By Sarah Browning on August 26, 2009
A quiet poem for such a public man, but reading "Mountain Dulcimer" on the Poetry Foundation web site this morning, I was moved by the poem's ability to embody both mourning and celebration at once, what I feel at the death of Ted Kennedy, the extraordinary senator from Massachusetts. And so I offer it below, with gratitude for Ted's lifelong commitment to justice.
by Robert Morgan
Where does such sadness in wood come
from? How could longing live in these
wires? The box looks like the most fragile
coffin tuned for sound. And laid
across the knees of this woman
it looks less like a baby nursed
than some symbolic Pietà,
and the stretched body on her lap
yields modalities of lament
and blood, yields sacrifice and sliding
chants of grief that dance and dance toward
a new measure, a new threshold,
a new instant and new year which
we always celebrate by
remembering the old and by
recalling the lost and honoring
those no longer here to strike these
strings like secrets of the most
satisfying harmonies, as
voices join in sadness and joy
and tell again what we already
know, have always known but forget,
from way back in the farthest cove,
from highest on the peaks of love.
By Sarah Browning on June 13, 2008
In an old issue of off our backs, the feminist news journal, I spot a remembrance of Grace Paley, the poet/fiction writer/activist who died last year, by Judith Arcana, her biographer. Judith's lovely piece ends this way:
"Grace is important to us readers, writers and activists struggling to be conscious, making real art out of what we know as real life, transforming real life into what we want it to be."
And there, under the story, is a large photo of Grace and two men holding a banner in front of a chain-link fence. Nuclear installation? Toxic waste dump? We don't know - we just see the word "This" on the banner. The men look serious, earnest, intense. Grace is short, of course. Her head just peeks out above the word This. She is grinning. This is what I want real life to be. This.
By Sarah Browning on February 24, 2008
Looking for something on my desk (really, it's an excavation, requiring a major grant for archaeological research from the federal government...) I came upon a quote I had saved from, of all places, Publisher's Weekly. Herbert Kohl, a teacher and education writer, was interviewed about his new book, Painting Chinese, which describes his experience taking a Chinese landscape painting class as a 60-year-old surrounded by kindergarteners:
It's wonderful accepting that your goals will never be completed if they're big enough, and that it's worth making them so big that you leave some unfinished so that other people can pick them up after you.
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