voices crying in the wilderness

From Red Pine’s translation of The Heart Sutra and commentary, I read of Hui-ching: “The purest emptiness has no image but is the source of all images”. This statement’s impact is realized in the gift of James Wright’s wonderful work, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”— the world viewed through the eyes of the poem’s meditative protagonist… in the very moment of absolute epiphany: the bronze butterfly asleep on the black trunk, blowing like a leaf in green shadow. One silent moment alters the lone individual, swaying in the seemingly insignificant hammock. From nothing everything emerges.

The voice says, I have wasted my life, ending the poem with a blast to the reader’s head… and a strong manifesto, declaring that the future will not be wasted. The future will find its balance. The butterfly, the tree, the leaf, the shadow… none of these wastes anything. Each finds its perfection in the world, and the chorus enlarges the universe. This simple realization of the import of, on the surface, mundane “things” jolts the reader into action.

Wright’s power – in all his work, really – is felt, not on the page and not on the tongue, nor in the ear – but somewhere in the real world between the reader and words on the page. I’m not sure if any other poet affects me quite that way. His poetry makes me want to walk into the enormity of the world – its unconditional and vast possibilities. Wright, at his best, makes me believe that I’m the silent point at the center of all things, and that I affect everything. The still-point of the wheel. He writes: I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on. As a reader, I’m enlarged into a universe that suddenly makes sense.

Note this tiny poem – a companion piece to his “Hammock” revelation that moves the reader, with equal force, in the opposite direction. “The Jewel,” in only seven lines, makes me feel as if I can move into my deepest self – and find order…

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

A poetry that is brilliant, exact, disturbing – and impossible to imagine my life without.

No comments: