Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Lewis Hyde poem

My latest book from the library is This Error is the Sign of Love, a book of poetry by Lewis Hyde, the author of The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. You can read a lot of his work, including lectures, blogposts, excerpts from some of his books, and some of his poems at his website. Here's the last poem in the book I checked out ....

This Error is the Sign of Love

“Man has to seek God in error and
forgetfulness and foolishness.”

-- Meister Eckhart

This error is the sign of love,
the crack in the ice where the otters breathe,
the tear that saves a man from power,
the puff of smoke blown down the chimney one morning, and the widower sighs and gives up his loneliness,
the lines transposed in the will so the widow must scatter coins from the cliff instead of ashes and she marries again, for love,
the speechlessness of lovers that forces them to leave it alone while it sends up its first pale shoot like an onion sprouting in the pantry,
this error is the sign of love.

The leak in the nest, the hole in the coffin,
the crack in the picture plate a young girl fills with her secret life to survive the grade school,
the retarded twins who wanter house to house, eating, ‘til the neighbors have become neighbors.
The teacher’s failings in which the students ripen,
Luther’s fit in the choir, Darwin’s dyspepsia, boy children stuttering in the gunshop, boredom, shyness, bodily discomforts like long rows of white stones at the edge of the highway,
blown head gaskets, darkened choir lofts, stolen kisses,
this error is the sign of love.

The nickel in the butter churn, the farthing in the cake,
the first reggae rhythms like seasonal cracks in a government building,
the rain-damaged instrument that taught us the melodies of black emotion and red and yellow emotion,
the bubble of erotic energy escaped from a marriage and a week later the wife dreams of a tiger,
the bee that flies into the guitar and hangs transfixed in the sound of sound ‘til all his wetness leaves him and he rides that high wind to the Galapagos,
this error is the sign of love.

The fault in the sea floor where the fish linger and mate,
the birthmark that sets the girl apart and years later she alone of the sisters finds her calling,
Whitman’s idiot brother whom he fed luke the rest of us,
those few seconds Bréton fell asleep and dreamed of a pit of sand with the water starting to flow,
the earth’s wobbling axis uncoiling seasons--seed that need six months of drought, flowers shaped for the tongues of moths, summertime
and death’s polarized light caught beneath the surface of Florentine oils,
this error is the sign of love.

The beggar buried in the cathedral,
the wisdom-hole in the façade of the library,
the corners of the garden that are not farvested,
the hail storm in a South Dakota town that started the Farmers’ Cooperative in 1933,
the Sargasso Sea that gives false hope to sailors and they sail one and find a new world,
the picnic basket that slips overboard and leads to the invention of the lobster trap,
the one slack line in a poem where the listener relaxes and suddenly the poem is in your heart like a fruit wasp in an apple,
this error is the sign of love!


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