God Lights His Candles
Sunday, October 28, 2012
God Lights His Candles Poems By Dorothy Morris
God Lights His Candles
By Dorothy Morris
With an Introduction by Sam Cornish
Review by Dennis Daly
Today’s society undervalues serenity and that is too bad. In other eras serenity has flourished as a positive concept promoting sometimes poetry and sometimes prayer and sometimes merging the two. Francis of Assisi, for example, could not have written his revolutionary Canticle of the Sun, combining both pagan pantheism and Christian monotheism, unless his soul centered on sereneness and a profound sereneness at that.
Dorothy E. Morris in her book of poems, God Lights His Candles, draws from an obvious reservoir of spiritual serenity to compose her quicksilver images of natural and ritual happiness. Her poem Images is a good starting point. Like all good imagistic poetry her three subjects interest us with texture and emotion. Here’s the first image,
On a looping wire
Myriad starlings squat
Like black Majorca pearls.
The second image turns ducks into a line of obedient monks. Did I mention that serenity can, but need not, be eremitic? The poet puts a little twist in the third image,
It’s been three years,
I saw a crimson cardinal.
Was it you?
The sadness at a glimpse of that flamboyant bird offered here has no sharp edges. Serenity persists.
In Spring: Beach Walk the poet turns the sun into a toddler playing hide and seek, then, as he carries the burden of original sin, sends him on his way seeking redemption. The poem ends with these lines,
Out of darkness
Night to light
Traversing the way
In search of
In our modern world bringing up grace as a poetic motif doesn’t happen. Brave woman!
I don’t believe the poem July Benediction works well independently. However it does further the context and sets up what comes after. By the way, the first four lines of this poem do create a wonderful stand-alone image. Here they are,
The sails are coming down.
Sun is waning.
Morris’ version of serenity again does not exclude melancholy. But it is a considered thoughtful melancholy. In Elegy the poet says,
Was it only the fear of ice
Or the cold to come
That brought sudden despair?
Or something deeper,
A long-ago September
When summer ended,
Bringing regret, guilt or grief.
The poem entitled Advent 2007 takes place within the confines of the poet’s car. While listening to the Magnificat sung by the Mormon Temple Choir, she meditates on the sun’s reflection on the bay’s surface in front of her. Images of her childhood are recalled and the lost cleanliness that the water of baptism offered, and that strange word “grace” shows up again. Morris explains,
In my car mirror I watch the sun
Reflecting on the water of the bay
I think: grace
How one might dip one’s fingers
In the water
Or naked, immerse oneself
In the icy pool
To be clean.
Another poem which speaks of rebirth is After The Storm: Winter 2007-2008. It begins with childhood observations touched with pagan magic and then proceeds to adult images gleaned after a Nor’easter had struck. Once again a hint of sadness: the poet likens the iced up trees to a heart’s brittleness. On the other hand even the “the dead of winter” becomes a hopeful time of promise in this poet’s eyes. Morris says,
Why do they call it
The Dead of Winter?
When the tiniest blade
And one can and must hope.
In Changeling the poet gives us a compelling image of the ocean personified. Morris speaks from memory of the sea’s many moods: the rage, the tempest, and the thunderous roar. The scene then changes to the present. The poet concludes,
With the sun shining on you,
You seem almost serene,
As with a sigh
You glide gracefully to shore
Notice the use of the word “gracefully.” These pieces are most assuredly imagist poems with a spiritual bent.
All religions use symbols in their rituals. Sometimes these symbols become so powerful they merge into the reality that they represent. Transubstantiation is one of them. Morris borrows this symbol from Catholicism in her poem Eucharist. Then she does something different. She describes the ordinary transference of the host from priest to communicant in a way that transforms her into a mother of divinity, a Madonna. Morris accomplishes this with these simple lines,
I hold the Host
Making a cup.
Like Mother Mary
I lift him up.
Another poem set in church is Holy Thursday. The poet begins in a tangle of trees, a pagan setting and ends at evening Mass where she observes the regeneration of human- kind. The poet marvels,
In the pew before us
A small blonde woman in a loose blouse
Her husband turns to look at her
Then gently, reverently pats her belly.
In the poem All Hallows Eve the poet espies one more mother and child moment. A three year old child hops off his bicycle and offers his nearby mother two dandelions. The poet continues,
“For you, Mom,” he said proudly.
She laughed, “Two weeds.”
“Lucky you,” I called to her.
Sometimes I wonder if God is three years old.
Neat finish. Nice sentiment.
Now find that quiet spot within your selves and give Morris’ book a try.
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