An Artist's Quest

A litany of loves labors found

Saturday my husband and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary.  We spent it together in the city where we met, San Francisco.  I like to think of our wedding anniversary much like a second birthday.  It is a birth into two-ness and out of one-ness.  It is a commitment to grow and change together.  It has always been my contention that true love comes with someone who makes you better than you are alone.  I don’t mean in any way that they fix you or that it is your job somehow to fix them but that the whole is greater than the sum of it parts.  A synergy is found; something can be produced in the togetherness that cannot be found apart.  This doesn’t mean there are no challenges, or discord or discomfort, in fact that is probably necessary to move to new levels…but not all the time, the squeaky wheels must get greased on occasion, for a long satisfied hum to be heard.  This reflection on relationships reminds me of a favorite poem that considers relationship, written by former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins.  The poem begins with an epigraph, a translation of a French language poem by Belgian poet Jacques Crickillon, which reads “You are the bread and the knife/The crystal goblet and the wine.”

Litany

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

-Billy Collins

I love this poem for its wittiness and candor.  Collins speaks of both what his beloved is and what she is not.  He then gives a litany of what he is, reassuring her, and himself, that he is not the bread and the knife, she will always be the bread and the knife.

Take the week to ponder these lovely lines and consider what you are and what you are not perhaps in the context of someone you love.  I’ll do the same we will check back on Friday.  Feel free as always to add you comments or email me an image to add at artist@lisathorpe.com

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/billy-collins

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9 responses

  1. Valerie Komkov Hill

    Wise words, indeed. I am mostly definitely a goblet of wine. My husband is more the sturdy mug of coffee.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

  2. Martha Olmstead

    I love Billy Collins…..He almost always gets things just right.

    April 11, 2011 at 11:32 am

  3. Jack Dowling

    I’m the coal in the forge
    and the down escaping the pillow.
    Also I am the drop of 3-in-1
    and rock in the stream.

    April 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

  4. You’re all that and more! What’s 3-in-1?

    April 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm

  5. Julie

    Oh my GOSH! 17 years!!!!

    What about gin to tonic, olive to vermouth….

    Cocktail to the hour?

    April 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm

  6. Julie

    But seriously, 17 years of being married to the same person is an artistic achievement in and of itself. Especially, in that you are both ALIVE in this marriage, that the two of you is synergy, greater than the two standing alone.

    I wonder do we really honor the power of marriage? Do we really honor the sacredness of a life long commitment to another. Do we embrace marriage as a journey with another that begins as eros and when that eros is mixed with divinity… another kind of love is born, I think a more powerful love is born. A love that creates, expands,heals ,strengthens, gives birth to new life. A love that once, when the two brought together through eros has the holy spirit of agape breathed upon it… calls into being a new form, a new relativity to the world.

    Do we, who witness marriages, do we support the couple, encourage the couple to remain in the sometimes painful, humiliating, frightening parts of growing into a deeper love? I mean, the marriage ritual itself is played out as everyone’s erotic fantasy. Hmmm, we love the pretty dresses, flowers and cake…( the after party is always more expensive and longer than the vows themselves) all the attention, in some ways we exploit it, twist it as the triumphant achievement of eros . Marriage ceremonies hardly present as a sacrament of two people making vocational vows of sacrifice for sticking it out with a person for better, for worse, for sicker, for poorer…. until death…(really does the whitened teeth and spray on tan really speak of sacrifice for the other??)

    Its like we expect marriage to not work. That if it lasts, then someone has sacrificed too much of oneself. That an unevenness must exist. ” What about what YOU want???Or that both have resigned to being lost from the other, all because the tan faded, the party ended, eros has no more arrows, the fantasy has eroded.

    Marriage is an opportunity to love another in such a specific way as to free ourselves from the rule of our ego and into living from our “higher consciousness” Marriage is a call to love in a way that surrenders our self image, into our “image of God self”.

    So, congratulations Lisa and Jack for keeping your vows and allowing your vows to each other to make you new over and over again. You as individuals can’t change the other. but marriage has changed you both.

    17 years of surrendering to each other has enlarged your hearts.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    • You and Jane are bringing up similar themes in your comments. It seems there is more to ponder about our society and it’s vision of marriage.

      April 12, 2011 at 9:03 am

  7. Jane

    Lisa I love the idea of your reflections, I signed up but I have yet to really make time to fully enjoy them. Up until now I have often just enjoyed the photo and the first couple of lines – then life gets in the way! However, today’s caught my eye so here I am.

    The first line grabbed me and I had to read on. It was the words ‘wedding anniversary’. Weddings are very much on my mind at the moment, of course largely because our daughter got engaged at Christmas, but even more influential to my thoughts on marriage than this joyous event has been the establishment of a couples group at our church. It is the latest of one of many small groups we have set up in recent years. Response to the idea of these is good, in reality turn out is usually a handful, but they are never the less meaningful and very worthwhile to that handful. The couples group had its first monthly gathering at the end of March and 17 couples turned up!

    The turn out itself was cause for reflection. But what was most thought provoking for me was -firstly so many people shared the joy of being in a group where it was ok to express your delight at being married. It was common for most of us to feel that we rarely could publically share our joy without fear of being insensitive too or even upsetting those around us. The energy that all picked up on from the joy of sharing the good as well as some of the hard parts of marriage was tangible. Secondly after everyone shared -little more than who they were and why they were there and what they hoped for in the group (with 34 people there was time for much else!) – my husband and I left with an increased awareness of what our marriage is and is not. We found ourselves actually talking about our marriage and how we see it rather than just living it. I think, like the poet, we also became more aware of what we are, and are not to each other.

    By seeing what I am not I see more of what my husband is. And when I see what I am and am also aware of what he is not – not in a way that makes me right or better! – but in a way that empowers me and what I am, and makes me thankful that I am and can be that particular part of our marriage. For the parts that neither of us are we a thankful we have God as the third partner. To me – In a marriage we are both ourselves and the other. A marriage is the sacrament, the tool or the gift we have been given to help us live together in unity and compassion with God and one another. I am very grateful for this beautiful gift and practical tool.

    Congratulations on your wedding anniversary.

    Blessing Jane

    April 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm

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