Have you ever read a line or two in a poem or a sentence in prose that you “recognize”? Words that seem to speak to you? I’ve had the thrill of that experience many times, and even so, it always feels like something rare and special. As if the words reach somewhere inside me and find a perfect match. A puzzle piece in the proper place.
I began a memoir piece I wrote about the bomb shelter my father built in our basement with lines from a poem by Brigit Pegeen Kelly:
while the one divides into two: the heart and its shadow,
The world and its threat, the crow back of the sparrow.
These lines are from a poem called “Of Ancient Origins and War.” When I read them for the first time, I felt as if I already knew them although they contained fresh images that I had never read.
They reminded me of when I lived in the house with the bomb shelter under my feet. I previously wrote about the shelter here. When I last visited Michigan, I drove by the house. The trees are much more mature today, and the house is no longer white. Is the bomb shelter still there?
I think the reason Kelly’s lines struck me is because they felt “real” to me. The notion that the heart has a shadow. That’s not something ever said, but it’s true. It’s kind of frightening. There is love and there is love’s shadow. There is the beating center of our existence and there is a shadow created by our very existence.
And of course there is the world and the threat to the world, as well as the threat that comes from the world. What better representation of the threat is a bomb shelter. By trying to protect his family, my father terrified us.
Although “the crow back of the sparrow” feels so right here, my understanding of it seems to float. What do you think it means?
What fresh new words from a story or poem have you recognized?