Throughout Things and Flesh, there is a wonderful sense of song, a kind of ringing up and down the scales of being. Here, Linda Gregg engages with the searches and findings of both the intellect and the body. This is poetry beautiful in its attention to the things and flesh of this world, to a life of passionate maturity and substance and the mysteries found within.
Loss is a constant companion in Things and Flesh as the poet explores what lesson can be found in "the way this new silence lasts." What all the poems accomplish is to carry the grief we must all by nature endure. They carry our grief across boundaries, over time, and perhaps even beyond, into what used to be called "salvation"--but which Gregg now indicates is instead the place where poetry is made. the consolations are hard won, but no less triumphant.
Things and Flesh is a collection that again demonstrates how, as Joseph Brodsky said of her earlier work, "The blinding intensity of Ms. Gregg's lines stain the reader's psyche the way lightning or heartbreak do."
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.28(d)|
About the Author
Linda Gregg's other books of poetry include Chosen by the Lion, The Sacraments of Desire, Alama, and Too Bright to See. Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Award. Gregg has traveled extensively, and is a bi-coastal resident of Marin County, California, and Northampton, Massachusetts.
Read an Excerpt
There is a modesty in nature. In the small
of it and in the strongest. The leaf moves
just the amount the breeze indicates
and nothing more. In the power of lust, too,
there can be a quiet and clarity, a fusion
of exact moments. There is a silence of it
inside the thundering. And when the body swoons,
it is because the heart knows its truth.
There is directness and equipoise in the fervor,
just as the greatest turmoil has precision.
Like the discretion a tornado has when it tears
down building after building, house by house.
It is enough, Kafka said, that the arrow fit
exactly into the wound that it makes. I think
about my body in love as I look down on these
lavish apple trees and the workers moving
with skill from one to the next, singing.
Something breaches the ocean of doctrine,
heaving sideways amid the splattering
and squall. Our assumptions harpooned
into the storm of being. The heft and slop
of consciousness beginning inside
what we call our life. And below,
under the roaring dark, is the silver sheen
and scale of silence. The spirit apart.
The whale of us gathering color to itself
all the gradations between black and white
according to what depth and the degree
of transparence. Rising and falling back.
Faith translated into muscle and invisible bone.
We and it joined like the scene painted over
and over on the ancientAthenian vases
of a man struggling with a fierce-jawed lion.
The ship of us battened down in the storm
of mystery. Always refracted. We are lashed
to our body. Swamped in the loving,
the pods of prayer, the seeds of finally.
Hot blood breathing far down, the harpoon
of the mind wedged in us, shaping.
Alone with the Goddess
The young men ride their horses fast
on the wet sand of Pangaritis.
Back and forth, with the water sliding
up to them and away.
This is the sea where the goddess lives,
angry, her lover taken away.
Don't wear red, don't wear green here,
the people say. Do not swim in the sea.
Give her an offering.
I give a coconut to protect
the man I love. The water pushes it back.
I wade out and throw it farther.
"The goddess does not accept your gift,"
an old woman says.
I say perhaps she likes me
and we are playing a game.
The old woman is silent,
the horses wear blinders of cloth,
the young men exalt in their bodies,
not seeing right or left, pretending
to be brave. Sliding on and off
their beautiful horses
on the wet beach at Pangaritis.
The Calves Not Chosen
The mind goes caw, caw, caw, caw,
dark and fast. The orphan heart
cries out, "Save me. Purchase me
as the sun makes the fruit ripe.
I am one with them and cannot feed
on winter dawns." The black birds
are wrangling in the fields
and have no kindness, all sinew
and stick bones. Both male and female.
Their eyes are careless of cold and rain,
of both day and night. They love nothing
and are murderous with each other.
All things of the world are bowing
or being taken away. Only a few calves
will be chosen, the rest sold for meat.
The sound of the wind grows bigger
than the tree it's in, lessens only
to increase. Haw, haw the crows call,
awake or asleep, in white, in black.
Calamities: Another Eden
Out beyond what we imagine.
Out beyond the familiar, leaving home
and being homeless. Breaching the seas,
foundering on a coast in the West,
searching along coastlines in the Far East.
