Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved, by Gregory Orr

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Laudate Dominum
from Vesperae solenne de confessore KV 339
with Lucia Popp

Resurrection of the body of the beloved,
Which is the world.
                               Which is the poem
Of the world, the poem of the body.

Mortal ourselves and filled with awe,
We gather the scattered limbs
Of Osiris.
                That he should live again.
That death not be oblivion.


The beloved is dead. Limbs
And all the body's
Miraculous parts
Scattered across Egypt,
Stained with dark mud.

We must find them, gather
Them together, bring them
Into a single place
As an anthologist might collect
All the poems that matter
Into a single book, a book
Which is the body of the beloved,
Which is the world.

Who wants to lose the world,
For all its tumult and suffering?
Who wants to leave the world,
For all its sorrow?
                            Not I.
And so I come to the Book,
Which is also the body
Of the beloved. And so
I come to the poem.
The poem is the world
Scattered by passion, then
Gathered together again
So that we may have hope.

The shape of the Book
Is the door to the grave,
Is the shape of the stone
Closed over us, so that
We may know terror
Is what we pass through
To reach hope, and courage
Is our necessary companion.

The shape of the Book
Is dark as death, and every page
Is lit with hope, glows
With the light of the vital body.

When I open the Book
I hear the poets whisper and weep,
Laugh and lament.

In a thousand languages
They say the same thing:
"We lived. The secret of life
Is love, which casts its wing
Over all suffering, which takes
In its arms the hurt child,
Which rises green from the fallen seed."

It's not magic; it isn't a trick.
Every breath is a resurrection.
And when we hear the poem
Which is the world, when our eyes
Gaze at the beloved's body,
We're reborn in all the sacred parts
Of our own bodies:
                              the heart
Contracts, the brain
Releases its shower
Of sparks,
                 and the tear
Embarks on its pilgrimage
Down the cheek to meet
The smiling mouth.

Sadness is there, too.
All the sadness in the world.
Because the tide ebbs,
Because wild waves
Punish the shore
And the small lives lived there.
Because the body is scattered.
Because death is real
And sometimes death is not
Even the worst of it.

If sadness did not run
Like a river through the Book,
Why would we go there?
What would we drink?

Isis kneels on the banks
Of the Nile. She is assembling
The limbs of Osiris.
Her live limbs moving
Above his dead, moving
As if in a dance, her torso
Swaying, her long arms
Reaching out in a quiet
Constant motion.

And the river below her
Making its own motions,
Eddies and swirls, a burbling
Sound the current makes
As if a throat was being cleared,
As if the world was about to speak.

The poem is written on the body,
And the body is written on the poem.

The Book is written in the world,
And the world is written in the Book.

This is the reciprocity of love
That outwits death. Death looks
In one place and we're in the other.

Death looks there, but we are here.

"What is life?"
                      When you first
Hear that question
It echoes in your skull
As if someone shouted
In an empty cave.
The same answer each time:
The resurrection of the body
Of the beloved, which is
The world.

Every poem different but
Telling the same story.
And we've been gathering
Them in a book
Since writing began
And before that as songs
Or poems people memorized
And recited aloud
When someone asked: "What is life?"

The things that die
Do not die,
Or they die briefly
To be born again
In the Book.

Did you think
You would see
The loved one again
In this world
Or in some other?

No, that cannot happen.
But we have been
Gathering, all of us,
The scattered remnants
Of the loved one
Since the beginning.

In Egypt, the loved
One is not in the pyramids
But in the poem
Carved in stone
About the lover's lips
And eyes.
                In the igloo
The poem gathers
The dark hair of the beloved.

All the poems of the world
Have been gathering the beloved's
Body against your loss.
Read in the Book. Open
Your eyes and your heart;
Open your voice.
                           The beloved
Is there and was never lost.

from Part One of Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved
Copper Canyon Press

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