Two Poems / Joshua Alan Sturgill
Often, writing is more like listening, and in those moments a poem is a transcription rather than a creation. Of course, some revision still follows the initial writing, because what I’m transcribing is only partially in English. The words I see and hear are color, mood, intuition, and other senses which have to be translated as well as the ideas. A Saint’s Home was written this way, as well as the not-yet-published Remembrance in Choriambs.
A Saint’s Home
In some corner, the extravagant chaos
of a geranium throws out red fans of fireworks
and the butler’s trays of its leaves
offer the afternoon sunlight, fresh
from an open window—this is how I imagine
my house of undressed timber and rich tiled floors
a house made of the gifts of creative friends
I am not benevolent, but my home compels me
Beauty trains me in generosity. At its heart
an altar fills every room with humility; the altar
makes holy as right medication makes health
The home echoes all the worlds
in which the soul lives. Plants and paint and sky
spill into every quiet space; art, hope, and somehow
the afterlife, too, filters through the things—the presences
and placeholders of the Infinite. Even the ever-roving
angels must pause in the course of their sacred errands
startled by an image of the stillness of Heaven
on restless Earth.
The Home of a Saint—or of someone on the Path
is a little Eden, a seed from that Garden, strangely
germinating against all the backward progress
of busy forgetfulness. In this sheltering home
an unseen-but-felt geometry
nurses the wounds of the world
and sets the bones
of broken travelers
When I wrote down A Saint’s Home, I was sitting in a friend’s house, alone, staring at a sprawling and happily untidy geranium in a south-facing bay window. The poem rushed out all at once, because the poem and the light on that geranium were the same thing. I simply had to transcribe thing + moment + meaning. I saw the poem already written in the afternoon-sun-lit geranium.
Remembrance in Choriambs
Janie, I miss you. I miss you
so fiercely. I think of the milky way
winding above us, like some cosmic rainbow
—so distant the colors are lost in the flying
from out there to Kansas
to where we were. Here we are still
on the trampoline, star-gazing, laughing
amazed at our honesty
Janie, I miss you. The years
haven’t dazzled me. I’m still
the same soul you recognized. Tell me
and tell me: that night? What is missing?
I want to remember it, every detail. I know
that my memory holds only half of it
If you were here, you would prove
(like you did) that the moon
is a woman. You promised as much
—and the gravelly call of the raven
and wind in the hackberry
firmly agreed. Tell me:
what were those proofs? I too vaguely
remember. You said there were five?
And that one was her mystery?
Something of phases, and
something of darknesses.
Something of silver—her vividness
veiled, but never removed
Remembrance in Choriambs is also transcription – in this case of a memory: an intellectual emotion from the past. The poem flowed out of the memory rhythmically, which must be related to how the passage of time softens, regularizes, and mythologizes an event. That is, how time takes an event and expands it in several directions, making it both more accessible and more remote. In this case, the intense rhythm of the words seems to me like the warp and woof of a tapestry, or the threads of a screen through which the past is seen and which become part of the seeing.