The heart is left and leaves,
stands in each part of the farness
away from the other. Living in each
particular moment of the day,
of present claims and the careless claims
of always. The ocean pushes out,
pushes the heart into the unknown,
toward the middle of a self that yearns
and remembers. The spirit is rejected
and walks slowly out of another Eden.
An Eden that is not the heart,
is homelessness, is isolate. The heart
is gathered into the familiar nothingness
and held. Is held and sent forth.
In the way a seal drops into the water,
sliding like oil in its element.
Turns and rolls. What we call happiness.
The seasons change and change,
west and east, tropical and far
northern. What we call love.
Heaven is deep and deeper. We leave
and leave into the questing.
The Center of Intent
Is there a lesson in the way this new silence lasts?
Is it like the river's genius for making the water
the same shape constantly as it pours between
these two boulders? Is there some reason
why the bird is always hungry and the body
never gone? What explains the odor
of the sea grass here? Why must we bow down,
yield to the flowering? Maybe love is the Lord's trap.
Maybe He sees us as the tree leaning over the stream.
Perhaps He can't experience the difference between
our pain, our loneliness, and the heron flying
through the special silence at evening.
Not a Pretty Bird
She was not a nightingale
as the Greek said.
Philomela was a woman.
The sister of the new wife.
Raped, tongue cut out by the husband.
Not a swallow, not the bird of morning
and late evenings that end so swiftly.
Not a myth. She was a girl.
That is the story: the empty mouth,
the bloody breasts. The outrage.
Not the transformation.
She Writes to the Man Who Writes
of Her in His Poems
You tried to hide me in darkness,
tried to live half of your time with me
in the dark. You invented me.
Finally went back to your people.
Were obedient. Were received
with praise. But in the supermarket
you suddenly needed to know
where I was. Turned to face
each direction of the universe
there in the aisle. But nowhere
did anything return to you.
I am here in this morning
with your picture on the table,
leaning against a vase of flowers.
(One of them has fallen in my sleep.)
A bird is singing, repeating
itself over and over. And over.
The Spirit Neither Sorts nor Separates
There is a flower. We call it God.
It closes and opens and dies.
We still call it God. There is a stone
that does nothing and is still God.
Everything is of Heaven. There is mud
around the edge of the pond.
There are reeds, water lilies
and a few dragonflies. The pond is light
and dark and warm because of the sun.
Hidden fish. The air itself.
The bush outside is full of three and four
kinds of birds. Winter birds instead
of leaves. The snow over ground is enough.
The birds hopping and feeding
and departing are flowers,
a mouth singing, your heart the way it was.
Table of Contents
|Alone with the Goddess||5|
|The Calves Not Chosen||6|
|Calamities: Another Eden||7|
|The Center of Intent||8|
|Not a Pretty Bird||9|
|She Writes to the Man Who Writes of Her in His Poems||10|
|The Spirit Neither Sorts nor Separates||11|
|As Being Is Eternal||12|
|The Heart Flowing Out||14|
|The Empty Bowl||15|
|More than New||16|
|She Had Expected Something Else||17|
|So Different from Heaven||20|
|The Soul Ripening||21|
|Fish Tea Rice||22|
|Another Day in Paradise||23|
|Lovers in the Size of God'sHand||24|
|Heavy with Things and Flesh||25|
|A Thirst Against||26|
|The Limits of Desire||27|
|They Tell Me It's Over||29|
|How It Works||33|
|"Why does this city still retain / its ancient rights over my|
|thoughts and feelings?"||36|
|Trying to Tack||40|
|The Universe on Its Own||44|
|In the Half-Light||45|
|It Was Important||47|
|Paul on the Road to Damascus||48|
|The Old Songs||49|
|Old Pictures in a New Land||51|
|Like Lot's Wife||52|
|A Mountain Facing a Mountain||53|
|Music at a Distance||54|
|The Part Left Over||56|
|The Right People||58|
|Waking Up Happy||59|
|The Secrets of Poetry||60|
|The Tree Falling in a Vacant Forest||61|
|Deeper in the Jungle, the River Divides||62|
|Lost in the Heart||65|
|Ariadne Writes to Theseus at Random||66|
|Paying the Price||67|
|17399 Edgewood Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas||68|
|Finding the Way||69|
|A Kind of Victory||73|