Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”
In 1977 I had the privilege of preaching the funeral for a good friend’s grandmother. It was my first funeral to officiate, a solemn and memorable occasion in any event, but made more so by the memory of the lady’s vibrant personality and by the topography of Northeast Georgia.
The North Georgia Mountains and Kate Merritt Maxwell
You can feel them rising underneath the ground
Before you see them rising in the air.
It think it is because they’re gathering strength
For the great push that brings them into view,
Their bent backs all hunched up against the sky.
The earth has backbones there, and when you stand
Upon it you can feel them. Just don’t ask
What sense reveals it, for there is no answer
Except the changing rhythms of the blood.
I think the blood must somehow feel the call
Of all the springs that rise up with the mountains
Just to spill themselves in endless laughter
Helter-skelter down the rocky stream beds
So water, wind, and stone can sing together
To an attentive audience of pine trees.
We are allowed to overhear the music:
It always seems to be reminding us
Of something in ourselves we have no name for
And easily forget down in the flatlands.
I will not say the voices in the streams
Are singing to us, but we overhear them
And dare not say they do not sing to Someone.
And though we are not Someone, we are someone,
Which may be why we are allowed to listen
And, in not understanding, understand.
I knew a lady in Cornelia who
Is buried within sight of where the mountains
First poke their faces over the horizon.
For when I traveled north to preach the funeral,
I didn’t know the mountains could be seen there;
But in the church as I stood by the coffin
And saw the silent men and weeping women
And spoke of Sin and Death and Resurrection,
From far away I felt their roots beneath me,
Which somehow gave me strength to carry on;
Then later at the burial site, I saw them.
That day I did not drive on to the mountains,
Though I have visited them often since
And someday will go there and not return.
When that day comes, I’m sure that I will meet her,
And when I do I think she will be singing.
I will sing the wind, and she the water,
And there will be Someone to sing the rock
(Of ages, cleft for me will be the tune).
In that singing will the Song be clearer
Than we had ever heard it here before,
And we surely understand it better,
And in that understanding, understand.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
Donald T. Williams, PhD