All posts by Robert Reeves

Another Bend in Memory Lane

My old friend Henry, still in the Fold, thinks the Holy Spirit prompted me to remember yesterday’s poem.  Actually it’s always been part of my word-hoard (except for the title) as a poem I consider flawed but like anyway.  Going backward, still from my Catholic period but a year or so earlier, another rhymed poem (both endrhymed & internally), outrageously Hopkinsian or Charles Williams-ish, a pentameter sonnet in fact, to celebrate the wedding of two friends I met through Henry, one of whom has gone on to some modest success as an SF-fantasy author.  The title is the church in Ann Arbor, MI where the event took place.  Several chalices of wine were consecrated at once so everyone present could take communion “under both kinds.”  I was gonna say the meter limps in line 12, but it rather exceeds itself:  I’ve always read it as a hexameter, but never counted till today.  That “held shadowed hand” in the next line—trying to include both active & passive meanings of “held” by leaving out the “in”—is of course a blatant Hopkins ripoff.

 

St. Mary’s Chapel

 

The flame was in the starlight round the cups.

The cups turned up to face the flame.  The ground

concreted shouted steady hale.  Baled in a name

were sheaves of shadows waiting on the feast.

The least held high hope-glory, and hope’s priest

with hands like tongues red-tongued the cups with wine.

The Light and Line that cupped the circles full

looked, liked, and apprehended—took to sup

the friends that lightened.  Him they supped and sang.

Cup-calling, filling future round them rang.

Their bread in bowls was mounted up for souls.

While they took, each looked:  he found his own,

he found his food and friend held shadowed hand.

The company of stars lit up his land.

Christian Poetry by Bob Reeves … Go Figure

Last night I found myself reciting a forty-year-old poem in my head, a poem not written down anywhere (till now), a rhyming poem (& those 0f you who know me know how opposed to the use of traditional forms I am), a Christian poem (& again, you who know me know I am if anything violently anti-Christian), written at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Chama Canyon near Abiquiu, NM, at a time when I was seriously – though briefly – considering joining this branch of the Benedictine order, in July or thereabouts, 1972.  The poem’s title might be “Chama Canyon,” but it seems to me that was a replacement title, the original being lost in the mists of my odd memory.  I type it here for curiosity value & also because I think a few lines are fine poetry.  A lot of it, to be sure, makes me wince:  I would no longer, even if my life were threatened, put the words “girth” or “orison” in a poem, or use the impersonal “needs” which doesn’t agree with its ostensible plural subject.  It wasn’t the “beams” of the cross that pierced Jesus’ wrists either, it was nails through the beams.  Oh well.  The poem refers to the custom of gathering around a crude wooden statue of Mary at the end of the Compline service (the last liturgical hour of the day) & singing the Salve Regina, a beautiful poem in its own right.

 

Chama Canyon

 

These hills are hoed day after day,

a bit of work for bits of food.

In chapel after, rise to pay

rememberance to a bit of wood,

no longer life that leaned to wave

its bands of leaves by breezes swirled,

but meaning other life, which gave

a mother’s pity to the world.

From girth of carven log she looks

and wraps with love their orison

who move from work to psalter-books,

each one a thorn to crown her Son.

We offspring of the Spirit’s spouse,

whose beams have bored the eagle wrists,

we may not fly or flee this house

the while this round of life persists:

this while these wings must be for toil,

and pinions needs be bent to brood

on sprigs that straggle in the soil,

a bit of work for bits of food.