Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Spiritual Life

I don't often read poetry, but I am a big fan of the work of the Jewish poet Merle Feld, author of the poem "We All Stood Together."

Her poems have always resonated with me as a Jewish woman, even more so as I grow older and can relate to her experiences of love, motherhood, and the pressures of life.

As part of my professional work (remember that?) I recently interviewed her for the MyJewishLearning blog, Mixed Multitudes. Here's an excerpt:

My writing poetry started with the need to express feelings, mostly sorrow that wouldn’t go away, and I found gradually that writing poetry eased the pain in my heart, naming pain was soothing, comforting to me. (it’s that ability to name pain that is part of what people appreciate in my work I think). In the early years poems would come and take me by surprise and I was frankly rather embarrassed that I had no idea how I had written them, or how I might craft them. I wrote down deep feelings - about miscarriage, early intense love, women coming alive in Jewish tradition because we willed ourselves a life - lots of poems on subjects “traditional” poets would never have deemed worthy or of interest. Read more...

And I simply had to share this poem of Merle's from her book A Spiritual Life, because it made me cry. Which isn't hard to do if you're a man, or an overwrought television drama. But is pretty impressive for a poem.

I have spent half a lifetime
sitting in this chair
looking out this window
watching to see
if anyone was being mean
to you. I never thought
to sit in this chair
and look out this window
just for the pleasure
of observing you at play.

And now you are a tall girl
with a woman's body,
too old to play in public.
And now the moment to watch for pleasure is gone.
And I grieve for all the watching I never caught
you in a single moment
of simple childish pleasure,
not that I can recall.


Maya said...

Nice post!
I also really like Marge Piercy's "The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme." Here's a except from the title poem: "But the discipline of blessings is to taste/each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet/and the salty, and be glad for what does not/hurt. The art is in compressing attention/ to each little and big blossom of the tree/of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit/its savor, its aroma and its use."

Gluckel of Manhattan said...

I read Merle's book last year, and was unbelievably affected (and honestly, spiritually renewed) by her writing. I then had a chance to met her and discovered a giggly, energetic woman who was just profoundly human. I am glad you wrote this!