A poem of body and song

On the last day of National Poetry Month, Sarah J. Donovan, creator of Ethical ELA, invites teacher-poets to celebrate thirty days of writing for VerseLove. In studying a collection of poems dealing with struggle and celebration about what we are told and believe about ourselves, Sarah says: “I thought a lot about how our bodies hold and shape so much of who we are.” Today we write to own that we are writers and poets, considering figurative body language, other voices that have influenced us, and our own song.

For me, writing calls from sacred places, inherently requiring, as an act of creation, sacred spaces.

As such, writing, poetry in particular, takes on a life of its own. It starts as one thing and becomes another. This may be more than one poem. I am just letting it be.

Polyhymnia at the Core

And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.
—C.S. Lewis, “How the Adventure Ended,” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
 
The ghost
of my father
and grandfather
are here 
in the shape
of my face
something of them
about my cheekbones
my mouth
a certain turning

My grandmother
is in my bones
those are her arms
in the mirror
fixing my hair

no denying
my mother’s eyes

the Spirit sighs

I imagine Polyhymnia
nearby
(if I can choose
my Muse)
in long cloak and veil
finger to her lips
bright eyes glimmering
silken rustlings
as she leans
whispering, 
always whispering

it is with great love
that she raises
the lion’s claw
piercing every knobby layer
of my being
peeling away
until all that remains
at my tender core
is wordless song
singing there
all along

you are alive
alive alive alive
in the listening
in the remembering
in the faces
in the sacred spaces
where you have been brought
to learn
the unforced rhythms
of grace

now find your words
and be

Polyhymnia. Joseph Fagnani, 1869.

Polyhymnia’s name means “many praises.” She is the Muse of sacred poetry, hymns, and meditation.

The lion’s claw in my poem is an allusion to the referenced chapter in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan peels away the enchanted dragon skin from Eustace, restoring him to his true—and transformed—self.

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” is from the paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message.

4 thoughts on “A poem of body and song

    • Joanne, you do my heart so much good. Tea would be lovely! It would likely turn into hours and hours, lol. I enjoy you and your beautiful writing as well. You are a blessing.

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  1. This is the most complex and nuanced poem I have read by you. The allusions add such richness to those who are familiar, and you have three critical ones: to classicism, to the Bible, and to literature. All of them have a common denominator, too, of some form of devotion and faith–so often a prominent feature in your writing. I suppose I relate most to the transcendence that pervades this: generations reflected in the speaker’s features, the incidental nature of external form in relation to the essence within. This poem simply punches through on multiple levels, and I admire your inspiration and craft.

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    • Thanks so much, Paul. I enjoyed writing to the daily poetry prompts in VerseLove throughout April. It’s a lesson in learning to let drafts go as they are… a struggle for me. I have other poems not on the blog, many things I tinker with… please know how much I appreciate your words!

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