A scholar takes a room on the next street,
the better to concentrate on his unending work, his word,
his world. His grown children
feel bereft. He comes and goes while they sleep.
But at times it happens ason or daughter
wakes in the dark and finds him sitting
at the foot of the bed
in the old rocker: sleepless
i his old coat, gazing
into invisible distance, but clearly there to protect
as he had always done.
The child springs up and flings
arms about him, presses
a cheek to his temple, taking him by surprise,
and exclaims, 'Abba!' - the old, intimate name
from the days of infancy.
And the old scholar, the father,
is deeply glad to be found.
That's how it is, Lord, sometimes:
You seek, and I find.
This Great Unknowing: Last Poems, New Directions Books: New York, 1999
Earlier this week I spent some time with another older scholar - my spiritual friend - who said he would review my dissertation and help me discover a publishing strategy. It was an insightful and humbling time. "Great stuff - challenging and insightful," he said. "Get an editor, however, if you want to make a go of it as a book." Good words - "oh, yes, and mine it for a few articles, too. That way you can find out how to write for more than your doctoral committee." (I love this guy!) That's how it is, Lord, sometimes: you seek and I find!
To be sure, like most writers, I WANTED to be told, "Tweak this and lose that and... you got a winner" but life is rarely like our lazy desires, yes? Sometimes you got strip down and run into those places you don't want to go... rather like this clip from "Northern Exposure."
This seems to be the lesson I am called to embrace as I age: strip down to the essentials, man, and live into the most basic truths with abandon and trust. So, after a time of wandering and exploring in Montreal next week, I'm going to do that: mine the damn thing for a few scholarly articles (I'm already thinking about one re: Harvey Cox and Feast of Fools at 40) and get an editor!
And so... another poem - this time by Jane Hirshfield: "Against Certainty"
There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us Each time I think "this," it answers "that."
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar's strictness.
If I say "that," it too is taken away.
Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able so completely to disappear.
I would like to enter the silence portion as she does
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another
After: Poems, HarperCollins: New York, 2006
(Van Gogh's Chair @ www.art.com/products/p10041441-sa-i783636/vin...)