We have met before, many times, on the stairs of our blood
and sewn our lips together with the thread of breath
(which would defy the shears of Death — so we thought)
and built a house with the bones our ancestors had shed.
The ‘we’ of the poem are fellow seekers, others who have joined in the epic quest for real knowledge. ‘The stairs of our blood’ is the upward climb through the great sacrifices of evolution.
‘Sewn our lips together with the thread of breath’ means a bonding together in love which we thought of as somehow transcending mortal life. It is a striking image which shocks our attention.
He is referring back to the days when tradition was meaningful, the bones of our ancestors providing a secure dwelling place.
And looked at the work of our hands and saw it was good.
And diving down into the deep of our eyes
we brought up the pearls of heroism of great journeys
and strung them into epics for our seed.
Back in those heroic days we, like God Himself, looked on our own works of creation and saw they were good. They were times of epic achievement. Francis’ own epic Stay With God had met with scant success. ‘Diving into the deep of our own eyes’ suggests consulting our own inner intuitions.
Now that our faith has become brittle as a forest floor
and our vision no longer encounters crystal horizons,
what shall be our legacy to our sons, our dowry for our daughters?
‘Brittle as a forest floor’ sounds strange unless we think of a carpet of dead leaves in autumn or drought. We might expect ‘crystal’ to be the brittle thing but here it suggests a clarity and vastness which are now lost. We no longer have a coherent perspective on reality to hand down as a tradition to our children.
We can only believe in the ancient pregnancy of waters;
we can only trust that our cry will present our need;
and the Word will shatter its own eternal silence.
We have only a faith that out of the depth and fluidity of time will come a new birth. No longer capable of heroic or coherent achievement all we have to offer to God is our cry of need, in the hope of a new rebirth, a new creation, from the Oneness of God.
Here too in this poem of extreme need, rhyme is almost abandoned.