and indigo,
    whose silvery stars set us dreaming
    into the soft sighing dark
    of that welcoming Night.

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  26. And congratulations to you Sherry--this is the best of yours I think I have read--simply outstanding!!

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  27. such a beautiful poem Sherry! honest!

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  28. So touching, Sherry. This made me think of my grandma who passed away in 1999 of cancer. My family and I were with her in her last months and moments. So many parts of your poem touched me today. What a beautiful write :)

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  29. This is one of your best Sherry! the words are magical..the penultimate line "into the soft sighing dark"...produces such a smooth,soft, silvery feeling...inexplicable !

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  30. I can't believe this poem did not win… you have won my heart as you always do with your soul touching mind awakening poetry dear Sherry.

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  31. Your poem is definitely worth submitting this is fantastic. Some of your best work.

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  32. Sherry, this was just wonderful, one of my favorites for sure..you have put your heart into each word, each line..a trademark poem for sure. Simply stirs the soul.

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  33. I agree with others...this is your best beautiful poem...you should have won...!

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  34. I loved this, Sherry. It was like watching a life unfold and refold and fade. What would we be without our kit bags? This was beautiful.

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  35. Dear Sherry Excellent writing -so true and touching

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  36. your souls voice is well received and depicted in this wondrous piece. every inch of the heart is in a constant battle for fulfillment with emptiness.

    gracias and happy thanksgiving, mi amiga

    sate your belly with Nature's love

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  37. What a really beautiful poem! Casting pearls before swain…when people are willing to be jurors, they are willing to say, what they do not know. I award you first place!

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  38. This one is meant to be savored slowly and repeatedly, my friend. Thank you,

    Elizabeth

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  39. This is amazing deep poem! So much wisdom in each phrase, images are so spacious... One of you biggest I guess!

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  40. Life it is... And death it is...
    An amazing poem with deep meaning.

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  41. I really enjoyed it, Koko. Particularly these lines:

    My worn old kit bag of memories
    is filled to the brim with all I was given:
    more laughter than tears,
    more challenge than ease,
    song and story and a high, hopeful heart,
    an optimism I hold like a mantra,
    refusing to surrender in the face of all that is daunting,
    and more gratitude than can be put into words
    for this magical realm..

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I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!