Concession to Mystery

Tools

(Joseph speaks)

To be a part of things, to be apart from them.
I watched from a doorway, artisans
summon out of a dumb stick some form of beauty
the grain emerging along hand or arm like a pulse,
every sigh of the blade saying, I did not do this.

Or parlayed with old trees in my yard
that shift painfully in the wind, heads together
nodding memory awake.

I did not lead them there.
They were already old when my father slept
a drowsy noon in their shade.

I had even less to do with the stars
that having led her to me, bring her still face to me
evening and dawn, making of evening and dawn
one tranquil ecstasy.

Blade, hoe, manhood--
what have my tools to do with what wakes in her?

And by a like token, what has the poet to do with the poem "that wakes in him"?

I wanted Joseph's more or less puzzled rumination to go further. What have any of our tools to do with what we accomplish, on paper or canvas or glass or metal or choreography or song or whatever?

A great deal, it seems to me, and yet...not much.

One doesn't have to lean heavily on a theory of "divine frenzy" in order to concede something to-let's call it-mystery. The concession goes something like this: There are moments, movements of the heart, that exceed ordinary time.

I don't recall with any exactness how it was that I got Joseph talking, ruminating about an artisan at work, and old trees in the yard just being there. And then he makes a connection with an event that was breaking his life apart, like a fist against an egg shell.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1996
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