THE PALPABLE OBSCURE

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All souls own this evening, love,
blurring borders between quick and dead.
And even if the fearsome moans of man
did not appoint this time as hallowed,
our backyard trees announce it, as they
lose their glory and become their bones.

The veil is at its thinnest now, that
suddenly obscured you and left me
bereft, dumbfounded in the desolately clear.
Once a day, at least, I stop to wonder
where you are.  I do not think of
you as being here.  Except, tonight

a heightening of powers in the darkness
wants to break november from october
with a cold slap and a small wail in the wind.
Something more than me, something much
more sure that you abide, this night, brings
you, in ways that I can almost touch.
.
.
THE PALPABLE OBSCURE

Originally posted October 31, 2013

69 responses »

  1. “Something more than me, something much
    more sure that you abide, this night, brings
    you, in ways that I can almost touch.”
    The loss and grief in the first stanzas are painfully beautful, but this is so full of hope and connection. Just lovely Cynthia.

  2. Cindy above has said it all. I was very moved by the poem, and particularly by your reading of it. And it certainly adds a welcome untrite dimension to the night that breaks november from october…

    • Now that commerce and candy and zombies have taken over (and with them, a certain amount of fun), it’s so nice to hear that you find this a welcome dimension to the holiday. I hope you know your response to a poem is very valuable to me, Bruce. Thank you for being such a dear and appreciative reader.

  3. …and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
    i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
    Couldn’t help but think of that. But I also like the reference to the thin part of the year. Beautiful poem and stark imagery. Lovely.

    • “here is the deepest secret nobody knows
      (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
      and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
      higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
      and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

      i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

      Lisa! e.e.cummings is one of my all time favorites! I loved him in college; knew reams of his poetry from memory. Then I sort of “outgrew” him, and now that I’m old I love him again.

      I can see why you thought of that poem. Thank you for bringing him here!

  4. Your poem is so full of longing I can feel it in the pit of my stomach but I am slightly soothed by the end with a hint of hope. I find the break from October to November almost unbearable with it’s bare bones exposing my anxiety. Lordy, how I love a leafy summer to cover up the dreaded darkness of November.

    • As the Spanish say: cálmate…cálmate, amiga. In all likelihood you will have many more leafy summers come around the bend. it’s just that dang impermanence thing…nothing we love lasts, but nothing we hate lasts either…not even November.

  5. The love song sings in lament or joy and sometimes, in both.
    The pain of loss laments, the heart is torn…..yet….

    “Something more than me, something much
    more sure that you abide, this night, brings
    you, in ways that I can almost touch.”

    Dare the heart feel the touch, take comfort and be prepared to rise and sing when time, the illusion of earth falls away and unity prevails?

    This piece is a work of art Cynthia – poignant, real and eternal.
    So special to hear you read it too after reading it in your book as well!
    Stunning!

    • I like what you have to say about the illusion of earth falling away; certainly the illusions which seem to keep us going on ordinary days, are somewhat questioned at this time of year as it brings out all that is “other-worldly”. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Rob.

  6. ….oh my oh my, you are at your best when giving voice to that longing we feel but are at pains to express. It is, in a large part of the old world the day before All Saints Day and All Souls Day, when families spend time at the cemetery, sometimes sharing a meal together to be close to their departed. The woooooo quality we cast on the last of October–the dollar store cobwebbing of front walks–runs interference with the contemplative nature of our internal yearnings which you draw our gaze to on this night of nights. I wish you peace of heart and mind this eve, Cynthia.

    • Your comment about cobwebbing the front walks of the dollar store brilliantly summarizes our current holidays ….many bemoan the commercialization of these holidays, but that’s a cliché. You’re the first I’ve heard who sees it as an “interference with the contemplative nature of our internal yearnings”…YES!! All the crazy candy, color, and pretense dulls the real thing; it’s a red herring, and also has come to do the same at Christmas . You have brought a wonderful, original thought to my conundrums about all this, and about why I have lost any genuine feeling for these celebrations. Thank you, profusely, Lance. Oh, and Happy Hallowe’en!

  7. I suppose “Happy Hallowe’en” and those dollar store cobwebs are for children really who haven’t lost anyone except a goldfish. Your beautiful and terrible poem is the grownup reality. This morning Cynthia I’ve been re-reading the group of poems in your book among which this one takes its natural place. Warmest wishes, John

    • That group of poems certainly is à propos the season, isn’t it. That you find them worth re-reading is very touching and heart-warming to me, John. And I love your remark about losing a goldfish! There must be a poem in there somewhere, about the child-mind and inexperience. At any rate, the beat goes on…in the changed clocks of the season, and in our hearts.
      All shall be well. Metaphors be with you… 🙂

  8. our backyard trees… become their bones

    That is a profound and striking expression of the ‘blurring borders between quick and dead’.

    I believe I have experienced something similar to the lifting of the veil that you write of here, Cynthia. This poem speaks to that moment, and moves me deeply.

    • There almost seems a conspiracy of cultural traditions and weather to make it so. I always picture November as brown and grey…unlike any of the other months. Then soon we once again have all those traditions, meant to lift us out of the gloom again.

