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Tom Sturch

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Watch what happens in this lovely poem by Karen An-Hwei Lee:

Dream of Ink Brush Calligraphy

In prayer:

quiet opening,

my artery is a thin

shadow on paper—

margin of long grass,

ruderal hair, sister to this

not yet part of our bodies

your lyric corpus of seed

in rough drafts of pine ash,

chaogao or grass calligraphy

in rough drafts of pine ash—

your lyric corpus of seed

not yet part of our bodies:

ruderal hair, sister to this

margin of long grass,

shadow on paper,

my artery is a thin

quiet opening

in prayer.        

Do you see? The end mirrors the beginning. It is a palindrome working phase by phrase.

Poems like this require considerable forethought for the writer as the reading transforms the way the reader reads. There is a moment in the middle when everything changes as punctuation and comparative meanings remake both sides. There is instant engagement with the formation and transformation of the content. It takes on a spatial quality. There is continuity and contrast. There is the rise and fall of story. Memory and discovery are integrated. Even more, a conversation starts. A way is lit. Details expand and time slows. The ordinary is made extraordinary.

A story is told in which the post-resurrection/pre-ascension Jesus is talking to a couple of disciples, but they do not recognize him. He explains the events of his crucifixion in light of Old Testament history and later breaks the dinner bread as he had at the last supper. At this, the disciples knew him, and then he disappeared. Is it because the the disciples couldn't see him, or rather in that moment, they were suddenly seeing everything through him? Do you ever think about what is written in the middle of your story? How it lets you see?

(Photo by Bruce Kirby)