Sunday, April 6, 2008

Annie Dillard's Love Poem

Annie Dillard.

Who has written one of the most difficult and dangerous and death-obsessed love poems ever written to God: Holy the Firm.

A love poem about a moth burned up in a candle, a girl burned in an airplane crash, a baptism on a beach. A love poem about the horror in life. The endless horror in it. But also the paradoxical holiness. The holiness that informs everything. The loveliness that is everywhere like the air and the sea and the sky. The evidence of God’s terrible and brilliant and deadly and glorious making everywhere evident.

And again I want to cry. The tightened throat. The watery eyes. The fear and the gratitude, the love and the outrage mingled together in the one emotion, the one paradox of creation. The one knowing of the beauty and the sorrow of living our lives here, (the one koan of) God’s created beings. Slammed simultaneously with violence and death and hideousness and loveliness and holiness and a beauty that is so real and present and startling that it drives one to one’s knees in gratitude and love and agony and sorrow. Here’s a sample:

“He lifts from the water. Water beads on his shoulders. I see the water in balls as heavy as planets, a billion beads of water as weighty as worlds, and he lifts them up on his back as he rises. He stands wet in the water. Each one bead is transparent, and each has a world, or the same world, light and alive and apparent inside the drop: it is all there ever could be, moving at once, past and future, and all the people. I can look into any sphere and see people stream past me, and cool my eyes with colors and the sight of the world in spectacle perishing ever, and ever renewed. I do; I deepen into a drop and see all that time contains, all the faces and deeps of the worlds and all the earth’s contents, every landscape and room, everything living or made or fashioned, all past and future stars, and especially faces, faces like the cells of everything, faces pouring past me talking, and going, and gone. And I am gone.

“For outside it is bright. The surface of things outside the drops has fused. Christ himself and the others, and the brown warm wind, and hair, sky, the beach, the shattered water—all this has fused. It is the one glare of holiness; it is bare and unspeakable. There is no speech or language; there is nothing, no one thing, nor motion, nor time. There is only this everything. There is only this, and its bright and multiple noise.”

What Annie makes clear is that one does not have to go looking for annihilation and disintegration. It is here. Right here. In the air we breathe. In the earth we walk upon and manipulate to make the things with which we surround ourselves in this life as though to make a kind of stockade of things against the great dark howling all around. The dark vacuum of space and the predatory creatures and processes and agents that surround us right here. Right here where we live.

But in this annihilation and disintegration. In this God-made earth. There is also the in-built redemption in the holiness here. The inherent gorgeousness of this making. Of God’s own making. Giving us evidence that this violence and this horror is not without God: “Held, held fast by love in the world like a moth in wax, your life a wick, your head on fire with prayer, held utterly, outside and in, you sleep alone, if you call that alone, you cry God.”

1 comment:

George said...

Interesting post... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your blog. I'm sure I'd visit here more often. George from love poem.