Review: ‘After the Jug Was Broken’

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After the Jug Was BrokenAfter the Jug Was Broken by Leah Shelleda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Students of the ancient texts tell us that when the infinite flowed into the original vessels of the finite, the vessels shattered. Their shards, each with a spark of light, comprise all we know in a world of apparent opposites.

In the title poem in After the Jug Was Broken, Leah Shelleda writes that if the vessels were too fragile to contain the light, “Then I will be a gatherer of shards.” Shelleda organizes her shards in this luminous collection of sparks into Myth, Experience, Place and Spirit.

Some of the shards are transcendent. In Myth, her “Invocation” asks the Lamias of old to “Send sudden gusts of wild song” and Mary Magdalene asks again the old riddle, “How may a woman also enter?”

Some of the shards are sharp. In Experience, “The Memory of Light” cuts deep when it says “How rare when joy enters history/like fireworks and lasting/about as long” and “Extinct Birds” draws blood when it says “The Great Auk the Madagascar hawk/ the last ones died of indifference.”

Some of the shards are kaleidoscopic, reflecting the visions of multiple places. In Place, Shelleda writes in “Behind the Sacred Heart” that she doesn’t want to write about the Sacred Heart, preferring to tell us about a dream “of an openhearted wise man/who arrives four times a year/once in each season/but that comes later/in a language/that is not yet spoken.”

None of the shards are like the shards of broken pottery displayed dead under glass in museums. They shine with their apportioned photons of light. They live and breathe and if we take them into ourselves with our apportioned share of the infinite breath, we will be changed in ways we should not try to predict. In Spirit, the final poem “Heenayni,” whispers “I am here/here in this world as it is.”

“Heenayni,” from the Hebrew for “I am here” is, according to the students of the ancient texts, the moment where categories, worlds, photons and shards come together and the poet and the reader of the poems experience the whole as divine and as one.

View all my reviews

Coming April 29: Author Pat Bertram contributes a guest post about the light behind her new novel Light Bringer.

Malcolm

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