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Poetry feeds the Soul

February 15, 2012

This is stuff that feeds the soul: the scripture, the liturgy, and the poetic/prophetic imagination. As I am sinking into Tomas Transtromer, 2011 Nobel Prize Winner, I find myself living with short phrases:

… The people are sleeping:

some can sleep peacefully, others have drawn features

as if training for eternity.


He struggled to make himself free

from a slumbering green picture,

to come at last to the shore

and be one with his own shadow.

I am captured, and wasted, this evening by a poem from 1962 called “A WINTER NIGHT.” We have had very little snow, but lots of wind, this year. Living in a new home (not yet our own and still holding its secrets), through our second winter, with a five year old who has already experienced Huricane Irene and devastated trees, this poem made the concerns that can be as large as my life (comforting my child) seem both tiny and all encompassed in the light of an eternity that has a claim on my eternal now.

I also cannot forget that in scripture, the Holy Spirit can sometimes appear as a mighty wind and storm, shaking the foundations of our lives: “When you blow through your people on the rush of a wind.”  Ah, Lent is coming – the time of great change.


The storm puts its mouth to the house

and blows to produce a note.

I sleep uneasily, turn, with shut eyes

read the storm’s text.


But the child’s eyes are large in the dark

and for the child the storm howls.

Both are fond of lamps that swing.

Both are halfway toward speech.


The storm has childish hands and wings.

The Caravan bolts toward Lapland.

And the house feels its own constellation of nails

holding the walls together.


The night is calm over our floor

(where all expired footsteps

rest like sunk leaves in a pond)

but outside the night is wild.


Over the world goes a graver storm.

It sets its mouth to our soul

and blows to produce a note. We dread

the storm will blow us empty.


First published in the collection The Half-Finished Heaven, and appearing now in The Great Enigma: new collected poems, which represents all of Transtromer’s published poetry.

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