Sacred Space

26 Apr

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Tuesday found me at the home and garden of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, the first Virginian and first African American to be included in the Norton Anthology of American Literature. The experience in real-time:

I sit this afternoon in a writer’s space. . .writing within the living green and peaceful solitude of spring flowers tucked into the heart of my city.

This tiny town yard turned oasis is a sacred space. This place of pausing is a world unlike the one of home and dishes and laundry and care to the needs of others where there is an implied attentiveness to things in the space of daily living. For the words to come, for the Beloved to appear, space is needed, a space within and a space without.

The late afternoon sends forth its exhalation in couched comfort. Two dark birds land, dip themselves into the garden bowl, fluffing marbled chestnut and blueblack coats within the puddled basin filled with rain. We all bathe. . .a world apart from the visible world in a nested space of present being.

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Inside the house walks an echo of gentle strength, this poet woman, a settled wisdom that holds my hand and rubs my tired shoulders. An imagined half love links our mutual world of words. A love slow and content.

She says …All in good time, baby. In time….

I imagine waking here in the mornings, the sun is streaming in the back windows across white muslin sheets and knobby cotton chenille spreads. A gospel humming down the hall and the shuffle of slippered feet on creaking stairs signals my own slow rise. The edges of a pink picoteed cotton nightgown slips up above my boney knee. Morning breeze, not warmer than the skin will bear, nor filled with a humid heaviness trails me to the bathroom where silver spouts empty into the footed porcelain tub. A radio in the kitchen calls up the back stairwell, coffee curled into its chicory drawl…

Hear the past, the song is old
The summer days are through
With silver threads among the gold
They still say, “I love you“. . .

My skin, damp gooseflesh in the slightly chilled air, bundles into a chintz robe. First, some puffs of lilac Tre-Jur, then a crisp ironed cotton dress. No shoes on these dark bare waxed floors, warmed by the morning sun. Walking through the foyer, the parlor, the dining room,  my soles now slide onto cool kitchen parquet. Coffee fumes  from the pot in woodsy waves. Cup, hot milk, and froth in tiny bubbles is pure sweetness in a Jadeite cup. Tasks today must wait until I unpack these musings, this conscious tangle, a setting to rights the order of things within the mind and soul. Then, to the work of hands, an endless list of daily doings that occupy a woman.

Shall I coddle an egg? Toast a slice of yesterday’s bread to dip in the rich yellow yolk, half thickened in the shell? Or shall I coat the buttered brown corners in sunshine marmalade? Late spring moves down the open hall from front lawn to back, the doors of this red earth Shaker house open like the sky to the sounds of the neighborhood dogs and birds, a purring motor, a fading song.

Day is shining over the fence. Tree limbs lift to catch the joy of delphinium daylight in their long stretching.  Draping wisteria and tulips with cupped white and lavender laced edges enjoy the afternoon sun. Nasturtium petal tongues taste the green blue breeze.

A Lover Muses
Flame-flower, Day-torch, Mauna Loa,
I saw a daring bee, today, pause, and soar,
into your flaming heart;
Then did I hear crisp crinkled laughter
as the furies after tore him apart?
A bird, next, small and humming,
looked into your startled depths and fled…
Surely, some dread sight, and dafter
than human eyes as mine can see,
set the stricken air waves drumming
in his flight.

Day-torch, Flame-flower, cool-hot Beauty,
I cannot see, I cannot hear your fluty
voice lure your loving swain,
But I know one other to whom you are in beauty
born in vain;
Hair like the setting sun,
her eyes a rising star,
motions gracious as reeds by Babylon, bar
all your competing;
Hands like, how like, brown lilies sweet,
cloth of gold were fair enough to touch her feet…
Ah, how the senses flood at my repeating,
as once in her fire-lit heart I felt the furies
beating, beating.

Seated in turquoise reed, feeling this sacred space, I write next to a tiny house of poetry. Small enough to keep well, a space to call one’s own. One chair sits back from a mahogany desk, the plain of cool, smooth leather with gold flocked edges glows under a lamp. A bell glass shade holds flame against the shaded window light, just right. . .page. . . pen. . .word. . .soul.

Why does time move so slowly in the house of Oneself? Perhaps solitude is the closest earthly echo of the Infinite, the closest we come to the heavens down here upon the crowded shore. A poet persistently elbows for a space within to find a garden, eternally apart from life.

Emerging from the house wherein She dwells,  Beloved arrives.

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