Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Whole Heaven-Thing

I have a friend who happens to be a fine poet, and he likes poetry to stick to imagery. In his view, the image is not just the heart but the skeleton and everything else of the poem. I like imagery, too, and I'm sure we were both influenced by our reading of Modernist poets (including Imagists) and of all the poets who came after. He's been especially influenced by "deep image" poets. Robert Bly talks a lot about "the deep image" (Bly is a Jungian), although I don't know that my friend necessarily thinks of imagery in Bly's specific terms.

Although I like imagery, sometimes I like poems just to talk, however, and lots of times I read poems for the old-fashioned reason of their "music," their work with words as units of sound, or as signs of units of sound, or just as the play of phrases and sentences. Sometimes I like poems that speculate, too--poems that offer quick little bursts of argumentation or philosophizing, even though both these words have their negative connotations. My friend, I suspect, just thinks of such poems as being sententious, so I hope he doesn't read this one, which is about the whole heaven thing, because if he reads it, he might give me hell.

Terribly Important

I wonder if I’ll be welcome,
and welcomed, in Heaven. I
wonder if Heaven exists, even
as I’ve risen from the font and
have acceded to Pascal’s reasoning
on behalf of faithful wagers. How
would I like to be welcomed there?
What a question! The answer is
I must not care--meaning I’d like
the welcome not to be anything
I might have predicted. Heaven
must be a wonderful surprise,
a way of being so different
that none of our machinations need
apply. Heaven must be where
all necessary love exists. What
a statement! More statements: Heaven is.
Heaven is necessary, but I am not.
To speculate: Perhaps Heaven exists
for the unnecessary; maybe it converts
even nothing into something terribly
important. Heaven must be as
terribly important as we erroneously
believe our activities to be.


Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

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