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Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Well there it is.  There’s nothing to do.
The cat steals the milk and it’s gone.
Then the cat steals you, and you’re found
Days later, with milk on your face.

That implies that you become whoever
Steals you.  The trees steal a man,
And an old birch becomes his wife
And they live together in the woods.

Some of us have always wanted
God to steal us.  Then our friends
Would call each other, and print
Posters, and we would never be found.

I love this poem, not least, I think, because I am one of those people who have always wanted to be stolen by God.  Karl Rahner, in his Foundations of Christian Faith, talks about transcendence as, “in its origin and from the very beginning the experience of being known by God himself.” (p. 58)  It is like negative theology, which says that in the end all we can know about God is that we know nothing about God.  Now I don’t buy into that completely (and, thank heavens, neither did Thomas Aquinas), but I do think when it comes to journeying towards God, God always started towards us the day before we started to think we might like to take a trip.  We can never get the jump on God.  He always loved us first.

I also enjoy the poem’s matter of fact towards life, and unblinking acceptance of the supernatural working in and through the natural world.  It progresses smoothly but without a hitch from a cat stealing milk to a cat stealing a person, then to a man being stolen by trees who then marry him of to one of themselves, and ultimately to a person being stolen by God and the person’s friends putting up Missing Person posters.  It’s wonderful.  Part of this effect is accomplished by Bly’s choice of very common, short, everyday words.  The only words over two syllables in the whole poem are “whoever” and “together” in the second stanza.  Although what Bly is discussing is rather high metaphysics, he uses a very plain, conversational, almost prosey style.  In a way this makes the poem seem even more deep and meaningful.  Because the concepts are not gussied up with flourishes or refined and scholarly language, they shine through with all their own original power.  It’s a good lesson to learn, perhaps, that the bigger the idea that you’re talking about, the more you can use plain language.

This poem is also very interesting for its line breaks.  Because of Bly’s prosey style in this piece, they become crucial to the success of the poem.  Although the first two lines of the poem are end-stop lines, every other line in the poem that does not end a stanza is enjambed.  The enjambment keeps the eye moving, stopping you from ceasing to read before the poem has laid out an entire thought.  The organization of the poem into three stanzas of four lines each also helps distinguish between the three main ideas, smoothing the transition between them.  When a new stanza begins, the reader knows to expect a new idea.

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