Bare Bones Biology 032 – Life as a Poem

The other day I was feeling down in the dumps, so someone suggested I should think of my life as a poem. He didn’t say what kind of poem. The first one that popped into my head was:

“White cat shedding.
Cat hair

I think the good poet writes from the deepest part of her soul, and if that’s true, I hope I’m not a good poet with a soul full of cat hair. But I don’t believe we have control over the deepest part of our soul. Maybe great poets do, but I doubt it. The greatest poet probably is the one who can see the rhythm and beauty of her soul, and the ugliness and pain, and channel them out into words. Channel them from the deepest part of her soul into her computer, print them out and hang them on the refrigerator with a magnet that has a picture of the whole living earth on it.

I have three poems on my refrigerator. They’re too long to read in my five minutes here, but the titles are: “Poem” by Mary Oliver; “This Talking Rag” by Hafiz; and “Not in Our Name.” And a poem I wrote about a rainbow. A real, lovely memory. I often read my refrigerator.

I also have several pictures on the refrigerator. The green, living earth from space, a crystalline drop of water on a green blade of grass, a grandfather with his twin grandsons, and a woman about to be engulfed by the Asian tsunami of 2004. If I could pick one painting to hang on my wall, it would be the horse market by Rosa Bonheur, or Van Gogh’s flowers. But we also must recognize the truth of The Scream, by Edvard Muench.

For photographs, a favorite was taken by an independent war photographer in Iraq. His name is Zoriah, and he has a web site, but of course that particular picture is no longer there. I’ll put a copy on my blog.

Great art illuminates a snatch of real truth, in a world of fake fronts. Facades. That’s why we like it. Great art is a process of recognizing reality; not creating it. Reality is what it is, and the artist somehow captures its essence. We don’t make the poems. Life does. We only catch them.

Life flows through the ecosystem in the genetic code that tells every little cell when and where and how to do its job to keep the body alive and well. We merely pass it along, millennium upon millennium.

Do we believe we made “our” baby? If so, we’re delusional. We don’t make life. We share it. Or maybe we gift it. And we cherish it. Or we don’t. We hold this gift in our bodies, and in our deepest soul for a time. But it is the ecosystem that protects, nurtures and maintains physical life. Not us. Individually and collectively, we are nothing more than little drops of life in an interacting evolutionary flow. We depend for our lives on the other little drops and the whole of life, very much in the same way that a red blood cell is just the tiniest bit of a flow of blood that energizes our bodies, interactively with all the other body parts to give life to us.

We owe our lives to the DNA that informs every living part of the eco-system. We can cherish that fact. If we are a great artist we can sing its praises or its pain. We can participate in maintaining its health, or we can fight over the scraps of its malaise. But we cannot control it.

Thank God.

(Iraqi photo by Zoriah,
(Bryan Photo by Lynn)

One Response

  1. Below are comments written on the copy of this post that I stuck on the bulletin board at The Village.

    I said above: “channel them into words.” Response: “No, I disagree. The great poet keeps the reality a secret. The secret goes beyond the intellect (words), because there are no names in this place to translate this deep secret into words is to experience true pain. To write poetry from this place is like describing a shadow, not the real object. The pain is beautiful: the reed flute longs for the reed bed when it sings.”

    I said:Art is a process of recognizing reality, not creating it. Answer:
    “I don’t know if we can capture the essence? The essence is the reality of reality. But if we hold a mirror to this reality, is the essence contained in the mirror, or is it just a reflection?”

    “Don’t stop at physical symptoms. Let them be your mirrors, or symbols. Go deeper.

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