Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #18

Feast of Saint John of the Cross (Juan de la Cruz)

Here is one that is appropriate not only chronologically, but also spiritually (at least in my reading of it), for this time of year. Adam Zagajewski is a poet of Polish descent who lives and teaches in America (Houston, to be exact). His writes profound, honest, spiritually astute and deeply emotional poetry. He seems to be carrying on the tradition and work of the great modern Polish poets that came before him, Zbigniew Herbert and Csezlaw Milosz.

I know that Zagajewski, like most Polish boys, grew up steeped in the traditions and rituals of the Catholic Church. I don't have any idea where he is now in relation to that Church, although it is clear from his poetry that a Catholic sensibility and a sacramental view of nature and reality have endured in his soul. I fully understand that this poem could be read as an exhortation to hope for Spring. But to me, the final lines of this poem can only point to the miracle of the Incarnation, as the needle of a compass can only point to True North. December may seem a "herald of destruction" with its brittle cold and white silences, but this cannot change the fact that the One we're waiting for is, in fact, being born, and the One we are all seeking will come to save us, and all the world, on Christmas morn.

A blessed Advent and Merry Christmas to all readers of The Secret Thread!



December, herald of destruction,
takes you on a long stroll
through the black torsos of trees
and leaves scorched in autumn’s fire,

as if to say: so much then for
your secrets and your treasures,
the fervent trill of small birds,
the promises of summer months.

Your dreams have been dissected,
the blackbird’s song now has a rationale,
plants’ corpses clutter the herbarium.
Only the laboratory’s hard stone remains.

Don’t listen: they may take everything away,
but they can’t have your ignorance,
they can’t take your mysteries, strip you
of your third homeland.

Don’t listen: the holidays draw near
and frozen January, snow’s white paper.
What you’ve waited for is being born.
The one you’re seeking will begin to sing.

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