Monday, May 12, 2008

Finding What You Never Lost

Since doing our poetry project in Lake's class last year, Stephen Dobyns has held a special place in my heart. I'd never really enjoyed anyones poetry before, and after putting so much time and energy into his work, I forged a connection with him that I haven't really felt with other poets since. I guess it's a kind of first love.

I think someone first introduced me to the idea of "Celestial nostalgia" in a seminary class a couple of years ago. Basically, the idea observes that occasionally we'll read something, or hear something, or think of some "new" idea and in that moment be overcome by the idea that you've known whatever it is you've experienced all along. The idea is that occasionally we hear things in certain Sunday school lessons that, well, that we somehow remember from the pre-existence. And you know, how could we remember that thing unless there was a pre-existence, etc...

I guess I should be a little more serious about the idea, I'm totally in love with it. In fact, anyone who knows me knows I'm a major C.S. Lewis fan, and that's one of the biggest reasons. When I read his work I feel like I'm just getting back in touch with something I always knew.

Almost ironically (not all of his work is what I'd exactly call spiritual), I get that same feeling when I read Dobyns' work. Like when he writes he's just reciting something that was already there, often something a little dark, but still ancient.

Anyway, here's the first part of a four part poem titled, "Separations."


To begin with photographs of summer: lakes
ringed by white birch held by hands of white bone -
skeletons as delicate as the skeletons of birds.
To begin with a scene in a theater: a man and
woman sit on a red couch and between them
are photographs so bright that each becomes
a small lamp lighting their faces, making
a circle of yellow light around the couch;
but then it is darker, and moving back one sees
that the couch is alone on an empty stage.
The man and woman look at the photographs
and although they are talking there is no sound.
The only sound comes from a cleaning woman
at the back of the theater as she moves along
each row. She is old and lives with her cat.
She thinks of nothing but raising the seats
which she likes to flick up in such a way
that each snaps shut. Outside it is snowing and
almost dark. People hurry from office to home.
They are dissatisfied and all their cars
complain: snarling, honking, hating each other.

-Stephen Dobyns

No comments: