When something wonderful happens I often write it down so I can remember to write a poem about it. I love writing poetry. I draw my inspiration from those epiphanies that happen often enough in a life lived with open eyes. “Open eyelids and open hearts” I should say. Because sometimes what you see is beyond sight, and that’s definitely poetry territory. Good poetry transports you beyond the realm of thought. It uses words to express those things to which words cannot be applied. It tries and fails beautifully. And as it fails it invites you into your own understanding. In the faint outline the words approximate, it feels you. Like a sparkler writing someones name in the dark when there is no long-exposure camera in your eyes to see what they have written.
However you have said something — with your life, with your heart, with your deepest down things — a poem that speaks it back to you rhymes with what all words fail to say. I don’t know if my poem will share unspoken words with you or not, truthfully, I’m not sure I have given enough time to poetry to expect that it would, but here’s a story that adds more words to a sonnet bellow. The extra words might spoil it, but here goes anyway.
Connie Starzinski’s died on March 7, 2019. She was my dear friend’s MomMom , so I went to the funeral to support her and her family. The funeral was in a Catholic church building with high transom windows all around the almost circular polygon room. The transom light was the key ingredient to the mesmeric effect of incense smoke dancing high above our heads. All throughout the ritual mass the incense snaked into the transom light and collected in ribbons until the priest went to fetch the censor and flood the room with the scented smoke, he simultaneously flooded my eyes with tears. He honored the body, and all of us . We were witnesses to something deeper than that moment. At the doorway to death we all stood in in awe – full-bodied awe.
I wrote it down, “Write a poem about the incense at MomMom Starzinski’s funeral.” It stayed on the list for two whole years — 730 days exactly. Because on March 7, 2021 I wrote this poem. I don’t know why I chose that day, and I did not know it was the same day as her death. I can only attribute this to the Holy Spirit and some purpose beyond my own musings for this poem. It’s kind of spooky. I was flabbergasted when I looked up her obituary to make sure I spelled MomMom Starzinski’s name correctly in the dedication of the poem. My attribution to the Holy Spirit is the reason I share it with you now. It is Pentecost season in Circle of Hope, and we keep looking for a life in the Spirit in all the mundane and fantastic of our own lives.
The “purpose of noses” line is in homage to a Rich Mullins song I like, “The Maker of Noses“. It’s a good song, but far less profound than this strange discovery and amplified awe of the moment and its anniversary telling.
The Purpose of Noses
for MomMom Starzinski and Rich Mullins
The incense smoke rose high above the pews,
And of its bitter sweetness we were
At first unaware, though it’s presence grew.
And whether the ascending scent was myrrh
Was not a question on our minds, for grief
Already filled the room. It gathered us ‘round
The shroud with our beloved underneath.
The words of the priest cannot now be found,
But we’ll not soon forget the piled up cloud
Of incense as it fell down on us all,
The moment he honored her for the crowd,
Surrounding her with that perfuming pall.
Thrice ‘round the casket he swung the brass chord,
Reminding us just what noses are for.
You can listen to me read it here