Monday, June 05, 2006

Dustin Becker Responds to Lynn Martin

The Breath, the Eye

The star’s collapse into a black hole
is a quiet apocalypse. The devastation
is infinite, invisible and inescapable.

But deep within the well, where reality breaks down
and all matter is pure energy, something survives,
and is exhaled into space in a plume light-years long.

Light orbits the event horizon, a crown encircling
the broken heart of space-time. Beyond this rim,
a little escapes. We have never witnessed this,

but imagine, among the stars, a luminous ring, a halo.

-Dustin J. Becker,

The poem first grew from ruminations on Ms. Martin’s “Tenth Elegy” and its opening four lines: “How heavy the star. How final its collapse./ The physicists have no answer. The star/ endlessly crushes itself into a tiny speck,/ that place where time and space disappear…” The black hole, of course, is a powerful metaphor for desolation and grief, but I wanted to bring more than just the ravages of cosmic destruction to my emulation. You mentioned last week that some of your favorite poems are the ones in which disaster seems all around, though suddenly there is a moment of calm, of hope. Travis said much the same thing while we were discussing Ms. Martin’s book. So, while the poem does not seem to be about any particular person or occasion, I’ve tried to create an elegiac mood here meant to capture that final moment of hope, mercy even. The image of mercy breaks through particularly in lines 7&8; the picture I had in my mind while writing was the image of the Sacred Heart from Catholic iconography: a heart aflame and radiant, surrounded and pierced by the crown of thorns, a reminder of the Passion and the redemptive work it accomplished. The poem, though, is not meant to be a literal description of the icon; rather, the icon is an unspoken and hidden idea lending support to the theme I had already established. The selection of the terminal word “halo” may, or may not be, in keeping with that theme. I can’t give away all my secrets. Let the reader make his own amen.

A final note: I’ve had some difficulty thinking of a decent title; the present one is only provisional. Suggestions are welcome.

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