Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Between mountain and sea

They wound me and bless me
with strange gifts

The salt of absence
The honey of memory

I wonder how many people these days feel the resonance of the words wound and bless that occur at the climax of this deceptively simple poem? (the full text is a couple of posts back) There was a time when almost everyone would have recognized that the words, used in conjunction, have a religious significance. I cannot hear them without thinking of the images of Jesus that haunted my Catholic childhood, one hand raised in blessing, the other indicating a chest apparently split by a gaping wound which reveals a beating heart within, and which echoes that other wound, the one in Jesus's side which Thomas felt obliged to test by inserting his fingers.

Strangely though, I stopped believing in God when I was seven years old, about the time when I made my first confession and God took no punitive action when I failed to admit all my sins. I then proceeded to take my first communion with my soul still stained. I say strangely because I find it hard to imagine myself as a seven-year-old taking that decision about the nature of the universe, and yet I know for sure that I did. And I subsequently continued my career as an altar-boy, both at the local church and in the convent behind our house where I served Mass every morning for several years, absorbing incense and Latin in equal quantities, but the sky never did fall on my head.

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