Monday, January 31, 2011

January poem of the month

This month's poem is "For the Sleepwalkers," by Edward Hirsch. I love this poem. I memorized it in college because I love the imagery--the feeling that the words and images together invoke (to know it is morning by feeling the shadows, for example). and I love the message (or the message I took from it anyway). To me, Hirsch is saying that we have to have more faith in life--more faith in God, more faith to follow that invisible arrow leading us to choices that we feel in our hearts are right, more faith in ourselves, in our legs, to take that next step, to make that change, to do what we think we might not be able to do. I love the idea that our hearts, were they independent of our bodies, would soak up everything good that they could and would close around those things tightly and bring them back to our bodies to experience. I like the description of faith as "desperate," because sometimes it really is. And I like Hirsch's ending thought--that taking a risk, that holding onto that faith so desperately and acting on it, has nourishing and surprising rewards, one of which is that we "wake up" to who we really are, we wake up to ourselves.

For the Sleepwalkers

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

Edward Hirsch

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