THE HUB OF THE MIRACLE
I grew up with poetry, which my father defined as something far different from, and far superior to, verse. One of my first books was a now battered copy of Palgrave’s Golden Treasury, which I am sure no one would give to a child today. It contained great swatches of Shakespeare and the romantic poets, to all of whom I gave my considered attention, scrawling sometimes-dismaying comments in the margins. And, when I was unruly, or perceived as being so, I was allowed to memorize poems to escape whippings. I still remember sections of “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” and “The Wreak of the Schooner Hesperus”--only long poems earned a reprieve from belt or slipper.
Such an education might have made me hate poetry but instead I became its ally as it became mine. No other form of literature, even the prose I have written for years, has earned me a similar reprieve from just or unjust punishment. And so I keep in my heart a love, even a passion, for poetry (and not verse), which is finally finding its home in my first book, The Hub of the Miracle.
The title comes from a poem by Mary Oliver who gave me permission to use it even though we have both forgotten which of her poems contains the line. Her poems about the deep stillnesses she finds in nature, stillnesses that often contain an implicit threat, have given me the courage to put down my own notes on quiet and the peril it contains. I love simplicity in poetry and find that it has taken me a long while to claim simplicity--which is never simple--as my own. I find my words on walks, in woods, in arroyos here in the southwest, or in those moments of sometimes terrifying clarity that come in the midst of the most mundane activity.
After my father died, my mother in her grief was sleepless, and found relief in quoting parts of the Shakespeare sonnet they had both loved: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds.” Again, poetry offered salvation.
Perhaps a few lines from this book may help a sleepless reader through the long dark hours.
The Prophet is Never Welcome in Her Own Country
Do you see her at day's end creeping
from tree to tree? Her eye is on you--
strange orb, pricked by the setting
sun. Has your darkness caught
her dangerous gleam? She hunts you
as the starving coyote in a dry
winter hunts the quivering mouse,
flayed by moonlight under a dead
leaf; and the eye that marks the sparrow
marks her lunge at your throat. Beware
the woods, then, lock your door
against the stealthy moonlight; she is
still there, behind the naked November
trees, she is still waiting to heap
in your ears the words you will hear
when you are dying, that will close your senses