Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Broken Bottle by the Side of the Road

A couple of people remarked about the image of the light of God being reflected and shining through, not only the "stained glass saints", but also the saints whose lives are more like broken bottles, lying by the side of the road.

After I had written that, I went back to a poem I vaguely remembered. It is by Robert Penn Warren, from Or Else, Poem/Poems, 1964-1974. (p. 11-12)

. . .

A new high-/

way is under construction. Crushed rock has/

been spread for miles and rolled down. On Sunday,/

when no one is there, go and stand on the/

roadbed. It stretches before your eyes in-/

to distance. But fix your eyes firmly on/

one fragment of crushed rock. Now, it only/

glows a little, inconspicuously/

one might say. But soon, you will notice a

slight glittering. Then a marked vibration/

sets in. You brush your hand across your eyes,/

but, suddenly, the earth underfoot is/

twitching. Then, remarkably, the bright sun/

jerks like a spastic, and all things seem to/

be spinning away from the univer-/

sal center that the single fragment of/

crushed rock has ineluctably become.

At this point, while there is still time and will,/

I advise you to detach your gaze from/

that fragment of rock. Not all witnesses/

of the phenomenon survive unchanged/

the moment when, at last, the object screams/

in an ecstasy of/


Sort of combines a lot of spiritual elements:



fear/courage in perceiving what is real,

pain/ecstasy of being real,


being changed and, of course,

the center of the universe.

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