Dear Academia

We read Robert Creeley’s “The Rain” in poetry class I taught last semester. I can’t remember if we got around to discussing it, but I do remember the way the sense of it would begin to coalesce, and then fade away untranslated. It was a group effort to put meaning together. But it popped up in yesterday’s “Poem of the Day,” and when I opened it today it came with startling clarity, and now I’m kind of unsettled and not ready to give in to sleep yet, even though it’s nearing midnight.

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls

this quiet, persistent rain.

That is it, isn’t it. The nagging patter tugging ceaselessly at my lungs, itching up my throat sometimes: last year unresolved, making me feel weighted down and restless, like the sudden rain squalls in Virginia used to.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon

so often? Is it

Yes, I did that. I’m really wary of being ungrateful, but more often than not it was me against all of you. Was that right? I’m not entirely sure. I didn’t mean for it to be like that, but you pull in different directions and don’t believe in the ground beneath your feet, and me – me I am too aware of the roots that pull down and the limbs that reach out heavenward in supplication.

But I tried. Didn’t I? I tried. You told me that faith is childish, and I looked – I did, I swear I did – but I couldn’t find anything worthy of replacing human sorrow and divine grace. What am I to myself is a sinner, but also I am beloved – he ate with Zaccheus, after all, and he forgave Peter. I insist on that. I insist on atonement, and nothing less. I need it for being. Nothing less will do.

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling

will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this

final uneasiness.

I know that the answer is yes. Creeley did too; the question isn’t a question. Did I not know before? No. Something of naivete is gone now, and I rue the cynicism that edges in, too sharp sometimes and needing reprimand, needing – sacrifice.

No, I don’t rue it, though these contradictions exceed me. Or at least, I don’t rue the sacrifice. I knew I don’t belong, and now I feel it too. This final uneasiness. Let it rattle my convictions. In daring to insist on atonement, I’m claiming real reality.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,

the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet

with a decent happiness.

My idea of it isn’t real enough to lie next to me. The “real” is no better – there are heart sore and heart hungry among you, but you are proudest of your children who are content with small worlds. It isn’t fair of me to call you fatuous, but tired yes and intentionally indifferent yes.

You do carry yourselves with that elusive well-educated air. It’s attractive, I grant. Sophisticated – the maddening kind, like Fitzgerald without his hidden grief. Daisy-like. Maybe I’m not being fair. But being wet with a decent happiness is alien; it’s too gauche.

I’m sorry. You’re okay, but you’re not okay too. You could be more, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe I have to learn to sacrifice my ideal for the really real. Other echoes inhabit the garden.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Eliot, not Creeley.

I wish I could take you with me. I wish I could pull the whole edifice of it all along with me. I wish you could feel the ground solid beneath you, and that it could give you a decent happiness. A giddy happiness, even, sometimes.

But that’s not my role. He came down for that, and you have to see him on your own.

In the waiting, then, Lord, here I am.

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One thought on “Dear Academia

  1. Oh I love this! ❤ It is echoing my own experience in grad school….faith seen as childish, but what people desire to replace it with is so empty. Pride in having no solid answers, indifference to the divine….thank you for putting into words what my heart's been wrestling with. It is encouraging to know that, even in the waiting, we not only have the Lord, but also have each other to help and support. Love you dear! ❤

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