by Jane Beal
“Other pilgrims pace restlessly through this book: Jane Beal finds poetry when she visits landmarks in Rome, but her most striking entry in New Crops from Old Fields consists solely of questions Muslims and Jews asked her in the Holy Land. The poem is a remarkable distillation of the sort of grace and charity a pilgrimage should foster: a diminution of the self, and the generosity of letting others speak. Throughout her poetry, Beal makes the medieval personal—a fox on the roadside reminds her of the Reynard of fable, and she writes in the voices of Caedmon and Dante—and her destination is the answer to an intimate question: ‘What shape does the shadow of my life form / when I take my stand in the light of God?'”
~ Jeff Sypeck, “We’ll find the speck of truth in each riddle …” (review of New Crops)
In days I will be completely rebuilt
from the girl I was when I was eight, blood sweet with a different dust,
bones singing in different shades of dig and bury.
But I will still know all she taught me, how to move
like gusts of leaves, how to pretend not to be waiting
for anyone. I know I have unraveled since then,
pulled out some of the fishing stitches in my tongue,
though I know there is still more than enough rope
to lead me back to that throatless staircase. I have been practicing
turning maps into parachutes, closing my eyes
until my trembling swings
like the only clock, and with my mouth wound-wide,
I love this poem.