“At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister”*

If I dressed somewhere between sackcloth
and silks, my mind might puzzle out
the fair to middling way
if I took the twisted stairs as guide
thoughts of the winding sheet
should not phase faith
nor prompt a last ditch clutch
at hollow rites of passage

If I could cease delight in dense drifts
of diversion, the spun blur of a top's rotation
each slippery slope where snakes are swayed
by charms - then reaching for the ladder
I would not turn to look below again
but clamber on to Jacob's sacrosanct domain

Ashes in the grate grow cold and slatey grey
this very day, hellfire is spent, past passion too
there is a dove, a doubt, a flame
a kind of kindling yet again

Lilian’s Turn, Turn, Turn prompt brought Eliot’s Ash Wednesday * to mind and in turn, his poem set these few lines in motion. [And its open link night on Thursdays at dVerse]

24 thoughts on “kindling

  1. Great pairing of the Eliot line and that picture. You wrap the words around on themselves and yet move us through your poem, much like a winding staircase. Somewhere between sackcloth and silk – tough wardrobe to find these days. A dove, a doubt, a flame – wonderful image. Beautiful.

  2. Perhaps a much washed and loved linen shirt?
    In the rich cream of the walls, with a delicate periwinkle stripe.
    And dark wood buttons.
    (Enchanted by your picture ;~)

    1. incredible imagination you have for design Diana 🙂 definitely not a hair shirt but more the need for constancy of faith p.s. the stairs lead up and down to the Tate Britain basement

  3. Like the way you deal with this theme and especially your close – “a kind of yet kindling again” Wonderful…

  4. I like the balance of perspective, specially seeking that middling way, at the hollow rites of passage.
    These lines are glorious:

    there is a dove, a doubt, a flame
    a kind of kindling yet again

    Hope all is well. Happy weekend.

    1. am sure the straight and narrow is not too straight on and not too narrow – it is the off road diversion of extremes that I am drawn to though hence this poem is a kind of note to self
      p.s. yes thank you – after a week am feeling a little more settled Grace – a kind of kindling!

  5. I love how you riffed on Eliot, Laura, and conjured up an image of a sorrowful snakes and ladders board in my mind. My impressions were all in hues of grey before I read that beautiful final stanza.

  6. This is absolutely stunning, Laura! ❤️ The poem as a whole feels like climbing a staircase with emotions stirring inside the heart .. especially love; “past passion too there is a dove, a doubt, a flame a kind of kindling yet again.” Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Lent. 🌹

  7. This is an excellent poem Laura, I admire how you took the quote and made it your own, the pairing of the winding of sheets and the stairs, the reference to Jacob, and how you kindle fire to continue the climbe.

  8. this is so beautiful Laura, twisted stairs and winding sheet, Jacob’s ladder, life and death intertwined and then “a dove, a doubt a flame” I am bookmarking this one to come back and read again.

  9. You grope here for contemporary context of faith — a modernity which is wise sometimes, wizened others, too aware of what premoderns were terrified of, which is good and not … like ash that is yet kindling … Such precipitous connoitering is exactly the balance-beam-work of writing poems, finding that stable enough transit from I to Thou. That was Eliot’s labor, and the same hard work you have cashiered here.

    1. your comments are as brilliant as your poems – thank you for such fine feedback. “balance-beam-work of writing poems,” – that is a phrase I shall hang on to

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