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Full Circle of Faith

“Inheriting My Grandmother’s Nightmare” by Anne Stevenson, recently published in the May 2007 issue of Poetry magazine, comes full circle from a grandmother’s struggles with aging to a grand-daughter’s similar experiences. The journey starts with an open drawer of heirlooms gazed upon and the memories they spill forth of an aging matriarch. “She who was always a climate in herself,/who refused to vanish.” A resilient woman ignored as she aged and time marched onward. The admiration for the narrator’s grandmother is obvious. The final lines of the poem circle the reader back to the beginning, only with the grand-daughter drowning and fading behind the smoke and the noise.

Another poem in the May 2007 Poetry magazine issue that struck me with its unique perspective and image twists was Maurice Manning’s “A Blasphemy.” The story begins with a man outside societal norms worshipping, generating faith, and praying for others’ happiness. “and calling God/the Elder Sweet Potato, shucks,/that’s pretty funny, and kind of sad.” The concise images help demonstrate the simple man, who seems to be the subject of the poem. Rereading the language, the poem seems to dig at the crux of religion in terms of its arbitrary idols and symbols, though not intentionally dragging the idea of faith through the mud.

These two poems depict the different struggles humans go through in their lives and how they can overcome them to prosper and beat the odds, still living happy lives. I like to think of these poems as a sort of redemption for the reader. The poems also highlight the darker underbelly of human interactions, particularly within families and in society as a whole. To treat an aging matriarch with such disdain and disrespect is unfathomable to me. Reflecting upon the idols and names revered by religions are interchangeable between forms of faith, and yet to outsiders, some of these names can be viewed unfavorably by those not in the same circles.