Forgive the Living and the Dead
March 13, 2017
Nicholas Samaras' beautiful poem on forgiveness I read on Sunday is published in his first book, Hands of the Saddlemaker, Yale Series of Younger Poets. It explores the difficulty and necessity of forgiveness.
"Forgive the living and the dead."
Saint Kosmas Aitolos
This is the weight of the unresolved dead.
Deep hours. A wooded house
with one yellow pane of light.
Words on a page.
Wind in the foothills.
Years I have carried you like a tombstone in my heart.
Tonight, with this book before me
in simple lamplight,
I find the small surprise of perspective,
feel how one found passage may show
the thin, bright plume beneath a closed door.
I know you are alive somewhere --
dreaming I hand you a plate of oranges,
each day waking to forget my name,
dressing and arranging your hair
to meet someone younger than I.
Before a stoked spine of fire
with this volume on my lap,
I sit up in the hushed parlor,
remembering the closed history of us,
my old habit of thinking you buried to me.
Now with this quote from a quiet saint,
I care to be winter, choose
to unclasp like leaves.
Hatred has kept me
tied to you, kept me your servant.
Anger is a hard strength that isn't good enough anymore.
So, to this paragraph, I speak your name.
I tell you it is alright.
I let the past be finally adequate.
I forgive the living and the dead.
Whichever you are is your own choice.
Mine is to move from this.
Samaras, Nicholas. "Forgive the Living and the Dead" Hands of the Saddlemaker. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992. 49-50.The slim volume of poetry is available online from various sources and is filled with short poems of spiritual depth and reflection. A new volume of poems, American Psalm, World Psalm is a volume of 150 poems, one for each of the biblical Psalms.