• lenten journal: graceful

    by  • March 16, 2015 • forgiveness, grace, lenten journal, mary oliver • 0 Comments

    Before I left for work today I perused the shelves in my office to find a book to accompany me at lunch. I picked up The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of Contemporary American Poets, which I have had for a long time. I looked to see when I bought it and the inscription said, “October 2000. On the way to Marshfield,” which means I rode with Ginger when she was interviewing at the church there and must have picked it up along the way. I’m guessing I got it at the Borders at Braintree. It’s no longer there.

    The premise of the book was to print from the notebooks poets carry with them to jot down ideas, observations, and whatever else they choose to collect. The list of contributors includes Stephen Dunn, Donald Hall, Carolyn Forché, Charles Simic, Mary Oliver, and William Stafford. I flipped back and forth, following no particular order, and then continued the practice when I sat down to write tonight. I stopped when I came to this question in the middle of Mary Oliver’s musings:

    Which would you rather be, intellectually deft, or spiritually graceful?

    My mind went two very particular places. The first was a scene from Fight Club:

    Narrator: Tyler, you are by far the most interesting single-serving friend I’ve ever met… see I have this thing: everything on a plane is single-serving…
    Tyler Durden: Oh I get it, it’s very clever.
    Narrator: Thank you.
    Tyler Durden: How’s that working out for you?
    Narrator: What?
    Tyler Durden: Being clever.
    Narrator: Great.
    Tyler Durden: Keep it up then… Right up.

    The second was a song by The Story, a now defunct duo that was Jennifer Kimball and Jonatha Brooke. It is called “Grace in Gravity.” It was the title song to their 1991 album.

    what we are and what we were once
    are now far estranged

    coming to the biggest city
    in the dead of summer
    you were chosen ’cause you
    would not close your eyes.
    you danced among the finest–
    black and blue in revelation,
    a melancholy nothing could describe.

    this is grace in gravity
    grace in gravity

    touring in South Africa
    the mountain roads one day with a friend,
    visions to the ocean off the coast.
    (so blue, so green)
    he was white and you are black and
    this makes some vague difference after
    twisted fire and glass and steel,
    you’re silent as they try to explain…

    this is grace in gravity
    (in another world now)
    grace in gravity

    and what we are and what we were once
    are now far estranged
    what we are and what we were once
    are now far estranged

    your friend is cared for promptly now
    but you must travel further to
    another saving grace that takes your kind.
    this journey marks a step
    that no one knew was irreversible,
    you say there is forgiveness
    and they say you’ll never dance again…

    this is grace in gravity
    grace in gravity (don’t know where you’re going)
    grace in gravity (going, going)
    grace in gravity

    and what we are and what we were once
    are now far estranged
    what we are and what we were once
    are now far estranged

    I heard them sing at Club Passim in Harvard Square soon after the album came out. They said the song was based on a true story of a black ballet dancer who, after a car accident in South Africa, was paralyzed after the ambulance drivers chose to take the dancer’s less gravely injured white companion to a better hospital before they took her for treatment.

    you say there was forgiveness . . . .

    Deft is a shield; graceful is an invitation.
    Deft is a power move; graceful is a risk.
    Deft aims to rise; graceful is how you fall.
    Deft is alone; graceful is together.

    Which would I rather be, intellectually deft, or spiritually graceful?
    The question feels like a prayer.

    Peace
    Milton

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