April 20, 2014

Literary fortunes, Seamus Heaney, and art as a means to an end

For awhile, on my poetry tumblr site, I was doing these "poetry fortunes." So much better, really, than a stale, yellow cookie with a piece of advice or an obvious bit of information inside. I close m eyes, spin in a circle, run my fingers along the spines of my books, pull one down, let the pages fall where they will, and open my eyes. Whatever I find there, I mine for meaning and consider ways I might be able to apply it to my day or my life. Really, it's an interesting way to start a day, and it always makes for deep thinking during down time. This bit is from "Harvest Bow" by Seamus Heaney (one of my great literary loves). "The end of art is peace." It's a line that tugs at the corners of my brain because it could mean so many things. I consider the "means to an end" and that "end" being art...which invariably leads to a sort of "crazy" that is necessary to life. Without art, we cease to be human...we cease to seek peace, love, war.... In our hands, we hold the power of creation, and when we create well, we feel the satisfaction of our production. For me, it isn't the harvest bow, but rather a completed scrapbook full of important moments collected and arranged lovingly and artfully...or a poem...or, yes...even a blog post.

The Harvest Bow
As you plaited the harvest bow
You implicated the mellowed silence in you
In wheat that does not rust
But brightens as it tightens twist by twist
Into a knowable corona,
A throwaway love-knot of straw.

Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks
And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks
Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent
Until your fingers moved somnambulant:
I tell and finger it like braille,
Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable,

And if I spy into its golden loops
I see us walk between the railway slopes
Into an evening of long grass and midges,
Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in hedges,
An auction notice on an outhouse wall—
You with a harvest bow in your lapel,

Me with the fishing rod, already homesick
For the big lift of these evenings, as your stick
Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes
Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes
Nothing: that original townland
Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand.

The end of art is peace
Could be the motto of this frail device
That I have pinned up on our deal dresser—
Like a drawn snare
Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn
Yet burnished by its passage, and still warm. 

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