Rod Jellema is Professor Emeritus of University of Maryland, where he founded the Creative Writing program; he has four poetry books to his credit. His fifth, Incarnality: The Collected Poems of Rod Jellema, is scheduled to be published by Eerdmans in September.
Jellema writes, that the unique thing about poets is that they “take a second look”, and “share that second look...They take time to catch a kind of double vision of this or that thing, this or that moment of awareness — simply because it is fascinating. Each poem that survives its own process of being made beckons you back...to have a second look...And its work is to make experience in some fresh and direct way rather than to exult over it or chat about it or explain it.”
The following poem is from his 2004 collection, A Slender Grace.
One of six million rods or cones
in the eye will flash one cell
of the billion in the brain
at the end of the thread of optic nerve
to catch a single ray from a streetlight
as it bounces off black water
asleep in a pothole.
This predicts the way the stem
of a coconut palm
leans long and far away
into pinpoints of light we call stars.
Come dawn, a split second of music
in the thin sing of a finch
will slip into the crack between two notes
the way a tiny lizard darted just now
into a slit in the terrace wall.
Think narrow. Think the line of light
that leaped under the bedroom door
to save the frightened child who was you.
Your thin escape from being someone else.
The slender grace
of a sudden thought takes you
past your self, walking
the good grey heavy town,
the bulge and muscle and long bone
that enables a wisp of thought to walk
these streets, themselves created by thought.
Think how we stride the wide earth
pressing down our weight and our love,
exulting in the plump swell of growth,
knowing the narrow gift of incarnality
is ours by the skin of our teeth.
(Posted with permission of the poet)
Read my Books & Culture review of Rod Jellema's poetry collection
A Slender Grace here
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca