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.”
There is an old recording of Flannery O’Connor giving an interview on Wise Blood for an early television program. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing it, you can read the poem it inspired. If you have, you can judge how well I captured it in another medium. The poem was originally published in New Oxford Review, March, 1982, p. 24.
The body was alive. The evidence
Is that her fingers for pure nervousness
Caressed the chair’s arm, and that was enough;
The rest was calm, the eyes demure. The voice
Was slow and hesitant, but when it had
A chance to build momentum it could carry
The burden of a thought or two and drive them
Directly, if gently, toward the heart of things.
(The eyes would look up then as if to follow
The words and make sure they were going straight.)
The body was alive; there is no doubt.
A fifteen-minute strip of celluloid
Is proof, and there are other witnesses
Whose bodies are still living, and will be,
I reckon, for another couple decades.
The body is cold dust and brittle bone
And blind as Hazel Motes. But take the cold,
Thin strip of plastic, add electric light,
A motor, and some other gadgetry,
It will be warm and soft again, or seem so.
We most of us belong to Hazel’s church:
Our lame don’t walk, our blind don’t see, our dead
Stay put, our Jesus has no blood to spare,
Despite what we recite on Sunday mornings.
The body stalks from tree to tree behind us.
Its hands fidget in embarrassment;
Its eyes occasionally look up. (Be sure
That’s only in the mind. The body still
Lies quiet—even now the bones are cumbling.)
Be sure you do not look into the eyes.
If once you do, you are forever lost,
Your well-adjusted modern life in shambles.
Jesus, striding through the point of light
Behind the pupils, will lay hold of you.
“The prophet that I raise up from her words
Will burn your eyes clean!” There will be no way
To keep out even resurrections then,
Or Jesus’ blood. And you will see the body
Living, and it will not be on film.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
Donald T. Williams, PhD
Posted on April 27, 2015, in Christianity, Donald Williams and tagged Flannery O'Connor, Hazel Motes, Jesus, Jesus' blood, Resurrection, The Church Without Christ, Wise Blood. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.