• Page Lambert
  • If God Is In The Details: Metaphor, The Great Pandemic, and Hummingbirds
If God Is In The Details: Metaphor, The Great Pandemic, and Hummingbirds
Contributor
Written by
Page Lambert
February 2012
Blogging
Contributor
Written by
Page Lambert
February 2012
Blogging

A poem, and then a few thoughts on metaphor...

 

Headstones carry last century’s news etched into granite gone

green, lichen as cold as the shade side of an empty

house. I wait while he kneels at his son’s grave,

wander the brittle grass paths, find mothers

buried with newborns

           Born

           Died

 The dates are the same.  No span of life stretches

 between them.  I find brothers

 and sisters, a wife,

 then a child,

 a husband – the Great Pandemic.

Grief is a familiar load.  It bends us at the shoulders, buckles his knees

 as I wander, waiting for the right time to go to him, the sorrow

 of a town etched in each stone. Grave after

 winter grave, I see where death

 turned the calendar

            December 1918

            January 1919

Seven months later we return to the family plot. Too soon. 

The soil hasn’t settled.  They have piled a mound of cold earth on

his son’s grave, carving space for the wooden box that holds the

grandmother’s ashes. A boy holding the earth. It should not be

 so – life turned upside

             down

            like this

His mother is the first to toss rose petals, for these are her mother’s ashes

floating, the petals carried by a cold wind to both graves.  I wait, watch

his father bend and reach into the basket.  His large brown hand curls

softly around the red petals and I wonder, How does one let go

         of such

         a thing?

As a writer, I want to reach out and touch this experience without staring it harshly in the eye, without crassly naming it, as if such poignancy could be reduced to a few single words.  If God is in the details, then I want to write the details in such a way that from these details symbolism rises.

And God?  Ah, the puppeteer, of course.  The question arises from the metaphor, and is answered by the metaphor, yet in a way that none of us can articulate, nor hold in the palm of our hand, nor see with our naked eye.  But we know it to be true—as weightless as the hummingbird, yet as substantial as the fistful of soil I might have held had I dared to bend at the grave and pick it up, tossing it, like the rose petals, into the cold winter wind.

BOTTOM NOTES: Rattles: Poetry for the 21st Century awards a $500 editors prize for the Annual Neil Postman Award for Metaphor.   MANY THANKS to artist Sarah Rogers for permission to feature "Gary's Hummingbird."  To view Sarah's available prints and originals, please go to Sarah Rogers Art.  THANKS also to Robert Olen Butler, for reminding us in his book From Where You Dream, that the human condition resides in the details.  Origin of "God is in the details."

 

To read more of Page's essays, go to All Things LIterary. All Things Natural.

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