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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


A Place of Inspiration - and a poem

Here's the thing about Laity Lodge. Normally, I have to buckle down to work. Keep myself focused with the BIC principle (get your "butt in the chair" and write).

Not at Laity Lodge. It's a thin place. The line between heaven and earth is fuzzy, and it almost seems like God is whispering to me. If I can just get quiet enough, I can almost hear him.

I guess that sounds cheesy or trite. Or maybe it sounds like marketing talk, but I'm not trying to get anyone to go to Laity Lodge here. Some places are just beautiful, and there is truth in the beauty.

So here's a poem I found there. I was listening to Ashley Cleveland and Kenny Greenberg in the room called "The Great Hall". And I thought of Beowulf. Grendel originally attacks Herot because he their music is too loud and joyful.

This one is for Ashley and Kenny. You two are the best.


Most middle class monsters retire
to a country estate or a ranch in the hills
if they aren’t slain by god-
like heroes mano e mano and exaggerated
onto the pages of high school English books.
Grendel, Jr., knows the truth.
“Dad was a hard case,” he says.
“But I still wasn’t ready to lose him.”
20th century shrinks tired his story out
on their couches. Now he shares it
just to fill silent spaces at parties.
“Gram and I were reading Genesis—
I liked the gold leaf letters,
the haloed icons in the margins.”
Gram liked the moral: “cursed to walk
the earth.” That’s hope. She’d wink at me.
“The earth will pass away—It’s gonna
die. Heaven, too. Us, too.” Who knew
prophecy could find its way into our dark
lake cave? Dad came on the heel of her
words, blood soaking his stump of an arm
and the crude tourniquet at his shoulder.
When curses lift, it hurts.
I hoped for love, but Dad died
in anger and fear. “Get them back.”
He coughed. “Make them pay.”
Not free, just gone. And Gram thought
she’d help hope, bring it home, fix it tea,
offer her life, too. So the hero came.
Dad was cold on the couch where I sat
and watched grandaddy’s sword grabbed.
Gram mounted it above the door when he left,
for safekeeping, she said, though none of us
expected him back from Nod. Is that why
she fought so slow? stretched her neck and bowed
her head before the man the call a hero?
“Come on, kid.” He held Gram’s head
in one hand and my wrist in the other.
Years later, I twisted his ring on my finger
while the dragon ate him. I did not lift
my grandaddy’s sword. It still hurts.

(On another note: I get to lead a poetry workshop this summer at a retreat where Ashley and Kenny will be leading the worship!) Posted by Picasa

I'm not going to claim that I totally get this, but I "get it" in the deeper places in my heart... and, there, it's stirring something strong. If you don't mind giving it away, I'd love to hear what memories inspired this.
Sure. It's a poem with a key to some extent. I guess I just need to provide more details about the key.

The poem imagines that Grendel had a son: Grendel, Jr.

Beowulf fights Grendel in the Herot and rips off his arm. Then Grendel crawls home and dies.

Grendel's mother takes vengence on Herot. Beowulf follows her back to her cave under the lake and kills her with a sword hanging on the wall. He chops her head off.

"Hurts" imagines what it might be like if Grendel had a son. What if Grendel, Jr. were watching. Beowulf kills the grandmother and invites the son to join him. Grendel Jr. does.

But he doesn't forget what Beowulf did to his family. Years later when Beowulf fights the dragon, his men desert him except for Wiglaf. The end of the poem imagines that Grendel Jr. is part of Beowulf's nobility (called the Witan). He has received a ring, but he doesn't help Beowulf--in order to get revenge for the loss of his family.

The bits about Genesis refer to the fact that Grendel was a son of Cane--cursed to walk the earth forever.

The poem depends upon a controlling allusion to Beowulf, but I should have been more clear.

On the other hand, feel free to read into it! As the author I only get to do so much in creating the text. The reader finishes the job. If they say it is about my feelings of betrayal toward my grandparents (all four drunks), then there may be some truth to that.
Oh, you were not unclear. I just don't know much about Beowulf (I remember reading it and realizing I would not appreciate all the things in my Lit. classes. :)

Yes, the feelings of betrayal come through. And, therein lies a great strength of the poem. (Besides just being so cool and creative!)

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