Friday, April 17, 2009

Ancestral lights

by June

The poetry of Deborah Digges entered my life the week my grandmother left it. I still have the yellowed copy of The New Yorker; the poem is there on page 44. It is called "Ancestral Lights." I recognized something of my jagged self in her words and not just because she wrote about loss (of belief, of those who came before) and not just because she knew what it was like, as I did, "to lie there, whole, myself, safe in the coarsening grass of a Missouri August."
I was in my last year of college. I was preparing myself to let go of what had defined my life and to find what would be. Her words glimmered with all I hoped was true: that the familiar and beloved would illuminate what was to come.
And though I know now that Heaven may be
only the mind's fear of the wonders it imagines,
the way our best thoughts surprise us
and seem not to be our own, I like to believe
we turn into light around those we love,
or would have loved, had we known them,
and warn them through the blood
by ringing in their ears.
Deborah Digges is gone now. If you have not read her poetry or her memoirs, go. Do.
I will always think of her on summer nights, especially in Missouri, especially when families sing old songs and fireflies rise.

Blossom and Fern with a firefly; Missouri, 2007

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