Friday, March 17, 2006

Poetry Break: "Lonely Communion"

Time for another poetry break.

"Break from what?" you ask.

Why, a break from the common, the mundane, the profane, the quotidian world. So ... we break bread:

Lonely Communion

This warm red wine so curled on my tongue,
As if by some remote alchemistry,
Becomes transformed.
I hope that it prefigures change in me.

For if the bitterness I find in wine,
In this one glass I filled so cautiously,
Can dissipate...
Then also can this bitterness in me.

Broke bread, substantially transmuted, yet
Retaining accidental qualities,
I’ll receive, take
Heart, believe this ransomed child not deceived.

And if the grace I have come to expect
Finds me alone as now, so totally
Alone, then mourn
Not -- my pain shall be unmixed with misery.

I wrote this in 1984, the year that I moved to Berkeley from Stanford and became a less-significant other ... just in case anyone's keeping track.

I had been studying in Berkeley's history of science program for four years and had learned a lot of Aristotlian philosophy, enough (finally) to understand something of the Medieval Catholic explanation concerning how the transubstantiation miracle took place.

Now, I'm neither Medieval nor a Catholic -- and certainly no Medieval Catholic (though I seem, of late, to have been transformed into a Medievalist) -- but in the summer of 1984, finding myself alone in Berkeley, house-sitting for strangers off on a jaunt to India, watering their plants and sitting up late with my books and the occasional glass of red wine for company, this poem simply emerged...

I had never before written poetry, not real poetry -- just the occasional assignment in literature class (you know, compose an answer to Marlowe's "Passionate Shepherd" in similar verse form, that sort of thing).

Nine months later, in May of 1985, I received a Roselyn Schneider Eisner Prize in Poetry from U.C. Berkeley.

And if time had then stopped there, as though enchanted by a poem, to that moment might I have said, "Verweile doch, du bist so schön."

Time, of course, flowed on but eventually brought an even more beautiful moment seven years later, when I read to a woman whom I had met on a train in Germany my "Lonely Communion" and found her transformed.

Sometimes, there really are miracles...


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very fine reflection.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

You have much to savor. Do you still write poetry? And I have to ask--did you memorize this poem or keep the original composition?

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dilys, thanks.

Jessica, I haven't written any poems recently. When the children arrived, my spare time vanished. As for memorized poems ... at one time, I had all of them memorized, but I've forgotten much. The originals are largely gone, casualties of a gypsy-scholar life.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:58 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Beautiful. And I come from a long line of famous writers and poets, incidentally. I won't say what *I* am, because I treasure my relative anonymity.


At 1:00 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Saur, thanks for the lovely adjective.

Now, I'm really curious what your "long line" is ... but I also like a bit of unresolved mystery in life.

Your Germanic 'pen name' means "sour," but that doesn't seem to characterize you.

As for me, I hail from a short line of poets, just myself, and have never been published of my own choosing.

A German woman whom I knew published my Crater Lake Blues in a leftist paper in Hamburg, hoping to catch the eye of a blue-eyed, handsome man whom she had a crush on ... except that he would never have figured out who had cited this 'anonymous' poem.

Such such is life...

Jeffery Hodges

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