Hermetic Memory

I wrote this a week ago when it was actually the first day of spring. So it would have made more sense to post it then, but my week ran away with me. Here I am seven days later, still freezing cold, damn unnatural to have the heat running this time of year, and not sure where the time went. In any case . . .

Today is the first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox, equal hours of daylight and darkness. We are perfectly balanced on the borderline. Pause. Hold the breath. Now exhale. What next? Gradually, more light.

What a weird way to begin our incremental slide toward summer. This morning is freezing cold. Not an auspicious beginning. My Bougainvillea has not decided if it’s dead or not. I am still waiting to see if those roots underground survived the hard freeze this past winter. Too soon to tell.

Here is Emily’s contribution:

#895, c. 1864

A Cloud withdrew from the Sky
Superior Glory be
But that Cloud and its Auxiliaries
Are forever lost to me

Had I but further scanned
Had I secured the Glow
In an Hermetic Memory
It had availed me now.

Never to pass the Angel
With a glance and a Bow
Till I am firm in Heaven
Is my intention now.

She announces her intention at the end. She will not take angels for granted until she lives among them in Heaven itself. I find this amusing because I don’t think Emily bought this idea of Heaven as a garden of nursery school delight, presided over by a God who resembles Santa Claus. I think she peered over the edge into nothingness, and she was not content to lie to herself that any story made up by humans could explain what lay on the other side.

So when Em goes on about Heaven and Angels, she is setting up a construct for us to see the pointlessness of capture. Holding an experience (or Glory) is like trying to hold onto a cloud. These slip through her hands. She says that if she had held the cloud in memory it might comfort her now. Isn’t she sealing up the cloud in an hermetic memory by writing the poem. No, the poem falls short of the cloud, always.

The moment of capture, the poem, also opens wide the sense of disappointment. The poem catches itself in a perpetual unfulfilled straining to hold the cloud that recedes forever into the sky. Try pursuing that glimmering mirage on the sunny road ahead. It looks like a reflecting pool. The moment you pursue it, the moment you put words to it, is the moment it evaporates.

Emily’s pose in the poem is to pretend to be disappointed. The last stanza that offers Angels in Heaven is the conventional fear-based story, made by humans to explain a mystery that defies human apprehension and language. From behind this mask, she asks: Can we watch the cloud go by? Can we deeply imbibe that glory and let it go without attempting to capture it? Can any one of us co-exist peacefully with this mystery, sensed but not known?

She’d like to leave it alone, but she can’t. The poet, despite herself and her better judgement, cannot stop peering into things that are none of her business. This is not the hell of being human but the hell of being Emily.

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