Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tears poem

I want to say something to go along with this poem, because I love it so much, though it probably stands better alone. I suspect that most of my crying is for selfish reasons, but the thoughts here make me hope that once in a great while my tears might be an expression of true humanity, or at least have a humanizing effect. We can make our tears a gift to God, when we come before Him with them; He already knows all about the chaos in our souls, if that's their origin. 

Some church fathers say that tears for whatever reason cleanse the heart. One pastor said it's because when you are crying it's impossible to be double-minded. I'll be mulling over that idea for a long time. But troubling and puzzling as they are, I will thank God for the gift of tears.

TEARS

Tears leave no mark on the soil
or pavement; certainly not in sand
or in any known rain forest;
never a mark on stone.
One would think that no one in Persepolis
or Ur ever wept.

You would assume that, like Alice,
we would all be swimming, buffeted
in a tide of tears.
But they disappear. Their heat goes.
Yet the globe is salt
with that savor.

The animals want no part in this.
The hare both screams and weeps
at her death, one poet says.
The stag, at death, rolls round drops
down his muzzle; but he is in
Shakespeare’s forest.

These cases are mythically rare.
No, it is the human being who persistently
weeps; in some countries openly, in others, not.
Children who, even when frightened, weep most hopefully;
women, licensed weepers.
Men, in secret, or childishly; or nobly.

Could tears not make a sea of their mass?
It could be salt and wild enough;
it could rouse storms and sink ships,
erode, erode its shores:
tears of rage, of love, of torture,
of loss. Of loss.

Must we see the future
in order to weep? Or the past?
Is that why the animals
refuse to shed tears?
But what of the present, the tears of the present?
The awful relief, like breath

after strangling? The generosity
of the verb “to shed”?
They are a classless possession
yet are not found in the museum
of even our greatest city.
Sometimes what was human, turns
into an animal, dry-eyed.

              ~ Josephine Jacobsen


(thanks to Maria)

4 comments:

Sarah in Indiana said...

If tears are a gift, I have been much blessed. Not that I have faced much sorrow, I'm just a crier. I shed tears with any strong emotion, and always when anyone around me cries. It can be embarrassing and awkward at times, since the physical reaction seems to be beyond my control. I would certainly be floating in a sea like Alice if they did not dry.

Celeste said...

I thought of Isak Dinesen: The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. But I was unfamiliar with this particular poem. So glad that you posted. Thank you.

Matt D said...

Wow. What an extraordinary poem.

I didn't realize animals didn't cry ... tear uplift us, they leave their mark in other ways ... carvings on our soul.

Pom Pom said...

What a sound poem, Gretchen Joanna.
I may ask my sixth graders what they think of it.
Isak Dinesen is a favorite of mine and I had forgotten that quote.
Thank you, friend.