Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves’ eyes.
In each line I can smell the rise of love, the dusky glance in air, the longing, oh the longing. I can taste the need.
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
In reading it I feel almost dirty, witnessing something so private and yet so truly common, that of love, of two souls entwinned. The pride in that love. The surety.
Thou art all fair my love; there is no spot in thee.
Oh, the pride. The silly, blinding pride.
I haven’t really, truly touched a bible since I was a young teenager. Reared roman catholic, schooled unwillingly, I have always been more familiar with the words from that book than I was likely comfortable with. Or rather, I was familiar with the bits fed, the beige parts, the instructive parts. Burning bushes and fish and wine and zombies wandering down the road.
But I don’t remember my heart burning in recognition of that phantom feeling the Song of Solomon brings forth. (To be honest, I’m thinking that reading those lines to hormonal teenagers would set them over the edge. The more aware of them at least.) I don’t remember feeling so very wretched with beauty. I don’t remember any lines, ever, taking my breath away and filling me with a magic I scare thought existed.
I don’t remember anything making my blood sing so.
Sun dapples through leaves. My coffee is bitter and warm on my lips, it’s roughness sweetened so slightly on the edges to barely be there. Skin is bronze and browned, smooth with youth, gnarled with age. Words are in the wind as the ebb and flow of people come around and beside me. She wears a dress of purples and pinks, short to the knees, sleeves like bells, and her mouth quirks slight towards the heavens when she stares at her coffee date. The grey in his hair shines silver in the sun, glistening with the day.
There are black dogs, and white ones, big and small but all are loved in the arms of their masters this morning.
The sun comes and goes, and the song sings to me again and again.
His mouth is most sweet yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters if Jerusalem.
I am not drawn to faith. I ponder it, I envy it, I watch it from a distance and wonder what it must be like to be so full of such a certainty-even my faith in science, my knowledge of it, is tempered by the fact that even the light switch won’t work if I screw with the wiring or forget to change the blown fuse. I do not get the seeming blindness of faith, and do find myself drawn to understanding the workings of it.
And so I found myself reading The Cloister Walk. The author resides with Benedictines for awhile, and we read her experiences, set against a year of liturgy. A year of patterns I remember in my very being from youth, raised as I was. I may be an atheist, but some habits remain-even visiting a church, like the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaumont Chapel as my boyfriend and I did a few weeks back, I found myself almost genuflecting and crossing myself at the altar, completely unaware. It took an actual act of will, a thought to remind me that those actions had no place in my world.
This is how strong my mother’s catholicism was, truly. I wish I could say it was mine.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that in reading this book I feel the draw to the quiet places the author finds. I feel her draw into the words-she’s a poet after all, and understand simply how evocative words really are, how seductive they can be. Even in her own confusion and wonder about her place in the words, in the worship, she is able to give simply an understanding of how the words can be solace unto themselves.
This I get. Even as someone who has no draw to an other, no belief in something larger, I get the sparseness of the quiet she describes. Reading some of her selections through the book soothes even my heart. And gives me hope that I can find my own solace in words again, be it Anne Sexton or the bible or e.e. cummings. A reminder is what I needed, that words are a balm to my soul at it’s barest essential. Words are the spring to a winter’s heart.