Monday, January 6, 2014

An Epiphany Feast

I'm listening today to an interview with Peter Steele, the Jesuit poet whose work I post occasionally. A few years before he died of cancer he wrote a poem that is a sort of goodbye to the wonders he has known. And yet somehow it's also a little hymn to the beauty of our fragile lives themselves. 

A different sort of epiphany for today. 


Upright again, fritters of mint in my fingers, 
         I'm given pause in the kitchen patch
by the car's whine, the loud harrumph of lorries
         that round the stand on Two-Tree Hill
                  and hustle past the boneyard. 

I've taken leave of the Cliffs of Moher, the unsmiling
       campus guard at Georgetown, the fall
of Richelieu's scarlet enclosed by the London gloom:
        I've watched my last candle gutter
                  for dear ones, back in Paris,

sung, as with Francis, the spill of an Umbrian morning,
         each breath a gift, each glance a blessing:
have said farewell to Bhutan of the high passes
         and the ragged hillmen, to the Basque dancers
                     praising their limping fellow,

to the square of Blood in Beijing, to the virid islands
         that speckle the Pacific acres,
to moseying sheep in Judaean scrub, to leopard
         and bison, a zoo for quartering, and
                    to the airy stone of Chartres, 

But here's the mint still on my hands. A wreath,
        so Pliny thought was 'good for students,
to exhilarate their minds.' Late in the course,
         I'll settle for a sprig or two
the savor gracious, the leaves brimmingly green --
                    as if never to say die. 

Peter Steele, SJ

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