Heart of Fire and Stone

High in the air above the Seine,
I watch you all be born and die.
It is a wonder.
They say stone is unfeeling,
but I was birthed in fire
and beaten with iron into a shape
to make children and devils feel fear.
What is a feeling?

The sizzle of neurons
dancing about
crashing into everyone
like the drunk at the all-night party,
passing on his half-heard message heedlessly–
“Run! Laugh! Hit him! Watch out! Woe! Joy?”

Your lives move so fast you cannot feel
the spinning earth beneath your feet
alone in space. You do not feel
the cracks begin, plunging deep,
as plates of rock collide, nor know
the pressure of magma boiling up,
seeking sweet release into hissing sea,
nor sense the circling flow of water
earth to air and back again,
holding life together.
You cannot feel
the itch of time wearing your substance away,
tick by tick. Perhaps that’s just as well. . .

If you could see yourselves as I see you
with your hummingbird antics–
always flying, never still,
a quarrel turning into a laugh,
a love strangled by envy,
strangers changing into friends,
old friends becoming enemies,
every moment charged with drama–
though the story’s old, God knows,
repeated so quickly it always seems new–
perhaps you’d come to know at last
the peace of stone.

All will change. All will remain.
The fires that warm the earth burn on
deep in the molten core,
far out in empty space.
Though our feelings change
like sunlight on the sea
from bright to dull to bright again,
our little lives are braided
into particolored strands of rope
that coils to bring all things onstage
for one older than I
who watches from the shadows
that are filled with light.
We wait to hear the final words
we know will come,
“It is good.”

 

© 2014 Susanne Donoghue

 

Author Notes

Victor from the Hunchback of Notre Dame on “feelings”

 

Review

This is powerful!   I felt my heart fluttering in a frantic race from one line to the next, each bursting with fresh imagery, in anticipation of the mystery to be revealed.  I have never read or seen a performance of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, so I didn’t get the literary allusion, but I sure knew that I was reading about the emotional roller coaster, as the poem ran me through the entire gut-wrenching gamut.  Reading it gave me a new appreciation for the way our emotions must feel while trapped in the cauldron of the human mind to bounce around like bb’s in a boxcar.

All the more reason to calm the mind with meditation, listening only for the still, small voice that whispers through the maddening mist.  Because, yes, in spite of everything, “it is good” and this is the assurance we all seek. I love that you ended on that note.

The drunk at the all-night party, hummingbird antics and particolored strands of rope passages also spoke to me in a special way.  In thinking I would list my favorite bits, I realize in the re-reading that would require quoting the whole poem. But here’s a passage that has it all … consonance, assonance, alliteration, metaphor, magic.

You do not feel
the cracks begin, plunging deep,
as plates of rock collide, nor know
the pressure of magma boiling up,
seeking sweet release into hissing sea,
nor sense the circling flow of water
earth to air and back again,
holding life together.   

Thanks for this, Susanne.  I can only speak to the emotional impact and marvel at your ability to tie it all together and know exactly where the line breaks should occur.  That’s my biggest obstacle when I attempt free verse, which has been seldom but I’m getting the itch.

Mary Boren

Rite of Passage
City Life