April 12 – “is it harder to stand still in a place of grief or a place of joy”

Friday, April 12, 2019

“the singing robes fly onto your body and cling there silkily,
You step out on the rope and move unfalteringly across it . . . ”

Is it harder to stand still in a place of grief or a place of joy?   About two years ago, a friend described a moment of  liberating joy that took her/his breath away that would s/he thought require weeks of revisiting the joy, learning not to be afraid of its depth and inner resonance.  My friend and I agreed, as it turned out, that learning to be still with grief, hard as that is,  usually comes more readily than learning to be still with joy.  Both of us were surprised that we had encountered this invitation to deep presence in a moment of shocking joy.   The memory will take some living into, perhaps for months and years.

All of which reminded me of one of Denise Levertov’s strongest poems.   Try it out,  reading aloud with pauses.  N.B., the poem’s core metaphor is a supple, Houdini-like risk-taker on a high wire above a deep pit.

rain this morning in the mid-U.S., a monster storm gradually following a typical West to East pattern;   lots of troubles in Denver, and Western South Dakota, both places dear to me, especially my Lakota soul friends on Pine Ridge, some had to take refuge in motels.

Have a blest weekend,

john st sj

Today’s Post

“The Poem Rising By Its Own Weight
The poet is at the disposal of his own night.”
Jean Cocteau

The singing robes fly onto your body and cling there silkily,
You step out on the rope and move unfalteringly across it,

And seize the fiery knives unscathed and
Keep them spinning above you, a fountain
Of rhythmic rising, falling, rising
Flames,

And proudly let the chains
Be wound about you, ready
To shed them, link by steel link,
padlock by padlock–

but when your graceful
confident shrug and twist drives the metal
into your flesh and the python grip of it tightens
and you see rust on the chains and blood in your pores
and you roll
over and down a steepness into a dark hole
and there is not even the sound of mockery in the distant air
somewhere above you where the sky was,
no sound but your own breath panting:
then it is that the miracle
walks in, on his swift feet,
down the precipice straight into the cave,
opens the locks,
knots of chain fall open,
twists of chain unwind themselves,
links fall asunder,
in seconds there is a heap of scrap-
metal at your ankles, you step free and at once
he turns to go —
but as you catch at him with a cry,
clasping his knees, sobbing your gratitude,
with what radiant joy he turns to you,
and raises you to your feet,
and strokes your disheveled hair,
and holds you,
holds you,
holds you
close and tenderly before he vanishes.

Denise Levertov

b. October 1923  d. December 1997
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denise_Levertov

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