Lessons from Poetic Obscurity

I’ve always been drawn to obscure poetry and obscure observations, some of which linger with me years before I begin to understand them. They “linger” there on the periphery of my consciousness for they have something to offer me when I’ve matured enough to let their truth sink in. I now have three poems to offer here which I have always found “obscure” but now I feel I am beginning to understand what the writer was seeing. I’m going to share them here and offer my perspective on what they mean.

AS BAD AS A MILE
By Philip Larkin

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Show’s less and less of luck, and more and more
Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.

I now see this Larkin poem as quite obvious. He was talking about mankind primordial before he had “bitten the apple” and fallen into the realm of time and space. Before we tasted that forbidden fruit, we were perfect, still living in the Uroboros, delighted in the Edenic delight of pure freedom. But the minute we succumbed to Eve’s charms (see, it’s always a woman, damn them!) we entered the realm of cause and effect, or time and space, and gained a formal introduction to failure. Now, this side of Eden, we never get it “right” but have it in our heart to try and have available stories of Grace which tell us each step along the way, “Hey, its ok. Hey, you are okay. Just keep on truckin’. You are forgiven. Something is underway that you can’t figure out with your finite mind.” Or, as T.S. Eliot said, “For us there is only the trying. The rest is none of our business.”

HOUSE
By E. L. Mayo
House
Vast and ambiguous
Which was before we were
Did you
Build yourself and then grow populous
By taking thought, or
Did someone leave a tap on long ago
In You
Which with its spatter
Affirms at the very least a householder
Who will return at the last if only to
Turn off the water.

This poem is about the very roots of our being, that subtle spirit of consciousness which is always there but always lies outside the grasp of our conscious mind. This is what we are when we are bereft of all the superficies of our existence and feel so very alone, comforted only by the intuitive knowledge that there is a “householder” who is the very ground of our being and that this “householder” is He Who unites us all ultimately.

Navigating by the Light of a Minor Planet

by Jessica Goodfellow

The trouble with belief in endlessness is
it requires a belief in beginninglessness.
Consider friction, entropy, perpetual motion.
And the trouble with holding to both is that
belief in endlessness requires a certain hope
while belief in beginninglessness ends in the absence of hope.
Or maybe it’s vice versa. Luckily,
belief in a thing is not the thing itself.
We can have the concept of origin, but no origin.
Here we are then: in a world where logic doesn’t function,
or else emotions can’t be trusted. Maybe both.
All known tools of navigation require an origin.
Otherwise, there is only endless relativity and then
what’s the point of navigation, in a space where
it’s hard to be lost, and even harder not to be?
Saying “I don’t want to be here” is not the same
as saying “I want to not be here.” It rains
and it rains and it rains the things I haven’t said.
By Jessica Goodfellow

No less a conservative Christian luminary than Dietrich Bonheoffer discoursed on the human dilemma of wanting to know and own his origin, to grasp it with his rational mind only to find that no one can “wrap his head around it.” Life is an incredible mystery and, though some of us find it amusing to wrestle with this mystery, ultimately we have to accept that mystery and recognize that we only “see through a glass darkly” and must busy ourselves with the Divinely “mundane” responsibilities of day to day life. Relativity is something one wrestles with if he pursues spiritual matters beyond the confines of his little ego. But, though we can “tippy-toe” in that bewildering world of doubt and despair…and some of us even take a swim in it from time to time…we have to come back to the only “real” that we know and act purposefully, knowing that we have an impact on this world.

 

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