Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Life in the Time of Corona: What I Carried

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First bloom on the tulip poplar this spring

I’ve been proud of my mother, a sociable sort, who has not left her house in weeks in the time of corona. She’s being extra careful since my Dad is a diabetic and has other health issues. I’ve been proud of my husband’s mother, planning her weekly outing to the grocery store judiciously, walking every day. Neither of them complains. They have simply – adjusted.

It is a gift they are giving me: the example of fortitude. By being careful, they embrace the world and their own lives.

Being careful is not the same thing as being afraid. That is something for all of us to think about going forward – or at least for me to think about -as well as the example I’m setting for my children.

(Sincerest thanks to Mary Laura Philpott for bringing this poet, Maggie Smith, to my attention…)

What I Carried
by Maggie Smith

I carried my fear of the world
to my children, but they refused it.

I carried my fear of the world
on my chest, where I once carried
my children, where some nights it slept
as newborns sleep, where it purred
but mostly growled, where it licked
sweat from my clavicles.

I carried my fear of the world
and apprenticed myself to the fear.

I carried my fear of the world
and it became my teacher.
I carried it, and it repaid me
by teaching me how to carry it.

I carried my fear of the world
the way an animal carries a kill in its jaws
but in reverse: I was the kill, the gift.
Whose feet would I be left at?

I carried my fear of the world
as if it could protect me from the world.

I carried my fear of the world
and for my children modeled marveling
at its beauty but keeping my hands still—
keeping my eyes on its mouth, its teeth.

I carried my fear of the world.
I stroked it or I did not dare to stroke it.

I carried my fear of the world
and it became my teacher.
It taught me how to keep quiet and still

I carried my fear of the world
and my love for the world.
I carried my terrible awe.

I carried my fear of the world
without knowing how to set it down.

I carried my fear of the world
and let it nuzzle close to me,
and when it nipped, when it bit
down hard to taste me, part of me
shined: I had been right.

I carried my fear of the world
and it taught me I had been right.
I carried it and loved it
for making me right.

I carried my fear of the world
and it taught me how to carry it.

I carried my fear of the world
to my children and laid it down
at their feet, a kill, a gift.
Or I was laid at their feet.

*       *       *

Maggie Smith, “What I Carried” from Good Bones. Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.

 

*       *       *

And, for something a little lighter…

https://youtu.be/wVs5AyjzwRM

(Thanks, Paige Bainbridge!!) xoxo

7 Comments

  1. A poem to read once and again and again.

  2. Wow. Strong message in the poem. And the video clip is spot on! I’m enjoying Bacon each day, Jennifer. Thank you!

  3. This poem is one to keep and reread often. Thanks for sharing this. (And yes I love that video)

  4. Jennifer, I enjoy reading your blog daily. Today’s reference to resilience reminded me of a Trinity Forum post I read recently profiling the friendship of Tolkien and Lewis and how that friendship buttressed their ability to withstand and even flourish in hard times. Below is the post. Cheers, GT

    Resilience and Imagination

    Dr. Joseph Loconte
    Senior Fellow of The Trinity Forum

    In this update, we feature a guest reflection from Trinity Forum Senior Fellow Joseph Loconte.

    On a stormy night in early December of 1929—about two months after the start of the Great Crash—two Oxford professors met to talk about their shared love of English literature and ancient mythologies. “I was up till 2:30 on Monday, talking to the Anglo-Saxon professor Tolkien, who came back with me to College from a society and sat discoursing of the gods and giants of Asgard for three hours…” C.S. Lewis wrote to a friend. “Who could turn him out, for the fire was bright and the talk good.”

    The friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis—one of the most consequential friendships in modern times—was forged amid profound struggle, danger, and grief. The more I ponder the legacy of these two friends, the more I find there is to learn from them: not only about resilience, but about moral beauty in the shadow of suffering.

    Tolkien and Lewis both fought in the trenches in France during the First World War. Both lived through a second global conflict, one that threatened the survival of Western Civilization. Many in their generation fell prey to the great “isms” of their day: cynicism, agnosticism, mysticism, communism, fascism.

    But not Tolkien and Lewis. Both possessed a deeply felt Christian faith, the foundation for all of their great works: their mythic tales of a titanic struggle between good and evil. Their close friendship—which formed the core of a larger circle of Oxford friends known as “the Inklings”—was an essential part of their personal and vocational lives. It is extremely doubtful that either The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, for example, would ever have seen the light of day without their shared experience of suffering—and their common moral vision.

    The pandemic crisis has reminded all of us about the centrality of friendship: of how necessary it is for us to be together, to laugh together, to learn from each other, to talk about the things that matter most. From these two intensely creative minds we get a glimpse of what friendship can look like when it reaches for a high purpose and is watered by the streams of sacrifice, loyalty, and love.

    Recommended Reading and Resources
    As we navigate these uncertain times together, we recommend the discussions and Readings below as both an encouragement and catalyst for reflection.

    A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War | A Trinity Forum Evening Conversation with Joe Loconte.
    The Golden Key | A Trinity Forum Reading by George MacDonald, introduced by Jerry Root.

    On Friendship | A Trinity Forum Reading by Cicero, introduced by Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy.

    A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 | by Joe Loconte.

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