Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

May 13, 2011

Loves by Scott Cairns

I was introduced to the poet Scott Cairns by a friend and classmate of Julian's who is undergoing a dangerous surgery today. We'd love it, if you can, to say a quick prayer for him, his wife, his surgeons, and his family.

Magdalen’s Epistle
from Loves by Scott Cairns (via)

Of Love’s discrete occasions, we
observe sufficient catalogue,
a likely-sounding lexicon

pronounced so as to implicate
a wealth of difference, where reclines
instead a common element,

itself quite like those elements
partaken at the table served
by Jesus on the night he was

betrayed—like those in that the bread
was breakable, the wine was red
and wet, and met the tongue with bright,

intoxicating sweetness, quite
like ... wine. None of what I write arrives
to compromise that sacrament,

the mystery of spirit graved
in what is commonplace and plain—
the broken, brittle crust, the cup.

Quite otherwise, I choose instead
to bear again the news that each,
each was still itself, substantial

in the simplest sense. By now, you
will have learned of Magdalen, a name
recalled for having won a touch

of favor from the one we call
the son of man, and what you’ve heard
is true enough. I met him first

as, mute, he scribbled in the dust
to shame some village hypocrites
toward leaving me unbloodied,

if ill-disposed to taking up
again a prior circumstance.
I met him in the house of one

who was a Pharisee and not
prepared to suffer quietly
my handling of the master’s feet.

Much later, in the garden when,
having died and risen, he spoke
as to a maid and asked me why

I wept. When, at any meeting
with the Christ, was I not weeping?
For what? I only speculate

—brief inability to speak,
a weak and giddy troubling near
the throat, a wash of gratitude.

And early on, I think, some slight
abiding sense of shame, a sop
I have inferred more recently

to do without. Lush poverty!
I think that this is what I’m called
to say, this mild exhortation

that one should still abide all love’s
embarrassments, and so resist
the new temptation—dangerous,

inexpedient mask—of shame.
And, well, perhaps one other thing:
I have received some little bit

about the glib divisions which
so lately have occurred to you
as right, as necessary, fit

That the body is something less
than honorable, say, in its
... appetites? That the spirit is

something pure, and—if all goes well—
potentially unencumbered
by the body’s bawdy tastes.

This disposition, then, has led
to a banal and pious lack
of charity, and, worse, has led

more than a few to attempt some
soul-preserving severance—harsh
mortifications, manglings, all

manner of ritual excision
lately undertaken to prevent
the body’s claim upon the heart,

or mind, or (blasphemy!) spirit—
whatever name you fix upon
the suppos├ęd bodiless.

I fear that you presume—dissecting
the person unto something less
complex. I think that you forget

you are not Greek. I think that you
forget the very issue which
induced the Christ to take on flesh.

All loves are bodily, require
that the lips part, and press their trace
of secrecy upon the one

beloved—the one, or many, endless
array whose aspects turn to face
the one who calls, the one whose choice

it was one day to lift my own
bruised body from the dust, where, it seems
to me, I must have met my death,

thereafter, this subsequent life
and late disinclination toward
simple reductions in the name

of Jesus, whose image I work
daily to retain. I have kissed
his feet. I have looked long

into the trouble of his face,
and met, in that intersection,
the sacred place—where body

and spirit both abide, both yield,
in mutual obsession. Yes,
if you’ll recall your Hebrew word.

just long enough to glimpse in its
dense figure power to produce
you’ll see as well the damage Greek

has wrought upon your tongue, stolen
from your sense of what is holy,
wholly good, fully animal—

the body which he now prepares.


Scott Cairns said...

you and your beloved friend will have my poor prayers, now and ever.

Erika said...

Hi, Scott. D is my husband who is hospitalized. We are so grateful for your prayers and for your poetry which has been sustenance for us.

With gratitude,

Related Posts with Thumbnails