Under the Magnolia.

I came across this poem this morning while reading one of my favorite blogs.  It was timely because in my graduate class this week we were discussing poetry and I realized how much I had been missing it lately.  There is no other form that can capture so much with so little and, like the nerdy English teacher that I am, it hurts my soul that it is such a misunderstood genre.  I try to teach my students that poetry is one of the most powerful ways to share their voice–it distills the most power and leaves out the unnecessary that clogs so many texts.  

I’ve been talking with some people lately–and even in my last post–about living thankfully and gratefully, especially for the intangible.  This poem made me stop and think and breathe.  And it makes me want to write.  

Under the Magnolia by Carolyn Miller

I give thanks because I do not have
a great sorrow. My village has not
burned, my child has not died, my body
is not ravaged. I sit here on the ground
lucky, lucky. Somewhere, villages are burning,
somewhere, not too far away, children
are dying; in this great urban park
painstakingly constructed over sand dunes,
people live in the flowering bushes. But
just here, in front of me, is a bride and groom;
here is a child running with
a red ball; another child is rolling on
the grass. All I have to do is to decide
how much fear to let inside my heart
in this fragile, created place, this bowl of grass
surrounded by palms and cypresses and
shaggy-barked cedars and trees
whose names I do not know, long fronds
falling, clusters of lilac fruits depending like
bouquets. All we can do is trust
that we belong here with the flowers: white
iris and Iceland poppies, a blur
of primroses, beds where flowers are
a crowd of color, where they close in the dark,
where the first light finds them starred
with dew. The trees seem to know
what I do not know; even the cultivated grass
understands some chain of being I can only
guess at, whether it is God’s mind, or
the erotic body of the Goddess, or some
abstract kind of love, or
some longing for existence that includes
the fern trees, the new buds of cones on the
conifers, the white butterflies, the skating boys,
the hooked new buds of the magnolia
that look like claws holding on
to life, the curved thick petals of magnolia
in the grass, some gone to rust, some creased,
some streaked, others freckled, others magenta
at the curved stem end, others cracked,
all lined with long veins branching out
to the petal’s edge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *