In advent and the beginning of a new year, I tend to think a lot about birth and the many rebirths we experience as we accept the sacred in our lives. At first glance I almost thought this was a prose poem. However, the subtle line breaks create an interesting form and cadence that compliment Johnson’s long, luscious lines. “Soul wants the body badly, is the cage for her, song/ and feather.” References to birds and song, voice and flight help describe the soul. This poem also offers vivid images of birth and death that delivered me into deeper reflections during this important season of contemplation. “Soul knows how to sing even if a black cloth is kept over it/ forever,/ knows how to make of the body’s darkness its own theater.”
“Birth/Rebirth” Roxane Beth Johnson
Living in that wet belly was a long flight through driving rain,
destination this thin river of a life made from petal, paper and
some such flimsy stuff. Soul doesn’t need much to keep herself
clean and combed, even if the body winds up a hobo or murderer,
she knows how to make of herself a bird. For now, the body is born.
It’s good to begin this way with fingers the size of sparrows’ beaks,
a skull soft as newly plowed earth and fast cracking out of everything
soul has taught it during their sojourn from bardo to tin house.
Even the devil knows to keep out of this world but the body
keeps puttin’ on that Ritz, keeps on keeping from the other side.
Soul wants the body badly, is the cage for her, song and feather.
Soul knows how to sing even if a black cloth is kept over it forever,
knows how to make of the body’s darkness its own theater. Soul
knows how to make the body’s blood a Nile, and then fly over it
singing her song.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.