We continue the theme of the Teign and come up to date now with a poem by an American author and poet, Judy Hogan. This poem is number 27 in a book called Beaver Soul, a collection of meditations evoked by a closely observed world of nature ranging from the Haw River in North Carolina to the Russian countryside of Kostroma, and ending on the banks of the River Teign in Devon, England.
This was written on October 13th 1992 by the river Teign near Sandy Ford. So this is not strictly within the Teignmouth area but it is inspired by the river that makes Teignmouth what it is today. It is the first of three poems inspired by the Teign in the Beaver Soul collection; the others will be posted in future weeks.
Beaver Soul 27
And what is love? To be human
is to allow It to pierce you with
Its tender arrows, though you
feel certain you will die.
Only we don’t die. We live
more vividly. Life without Love
is like a stream bed through
which no water runs; like a
house without a clock that
chimes the hours so musically
that you wait eagerly for the
next one. Or like an afternoon
sitting on the bank of a small
river without sun to intensify
the green of grasses and mosses,
to lift the warm brown of the
sand, patient between the black
hulks of the rocks, into view.
You can have all the love you
want if you aren’t greedy; if
you can live with a certain number
of absurd hours in every day;
if you understand that sarcasm
on the beloved’s tongue is his
way of keeping himself from
aching too much; if you’re
clear about where your own
heart has rooted itself, no
matter how many miles from
home you are. After suffering,
and then paradox, and then
more suffering; after you’ve
yielded all the fruits, and watched
the leaves turn brown and drop
off, one after another; after
your blood has had to retreat
from the terrible, frozen wastes
of winter, and Zeus never pelted
his Greeks with ice like you’ve
had your soft skin pelted, then
you learn the truth of Love:
how it lives with its own whimsy
and its own secret power, beyond
thought, beyond reason, beyond
understanding. It doesn’t even
require to be fed or given to
drink in the long famine.
Drought It already knew about and
was prepared for. Memory held
It safe below the water’s surface.
You might be full of despair
but your heart, its roots
tucked into Love’s power, never
lost faith. It accepts Evil
and Good, the Hate that Love can
mask His face with. It bides
Its time. And Time, for Love,
is redemptive. The river has to
keep rushing, but the stones and
their mosses stay. The sand will
be there. The roots are persistent.
They know what we forget:
that only such tender moments
of clear-eyed seeing into each
other’s souls matter. Only
those times last. The rest passes,
like water. The sand may shift,
but it stays; it knows. The rocks
have their memory, too. And
every year the graceful grasses
stretch up because the sun,
of course, leans down.
Copyright© Judy Hogan
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Judy Hogan …..
Beaver Soul …..