Two years ago during Lent i discovered a poem cycle that has carved itself into my bones.
It appeared in the Rabbit Room’s first installation of their annual literary journal, the Molehill. i had been reading along, a piece here and a piece there—fiction, essay, recipe, poetry—and when i came to this particular work i could read no further. It was called “In the Year of Jubilation,” and was comprised of an introduction and fourteen poems. Somewhere in the reading of these poems i started crying. i had no idea why.
The next night i picked up the Molehill again, intending to read the next piece, but i couldn’t. i reread the Jubilations, and again i wept through them. i read those poems every night for a week. Every night the tears started at a different place, but they always started. Over the last two and a half years they have broken and healed me countless times. They inform my prayers. And i still cannot express what they mean to me or why i am crying.
This year at Hutchmoot i brought (and within a half-hour had sold) a little stack of paperback Budge-Nuzzards. i have been selling these for a couple of years now, at first by accident and now on purpose. But nustled within my sidebag i also packed a little handbound hardback of the Jubilations for the Mootmaster and Jubilations-poet, Pete. (Is it any wonder that he is my Patronus?) He marveled over it, called his wife over to see it, and then asked the question i had been hopefully and nervously wondering if he would ask: “Are you going to bind and sell these?” i fumbled through turning the question back to him. They’re his. The Budge-Nuzzard is freely available online, but the Jubilations are out of print. i wouldn’t think to sell them without his consent—but the world needs these poems. i need them. i will be needing them for a long, long while yet. And he gave me permission.
These perfect little flickers, these candle-flames, will not be lost. i am so grateful.
Coming in November from Weem Adrift Publishing
In the Year of Jubilation (from the Book of Found Verse)
by A.S. “Pete” Peterson
i have no idea how to edit poetry. It feels like nonsense. Isn’t poetry a matter of my heart springing up? Can such a thing be edited? Well, yes, and i am going to attempt it. In this post, i will transcribe a poem i have just written, a first draft. i know there’s something wrong with it. In particular, i don’t care for the third strophe. So i will come back to it over and over until i am satisfied with it, and i will post that process here so that i don’t get distracted and forget that i mean to work on this.
i wake in the waking of the world.
The darkness flees the coming of the voice of the L-RD.
i yawn. i stretch my arms.
i watch the light come.
He calls it sun.
We dance, this world and i, to watch Him work.
We spin again, and the shoots leap up.
All is golden, all is green.
The darkness comes again and again,
But it is not fearful now.
It is restful, peaceful, safe,
and morning comes again
to say that all is well.
All is joy.
We spin again, this world and i,
and wonders rise and fill the earth.
i leap for wonder, laugh with pleasure.
And when we spin again,
a new thing yawns.
He stretches his arms.
So like the L-RD in countenance,
so unlike in form; his glory is reflected.
And i love him.
Astute readers may find allusions to two Petersons in this poem. It sort of just happens. We’ll see if those bits survive the editing process. Can i make this poem fully mine? Is there any such thing as “mine” without the voices of the poets i have known? (Look, i did it again.) i have more to say on that subject, but it can wait.
Bonus points to anyone who can identify the speaker.
The worst that could have happened
has happened—and more.
You were to save us.
And now what is left but fishing and tax-collecting?
i look around and see no-one to help,
So my own arm will work salvation for me.
i must put this despair somewhere.
i must put this anger somewhere.
i need to put this helplessness somewhere.
If Your arm is too short to save,
Surely mine is shorter,
but i have to do something, something—
But not tonight.
Tonight, just let me die with You.
Lilting, rumbling, clattering, murmuring.
We are alive here,
little vessels of glory,
moving past and around and through
Windows into Your majesty,
even in our fumbling,
our bandaged oozing,
Make us new.
Make us alive.
You alone bear life in Your veins,
and You pour it forth.
It flows over, and fills in
our emptiness, covers over
our wicked places,
And You sing.
The lilting is Your voice,
Written while studying in my “office” cafe, music in the background, surrounded by little, broken, beautiful images of G-d. Strangers to me. People He loves.
A thin mist is rolling in the parking lot, scudding along the ground. This has been going on for hours. When i went out to my car earlier i discovered this mist curling around my ankles, sliding past me to grace the underbellies of the vehicles, and it made me jump and dance.
The gossamer gauze moves slowly over the ground.
Rolling, running, like a silent steady sigh.
The breath of some winter wyrm lying low, belly pressed against the pavement.
Ominous monarchial mist, mysterious exhalation.
What will we be
when all is redeemed,
when all is made beauty
and we are made new?
After a weekend off, i return to editing my Peet essay and gloaning upon the mysteries of redemption. Burn, O my heart.