Friday, May 10, 2013

The world ends more than once

We here in Southern California are again facing the end of our world yet again! with the current rash of wild fires that are ringing neighborhoods and consuming homes in sparking shrouds of smoke and flame, so Terri Witek's poem , "Tomorrow Night, Shake Me,"is especially profound, at least for this brief moment. I think, however, the verse will resonate well after this hot, ashen time is behind us. The author can create an image and juxtapose it against a calmly described visages that seem the essence of a panic in slow motion:The world was at its end again. 

The world was at its end again.
The houses all wore hats of fire.
We couldn’t find each other.
Wolves pawed clouds,
crows tunneled. Last grabbed objects,
instantly regretted, dropped,
though one child still clutched a feather
and a few things stayed unreasonably in place—
gravestones, oranges, beds.
Most of us tongued seeds, loved strangers.
Why not? Soon it would be noon forever.
We couldn’t find each other.
The great toleration was finished.
The world rushed into feather, then wind.

The houses wore "hats of fire" is a remarkable image, sparely rendered, echoing the image from the Bible where the disciples are gathered together and tongues of flames appear over their head to indicate that the Holy Spirit has selected them to take a new path. The poem strikes me as being about surrendering to the inevitable that is confronts us--pray, huddle, find form fitting metaphors as we might, the force of a greater power, whether God or nature, will absorb you and change your being, your body, the ground itself where you reside. 

There is awe in this poem, a fear braced with respect; there is deliverance in this verse, but it is not an easy passage into a white light garbed in light robes of mist and prayer. This passage is burning, painful, destructive, brutally efficient in what is its nature to do. One abandons their feelings of being rooted to place and world view and gets out of the way, or winds up a burnt cipher. Witek has an acute lyric here, well done, well done.

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