  9. Very much a favourite one of yours for me!♥ I think I reblogged this one in it’s original posting. It boarders on a ghost story, and yet feels more of memories, that little bit that never quite leaves after a loved one has departed. Absolutely loved the way you read this too. Your autumn poems deliver quality and depth, much more than most other poetry on autumn I’ve read. They linger with the reader longer!! 🙂

    • Such a kind and generous comment, Suzy. I seem to have a particular affinity for the autumn season, it is such a brilliant season here, though short-lived. Thank you so much for reading and for those words of appreciation…they certainly lift the spirits! 🙂

  10. I felt your yearning, pain and hope as you write about “all” souls wandering this night – wandering through our thoughts and visions. It is the connection that I feel in your words, the connection of souls that have left us. Isn’t it amazing how earthly strong the vision can be sometimes where we can almost see and touch . . .

    • Yes, it is amazing how strong the connection can be…as I’m sure you know, Mary. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I know you probably have a lot on your plate just now. I, for one, am looking forward to your winter paintings!

      • Many years ago I worked with a wonderful woman that I just loved, she died from cancer. Maybe some 10 years afterward while in Maine, Cynthia as sure as I’m sitting here typing this, I heard her soft laugher and “ah Mary” as she would often say. Talk about connection.

        Now I’m smiling about winter paintings, even as you loathed the white stuff as it lingered on and on for what seemed like ages!!

  11. “our backyard trees announce it, as they
    lose their glory and become their bones.”
    Love these lines. Love all your lines, but especially these. Have you listened to your recording of this poem? It stopped after the first line for me, but perhaps it is just my connection. I’ll try again.

    • Whew! I’m glad it worked out. I am so terrible at technological things, that when they go wrong I really do panic, since I don’t know what to do! Thanks for coming by to read, Judy, and for all your kind and generous words.

        • Hello, Judy. Just butting in (as is typical of me) to mention, in case you weren’t aware, that almost EVERYone hates hearing their own voice. They are shocked and dismayed upon hearing it. And I, too, was doubly-dismayed after learning I DO have a speech impediment: A sibilant s similar to those losing their hearing. Well, since I have a congenitally-missing front tooth, I should have known…

          Please don’t think your voice sounds odd to others. It probably sounds fine, and may sound quite lovely. Suggestion: Find a school or library, or favorite neighbor with young children. If wiggly children enjoy you reading to them–a great test book light on plot but heavily dependent on expression and rythym–is “Chicka-Chicka Boom”–I believe you can feel confident to read your poetry aloud, too. : )

          –O.B. (The “B” is for “Buttinski”)

          • Thanks, Babe. I actually have given countless readings over the years with no negative comments, but still can’t stand to listen to them! Same with videos. They sit on the shelf. If I watched them, I’d never give another talk or reading again. I understand stars who say they never watch their own films.

            • The first time I watched a vid of myself doing a corporate training I wanted to pop that smug know-it-all right in the kisser. It’s a miracle the business people in the audience didn’t heave whatever was to hand.

              Sisters in self-ick-factor-tude!
              🙂

  12. Since all prior commenters have said all my thoughts but one, I’ll just add what no one yet mentioned–probably because it was so baldly obvious to everyone: I liked the transformed tressless trees, too.

  13. I have goosebumps. The tree and veil images are sublime. And, yes, “I stop and wonder where you are” is that childlike question that we all silently ask but is never answered.

  14. Pingback: The Unanswerable Question | beeblu blog

  15. Good Lord, Cynthia. The power in this is palpable. It does not need a full explanation. It is filled with power and grief and the mystery of how we still have the sense of someone who was part of us for long years before they are gone.
    This stanza rings with the tradition of poetry at its finest, but also manages to be original and even startling:
    All souls own this evening, love,
    blurring borders between quick and dead.
    And even if the fearsome moans of man
    did not appoint this time as hallowed,
    our backyard trees announce it, as they
    lose their glory and become their bones.
    Here you manage a union between life and death, “all souls,” including lost love as well as the poet, “own this evening. . .” The reference to the Apostle’s Creed, of course, is powerful. The reversal present in “the fearsome moans of man,” giving us the idea of life, but life contemplating death, life being fearsome rather than death is subtle and could almost be missed without a great deal of thought. Then the powerful image of backyard trees losing the glory of their summer leaves in explosions of color as they become their bones, referring us to death, but also, in a strange, original way, the idea of life inside the bones of death. Does not a tree continue to live even after it has lost its summer? Again, this brings to mind the Apostle’s Creed. I went back to Peter to read the original use of the phrase, giving the poem yet another twist, since in Peter the phrase is about judgement after excess.
    The entire poem is a triumph even while it explores the depths of grief and remembering. What a poem! You really need to gain entrance to the American oeuvre with publication by a press of your best work.

    • As always, I am gratified and humbled by your response to the poem. As you know, some poems are worked and worked, while others seem to fall into place by a magic. This poem simply spoke itself and I wrote it down. Isn’t it strange and wonderful when that happens? Thank you so much for the intelligent and knowledgeable attention you give to your readings of a poem, Thomas—mine and those of others I have read over time. We bloggers who love and are serious about poetry are so lucky to have a poet like you among us.

  16. I’m glad Beeblu referenced this so I didn’t miss it. Of course, we don’t get that powerful natural move from autumn to winter coinciding with All Hallows Eve or Halloween which is sad in a way. But I very much appreciate the expression of that thin veil that separates us from those we’ve lost even when we wonder where they are.

  17. Sometimes, you start like the Metaphysical poets, except that your words carry much more sombre a weight. Despair, grief and melancholy have been woven into a stunning gossamer of words.

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