Daniel Tobin is the author of eight books of poems, Where the World is Made, Double Life, The Narrows, Second Things, Belated Heavens (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, 2011), The Net (2014), From Nothing (2016), and Blood Labors (2018). The New York Times named Blood Labors one of the Best Poetry Books of the year for 2018. He is also the author of the critical studies Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, Awake in America and On Serious Earth: Poetry and Transcendence, a collection of essays. He is the editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, The Selected Poems and Lola Ridge, Poet's Work, Poet's Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art, and To the Many: The Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge. The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the poetry of Paul Celan, appeared from Salmon Poetry (Ireland). Among his awards are the “The Discovery/The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Julia Ward Howe Award, and creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.
From “AT THE GRAVE OF TEILHARD DE CHARDIN”
No, you do not ask anything unattainable of me. You merely, through your revelation and your grace, force what is most human in me to become conscious of itself at last. Humanity was sleeping—it is still sleeping—imprisoned in the narrow joys of its little closed loves.
Teilhard de Chardin
To fall forward stage by stage till the end of the world,
that’s what he would say, my old friend with his kit-box
and breviary, his pack of Jobs, him chain-smoking them
year in year out from Tientsin to Transvaal, field notes
and skulls, his eyes keen for every jigsaw bit of bone,
Sinanthropus, Australopithicus, Miocene, Pleistocene,
all the way to this later infancy, this thinking envelope
of consciousness expanding, he held, like a living net—
one mind woven with all minds, drawn to the Ahead.
At Chou-Kou-Tien I’d use crayons to track sediment
with colors on my note-pad; he would keep gradations
like prisms in his head—drawings sharp as photographs.
Nights, at the fire, we would talk of his God of Tension
that carries the species on through every random spur.
Like that time on the steps of the Yamen, when a mule
struck him with its hind leg on the temple—the blister
the size of a bloody pigeon’s egg—he quoted Li Po:
“It’s as hard to travel in Szechuan as to climb to Heaven.”
And when my son died, near his own death, he wrote:
“I am convinced what looks like meaningless catastrophe
transforms itself into blessing,” And even those graves
at Tsinling, no stones, no names? Look at the hands,
spit-painted on cave walls, as if raised to brace a fall: No.
They’re moving, they’re making their way through rock.
The language of wings even in the hold of my nets
eluded me, was the limit for this listener: swallowtails
in brush lands when we’d leave behind the concession
to venture beyond the Great Wall into the Ordos.
And “Teh,” as the locals called him, always thinking,
working borderlands between spheres of knowledge,
his science, his mysticism. Strange, to watch him eying
the escarpments, where Pei found the treasured skull
in travertine, so proficient in the past, still so pitched
to the future, what he saw to be the end of distances
where across infinities of scale the whole ensemble,
risen out of the random, from instinct into thought,
converges to its final cause. As for me, I collected
and prayed, expert in the language of what’s required,
and built the needed thing in the time it was needed:
my museum, born out of the practicum of expedition,
not the wisps of vision. No wonder we sometimes
nearly came to blows. Still, technically, were one blest
to see down the bottom gneiss of things, see through
the layers like elemental parts of a language—words,
syllables, letters—to glimpse at once a substantial form
that had wrested mountains from the near nothing
below their base, sentience from loaded chemical dice,
persons from bacterium, would one not kneel in praise?
Marguerite-Marie “Guigite” de Chardin
When I read the draft of his Milieu I knew the mirror
of my life in his had found new life in it, that sickness
never comes to diminish, but quickens God’s own life
in us, us in God’s life. As he reflects, “Death’s the sum
of all our diminishments, though we overcome death
by finding God in it.” And so, it was for Alberic, Louise,
for Francoise, Gabriel, for us all, and my own affliction
a kind of brute spectacle that begets the inner flowering
that was my life at Sarcenat, as the Sacred Heart blazed
in the foyer, as it did when we were children, my body
bedridden thirty years, my life his dreamt Imitatio Cristi
while my dear brother crossed, crisscrossed continents
unerringly errant, arrow to my base on a compass rose.
As in de Hooch’s imagined Delft, two figures travel
in mirror passages, one away from, one into the light,
or like mirror particles, chiral, contrarily handed, light,
again, invariant until its symmetry shatters ahead, so it is
in this looking glass world of scattered entanglements.
When I died, it was as though he was looking at Earth
from an immense distance, blue atmosphere, the green
of vegetation, then ever-more luminous—thought itself,
then ever deeper: the darkness of suffering, growing
sharper with consciousness, the widening inflorescence.
And God gazing out, gazing in at the flung reflections.
Nicole Ann Law
Nicole Ann Law is a Catholic podcaster with a love for storytelling. Her repertoire ranges from short prose and poetry to multiple podcasts to amplify His Glory. Focused on bringing His human face to others through real stories of struggle and hope, Nicole gently leads her audience into reflecting and looking inward to move forward. Join her in this wonderful journey to bring the reality of His presence to others on Spotify at nourishthesoul.
The artist births meaning from what already exists, which traces its source to
the Creator himself. The Master artist himself created each person in His image
and likeness and constructed the very tools the artist uses. Rather than an individual pursuit of beauty, the artistic endeavour is an act of co-creation and cooperation with the One who brought everything into being.
The created work is an expression of grace, an ineffable encounter with the
Divine. It is not I who paints or draws or dances. I am a vessel for the Spirit to
work through me.
His heart is a ripened fruit, yielding to slight pressure, cut open to give life to all
who hunger. His is the soft voice that calms the storm brewing. His are the soft hands welcoming the tired soul home past midnight. His heart is also the burnished steel rod, unyielding to the fire, slicing through the unruly undergrowth. His is the strong arm that holds the sky secure. His are the shoulders that bear my burden gladly in the shape of a wooden cross.