Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Alive

I read once, years ago, that nothing makes you feel more alive than a good sunburn. I've thought about that many times. It's true that sunburn makes you painfully aware of your body, and when you're in pain, you're not likely to forget that you exist.

I am alive. I survived an earthquake in which over 200,000 people lost their lives. Today I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be alive. I walked down the street this morning in my woolly hat (the kind of thing I would never ever wear at home) and felt dazed, light-headed at the sheer joy of survival. I could have been dead. Much worse, I could have lost part or all of my little family. I am alive, and so are they.

One of my college professors once said that most poetry is about death, because most poetry is about beauty, and when we think about beauty, we know that it will not last forever. The poem I've chosen for Poetry Friday today is about death, but it's also about life. The Book of Common Prayer says: "In the midst of life we are in death." As I live each day, aware of the gift it is, I feel that pain that reminds me both that I am alive, and that so many others are not. While I believe in life after death, I also know that the dead are lost to us, that we do not know, as Wallace Stevens puts it, how they felt at what they saw.

A Postcard from the Volcano

by Wallace Stevens

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.

The rest of the poem is here.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Jessica Stock said...

This is a beautiful post, Ruth. Happy Birthday, I'm so glad you're alive.

laurasalas said...

Great poem--wow. The first line totally grabs me! Thanks for sharing--I hadn't read this one before.