For January 5th in my Anthology from Canterbury Press, Waiting on the Word, I have chosen to read Rocky Mountain Railroad, Epiphany by Luci Shaw. this poem makes an interesting contrast and parallel with Coleridge’s psalm-like outpouring of yesterday. Both poems are a response to the beauty of nature, and specifically to the sight of snowy mountains, and the whole play of light on snow and ice. In both poems we have a sense of glory and of the sublime rising ‘reaches of peak above peak beyond peak’.
You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. The image above was created by Linda Richardson. She Writes:
Luci Shaw takes a subtly different approach to Coleridge as she describes, ‘in a net of words’, her transcendent experience. She uses herself as a mirror to describe the effect the experience has on her. ‘I imbed it in my brain so that it will flash and flash again…an alternate reality…my open window mind is too little,…I long for each sweep….’
In the image I made, the words open and condense in the lines, sometimes clear, sometimes hidden in the ink, indicating the fleeting glimpses we see as we hurtle along in a train. Life reflects the train journey. The Divine is always around us, sometimes clearly visible in love given and received, sometimes only glimpsed as we speed by. And often, if our focus is too close, all we see is our own reflection in the window.
The steel rails parallel the river as we penetrate
ranges of pleated slopes and crests—all too complicated
for capture in a net of words. In this showing, the train window
is a lens for an alternate reality—the sky lifts and the light forms
shadows of unstudied intricacy. The multiple colors of snow
in the dimpled fresh fall. Boulders like white breasts. Edges
blunted with snow. My open-window mind is too little for
this landscape. I long for each sweep of view to toss off
a sliver, imbed it in my brain so that it will flash
and flash again its unrepeatable views. Inches. Angles.
Niches. Two eagles. A black crow. Skeletal twigs’ notched
chalices for snow. Reaches of peak above peak beyond peak
Next to the track the low sun burns the silver birches into
brass candles. And always the flow of the companion river’s
cord of silk links the valleys together with the probability
of continuing revelation. I mind-freeze for the future
this day’s worth of disclosure. Through the glass
the epiphanies reel me in, absorbed, enlightened.
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