Recently, I wrote a book review for Columbia University Press. In return for this, the press gave me my choice of a select number of books from their current list. One of the books I chose was Invisible Light: Poems about God edited by Diana Culbertson. Last night, the book arrived, and I read this poem:
“The Mystery” by Ralph Hodgson
He came and took me by the hand
up to a red rose tree,
He kept His meaning to Himself
but gave a rose to me.
I did not pray Him to lay bare
the mystery to me,
enough the rose was Heaven to smell,
and His own face to see.
This poem, short, poignant, and lovely, reminds me of the fairy-tale of “Beauty and the Beast.” A rose is a symbol of love and life.
I read another poem last night as well:
“Night” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Silence, and whirling worlds afar
through all in circling skies.
What floods come o’er the spirit’s bar,
what wondrous thoughts arise.
The earth, a mantle falls away,
and, winged, we leave the sod;
where shines in its eternal sway
the majesty of God.
I love the astronomy of this poem and the way the spirituality of it is woven into the stars. I was reminded of something my friend Wendy recently read to me by Frederick Buechner from his memoir. In one particular moment, he imagines himself having a conversation with his grandmother, a woman who passed away years ago. To explain how she died, she simply says to Frederick that the world slowed down so much that she could finally step off of it. I thought that was an interesting picture.
The collection edited by Diana Culbertson is divided into two sections. The first part contains poems written as if from God’s perspective: from Him to us. The second part contains poems written from the poets’ perspectives: from us to Him – prayers, essentially. Some of the prayers wonder aloud about God, about who He is and why He does what He does and whether or not He is lonely. Other poems, including one from the book of Job, express great awe in the face of the Creator-God.
I am enjoying this collection of poems, and I think others would, too.