Zeven Kruiswoorden – abstract 2002 pigment en inkt op doek 90×90 cm
MY BRIGHT ABYSS
My God my bright abyss
into which all my longing will not go
once more I come to the edge of all I know
and believing nothing believe in this.
And there the poem ends, Or fails, rather, for in the several years since I first Wrote that stanza I have been trying to feel my way-to will my way-into its ending. Poems in general are not especially susceptible to the will, but this one, for obvious reasons, has proved particularly intractable. As if it weren’t hard enough to articulate one’s belief, I seem to have wanted to distill it into a single stanza. Still, that is the way I have usually known my own mind, feeling through the sounds of words to the forms they make, and through the forms they make to the forms of life that are beyond them. And I have always believed in that “beyond,” even during the long years when I would not acknowledge God. I have expected something similar here. I have wanted some image to open for me, to both solidify my wavering faith and ramify beyond it, to say more than I can say.
In truth, though, what I crave at this point in my life is to speak more dearly what it is that I believe. It is not that I am tired of poetic truth, or that I feel it to be somehow weaker or less true than reason, The opposite is the case. Inspiration is to thought what grace is to faith: intrusive, transcendent, transformative, but also evanescent and, all too often, anomalous. A poem can leave its maker at once more deeply seized by existence and, in a profound way, alienated from it, for as the act of making ends-as the world that seemed to overbrim its boundaries becomes, once more, merely the world-it can be very difficult to retain any faith in that original moment of inspiration at all. The memory of that momentary blaze, in fact, and the art that issued from it, can become a reproach to the fireless life in which you find yourself most of the time. Grace is no different. (Artistic inspiration is sometimes an act of grace, though by no means always.) To experience grace is one thing; to integrate it into
your life is quite another. What I crave now is that integration, some speech that is true to the transcendent nature of grace yet adequate to the hard reality in which daily faith operates. I crave, I suppose, the poetry and the prose of knowing.
Wiman, Christian, My Bright Abyss. Meditation of a Modern Believer, New York 2013 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)