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With Linnea in the South of France

September 8, 2012

 

The wind blew hot today; it blew my skirt—

it whipped my skirt, but not as at Les Baux.

Back then the denim flapped a furious code

into the Val d’Enfer, those craggy

 

hills, a giant’s rotted teeth.

Linnea stood atop the highest battlement

nearly windborne,

all of fifteen.
 

The wind blew hot in

Bezier and we slept naked

on the floor, ignorant of scorpions,

me filled with local wine.

We’d spent the day at the menhir

near Minerve, along Canal du Midi.

Arles and Olargues, Sommeil

and Nimes, Aigue Morte—all towns

of consonants and dissonance, all

chalk-white in the southern sun,

so hot the wind,

no fans to be found.

And in St. Remy, where Van Gogh

slept in his madness at the Saint Paul hosptial

and among the Roman

ruins, the wind blew hot.

 

As today, before the storm, bringing intimations

of lost time--

Linnea, framed against the dark blue sky.

I think of Eliot, childless, writing “Marina,”

writing what he could not know:

This form, this face, this life.

What images return,

O my daughter.

 

 

Marina - T.S. Eliot


Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?


What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands 
What water lapping the bow 
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog 
What images return 
O my daughter. 

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning 
Death 
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning 
Death 
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning 
Death 
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning 
Death 

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind, 
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog 
By this grace dissolved in place 

What is this face, less clear and clearer 
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger— 
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye 
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet 
Under sleep, where all the waters meet. 

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat. 
I made this, I have forgotten 
And remember. 
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten 
Between one June and another September. 
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own. 
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking. 
This form, this face, this life 
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me 
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken, 
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships. 

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers 
And woodthrush calling through the fog 
My daughter.

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.