Dark and Like a Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine (Broiled Fish & Honeycomb Nanopress, 2011) by Nic Sebastian and edited by Beth Adams has been following me around in my bag and on my phone for several months now. There is a lot of weight in this short collection of 15 poems, and it may not be too much to say I love this book.
Sebastian traces a spiritual path that resonates with me for its recognition of the longing for what is often right in front of us, though unnoticed and forgotten in the action and busyness of life. We wind up seeking something that’s really never very far at all. Sebastian doesn’t attempt to directly define the divine and I like that too. There are more questions than answers here creating an openness and space for the reader to enter and follow along on a shared journey.
In her introduction, Sebastian writes of being sick for silence and stillness which is where I was when I picked the book up last year.
my days are flocks of starlings
wheeling dark waves
of loud chatter
—”my days are flocks of starlings”
A year ago, I found myself “sick for silence” and set out to get back into my habit of walking and writing small stones, a kind of active meditation or prayer, if you will. Those starlings (well, they’d be grackles down here) can get out of hand… loud and noisy nuisance birds, flying in all directions, crapping on everything. With all that going on, it’s easy to forget to be awed by nature, the trees dropping leaves, the birds on their great journeys, even those starlings. To lose this is to close off an important path toward the divine, to stick with the poet’s usage, which I rather like.
because my breath ends
in silver plainchant
and woven silence
—”the names of my breath”
There are other journeys too of course, those not marked by miles. The one called parenthood that we’re on now spirals, at this point anyway, deeper into home. My son who has the past week discovered consonants and repeats them endlessly, delightedly, as if singing the most wonderful song seems to me a gift… something so undeserved and precious as to make us wonder how we didn’t know he was missing during the years before he came. He sings his babbling song, we sing back, he responds with laughter and raspberries.
your step is like a small flame
and a song unfurling
—”antiphony in the hills”
Sebastian’s language and imagery—landscapes that evoke the widest vistas and the narrowest paths—are vibrant. This is a book that takes the reader on 15 journeys, each longer and deeper than the relatively brief poems that contain them. The journeys, of course, are one journey leading back to wholeness.
when I have readied myself
I rise whole from the pool at sunrise
and step into you as onto a straight road
—”when you come to me in the dark of night”
Oddly, or maybe not, this book speaks to me most of the end of journeys in which we may have experienced something of what exists behind nature, community, communion, and silence that can’t really be described or explained. It’s not nothing. It’s not imaginary. And in opening ourselves to it, we can find the recognition, warmth, healing and mystery that fill us up with an awe and wonder the way a woodpecker’s rhythm in the trees, a scorpion’s path along the road, the touch of a loved one or a baby’s laughter do.
In this book I’m reminded of the importance of finally coming home. Whatever that might mean to any given reader.