I shared this poem this morning at church, along with the little mini-reflection before it. I've been asked to post it here...so here it is (with names taken out for anonymity). The service was about bells, and the prompt I received was "write something about bells." This is what I got.
The challenge in writing about bells, I discovered, is that I have more to say about what comes after the sound than I do about the physical bell or about the sound itself. The magic, for me, is in that wonderful moment that comes after the ring: the quiet that fills the space slowly as the ringing fades away. The way the air seems to clear for whatever may come next. The stillness that fills the space in the clearing. We hear it every week when our ministers ring the bell that prepares us to worship. Have you ever really let yourself be carried into that quiet moment that follows the ringing? Haven't you also felt the excitement, or anticipation, or stillness, or peace, or power of that moment as we settle into our time together?
Sarah Kay, a spoken word poet I admire, has a series of poems that are love letters between inanimate objects -- for example, a love letter between a toothbrush and a bicycle tire. As I sat, wondering how to write about the moment of stillness following the sound of the bell, this concept - the concept of a love letter - kept coming to mind. What better way to convey that relationship, I thought. The relationship between the bell and the air and silence surrounding it -- that has to be a relationship of love. How else could it make something so beautiful?
I realize this is a little strange. I realize that there are probably few people who would consider the quality of the relationship between a bell and the air, much less decide to write a poem about it. But I have learned to take inspiration in any form...so if you'll indulge me, I'll share with you a poem - a love letter, if you will-- between the bell and the air.
A love letter from the bell to the air
They told me my job was to move through you.
To crash my sides with peals and ringing,
to throw my essence from my edges
to announce my presence to the quiet spaces,
disrupt the silence by cutting through you and move
as far away as possible.
They said to chime with strength and dignity.
My job was to move, and move, and move,
to the recesses of every space.
To fill all the corners with my presence,
announcing peace, or justice,
or hope, or magic, or angels,
or God, or war as though
I was the only thing that mattered.
But they never mentioned the way you would carry me.
That you would move me as ocean moves sand -
you pull me ever forward.
A vessel of hope and greater promise
you wrap yourself around my solid frame
warm against my vibration
hold my trembling
and carry me through the empty spaces:
a magic carpet bringing pieces of me into
a whole new world.
Who knew the things we would see there?
Who knew what adventures lay before us as we soared
in every direction;
sometimes stopping at an eardrum to be received
as a moment of grace
or meditation, or annoyance
or peace or liberation or warning...
how many purposes we serve.
What meaning we bring together --
me, with my rough and clanging metal, and you
the soft quiet that completes me.
I love that about us.
But my favorite - my favorite is when I ring
and you carry me out and out and out forever and nothing stops us until
I grow faint, and you grow weary,
and together we land, gently,
on the prairie grass
or high atop a mountain
or on rooftops of sleeping people
and we sit there, waiting and silent,
witnessing our aftermath
and the space we create in the empty wholeness that follows.
We look over the peaceful,
or war-torn world and know
this next moment will be different
if only because of what we created:
you carried me
and we held one another
to the very end.