Sometimes they left me for the day
while they went — what does it matter
where — away. I sat and watched her work
the dough, then turn the white shape
yellow in a buttered bowl.
A coleus, wrong to my eye because its leaves
were red, was rooting on the sill
in a glass filled with water and azure
marbles. I loved to see the sun
pass through the blue.
“You know,” she’d say, turning
her straight and handsome back to me,
“that the body is the temple
of the Holy Ghost.”
The Holy Ghost, the oh, oh … the uh
oh, I thought, studying the toe of my new shoe,
and glad she wasn’t looking at me.
Soon I’d be back in school. No more mornings
at Grandma’s side while she swept the walk
or shook the dust mop by the neck.
If she loved me why did she say that
two women would be grinding at the mill,
that God would come out of the clouds
when they were least expecting him,
choose one to be with him in heaven
and leave the other there alone?
~Jane Kenyon “Staying at Grandma’s” from Let Evening Come
(For Sarah Innes Blos, in memory of Stephen)
Although we always come this way
I never noticed before that the poplars
growing along the ravine
shine pink in the light of a winter dawn.
What am I going to say
in my letter to Sarah- -a widow at thirty-one,
alone in the violence
of her grief, sleepless, in doubt
about the goodness of life,
and utterly cast down?
I look at the lithe trees more carefully
remembering Stephen the photographer.
With the hunger of two I take them in.
Perhaps I can tel1 her that.
The dog furrows his brow while pissing long
and thoughtfully against an ancient hemlock.
The snow turns the saffron of a monk’s robe
and acrid steam ascends.
Looking for God is the first thing and the last,
but in between so much trouble, so much pain.
Far up in the woods where no one goes
deer take their ease under the great
pines, nose to steaming nose ….
~Jane Kenyon “With the Dog at Sunrise”
I never got to stay alone with either of my Grandmas. One died young of cancer before I was born and the other, like Jane Kenyon’s grandmother, ran a chaotic household of boarders. My parents would not have trusted me to her care given everything else she was responsible for. Plus she also possessed a very fundamentalist world view as a faithful-to-the-Bible church goer who could have scared me to death with her dire interpretation of scripture.
I’m relieved it wasn’t fear that led me to a belief in a Trinitarian God. There is no question faith is a hard road, tested in challenging ways along the way, but God is the first thing and the last, the Alpha and Omega. In between, we must search out His Face every day, knowing how hidden He can be.
Understanding this, I still check the clouds every day, just in case I might miss His coming.
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