“Question and Answer” and Other Poems by Jane Beal

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My poems, “Question and Answer,” “A Flower in a Prayer-Vision,” “Out of the Birdcage,” “Wave,” “The Red Bridge,” “The Path of Life,” and “Paraphrase from an Ancient Greek Letter,” now appear in Integrité: A Journal of Faith and Learning 18:1 (Spring 2019), 88-91.

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The Red Bridge

The Red Bridge
(painted by 
Jane Beal)

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_Garden_ by Jane Beal

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My poetry micro-chap, Gardenis now available
from Origami Poems (2019).

Special directions:
how to download, save, print,
and fold the chapbook.

 GARDEN

entering the garden 

water trickles down
the hollow of an old stone
a bird stoops to drink

turtle pond

a turtle hatchling
is all alone on her stone
but the sun is warm 

two turtles sunbathe
on a stone in the dark pond
watching me watch them 

an older turtle
circles in the pond water
looking for a stone 

duck pond

the hen is asleep
but the drake is holding his
morning yoga pose

humble waterfall
pouring down into the pond
going deeper still

afternoon sunlight
a green leaf in deep water
reaches for the sky

origami in the garden

white origami
cast in metal and shining
birds and butterflies

a paper airplane!
then the white peace crane unfolds
to become a star

shining buffalo
with a small bird on his back
looking out at us

leaving the garden

the old mother-tree
and her branching canopy
stays in memory

jb

***

for Michelle Smoler
teacher, yogi, neighbor, sister, friend

***

inspired by the artwork of Robert Lang and Kevin Box
in the exhibit at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens
Claremont, California * April 2019

_PRAISE & LAMENT: Psalms for the God of Birds_ by Jane Beal

BEAL - Praise & Lament - 2019 CVR

My new volume of psalm-poems, Praise and Lament: Psalms for the God of Birdsis now available from Lulu Press (2019).

PSALM 3
Now I See a Yellow-Billed Stork

Lord, I see an elephant with long tusks
alone on the savanna –

I see giraffes with long necks
striding together in the morning.

I see hippos in the Nile
and a kingfisher flying in midair –

I see a mother monkey
who carries her baby on her back.

I see a water buffalo,
and he sees me!

I see a wild warthog
trotting away through the trees.

Now I see a yellow-billed stork
standing in the river-shallows.

O Lord, how marvelous is every creature
You have made!

jb

“The Crowned One” by Jane Beal

MidwiferyToday130 (Summer2019)

My poem,“The Crowned One,” now appears in Midwifery Today 130 (Summer 2019), 4.

THE CROWNED ONE 

Sometimes the bough breaks.

The finger of God
reaching toward Adam
does not touch him.

The desert at sunset is dry.

The pool of water
does not take away the pain,
and the baby-girl does not turn inside.

We wait too long.

On the third day,
her mother is cut open
to bring forth her baby.

But that is not enough for life.

She breathes muddy water
into her fragile lungs
and lies still.

She’s waiting to heal.

II.

A woman
breathes the breath of life
into the baby.

The newborn baby-girl awakens!

After two minutes,
once again her heart is beating
like a little bird’s.

For four days, she sleeps without a name.

Then, an angel-like-a-girl-child
comes down from heaven
into her mother’s dream:

her name is Stefania,
and she will live!

jb

“Ariadne Invites Dionysius to Kiss Her” by Jane Beal

Constellation of Kisses

My poem, “Ariadne Invites Dionysius to Kiss Her,” now appears in the poetry anthology,  A Constellation of Kisses, ed. Diane Lockwood (West Caldwell, NJ: Terrapin Books, 2019), 21.

ARIADNE INVITES DIONYSIUS TO KISS HER

I know one of the Maenads
gave you a massage today – I am not jealous.

I know you’re eating chocolate cake
that may be better than sex.

Come over here
with that chocolate in your mouth

and let me kiss you, Dionysius –
let’s kiss with our mouths open!

jb

A New Podcast about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz with Jane Beal

Mallorie Johnson, a Theater major at the University of La Verne, produces a podcast called “Arguments about Classical Theater.” For the second half of episode 4, she and her co-host Dan Jerz interviewed me about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (ca. 1651-1695), called in her time “The Tenth Muse” and the “Phoenix of the Americas”:  she was a learned religious woman of the Order of St. Jerome, a “Renaissance” woman living in the so-called Age of Enlightenment, and a prolific writer of poems, plays, and a famous letter, “Reply to Sor Filotea.” The podcast is available on SoundCloud:

(My portion of the podcast begins at 31:38. Important correction: I accidentally identified the slayer of the Minotaur as Jason, when I should have said THESEUS, when discussing the classical myth of the Labyrinth … !)

In the podcast, I give a reading of my poem, “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Sings of a Swan,” an ekphrastic poem about three portraits of Sor Juana:  

SOR JUANA INÉS DE LA CRUZ SINGS OF A SWAN

First Portrait

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When I was young, the painter came and painted me
beautiful, a book in one hand, my other hand turned out
as if waiting for You to take it and ask me to dance.

But all my secrets were simmering inside me
like spices—like cinnamon—or red pepper
ground to powder and ready to burn your mouth.

My desires were as sweet as a singing swan.

Second Portrait

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I went away from the house where I was fostered
and took refuge in a monastery dedicated to Saint Jerome,
and he came again, that painter, and painted me:

sitting in my black and white habit, a wall of books
behind me, one open before me (not the Bible),
my beads wound round my body and dripping down

my shoulder, across my thigh, held in my hand,
but easy to ignore in comparison
to the oval portrait, like a shield of faith, upon my breast

showing an angel with rainbow wings flying above
someone kneeling, like Paul on the Damascus road, before
the Power that changes us in the middle of our life’s path.

Little did I know! All that would be asked of me
by the Archbishop—my books, my music,
my scientific instruments—for answering Sor Filotea.

Yes, I confess, I said that a woman has as much
right as a man to learn to read and write, and to do it
freely! But I was not free. I was bound by my vows.

 So I surrendered all.

Third Portrait

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The painter came again and painted me before I died,
one hand resting on the book of my own works, the other
holding the breviary (for life is brief), while wearing

my escudo,another oval painting upon my breast, this
time showing a woman, an angel, and a dove
descending from heavenand announcing that

 the new life had come.

jb

Jane Beal

from Rising: Poems for America 
(Wipf and Stock, 2014)

 

_Journey_ by Jane Beal

My poetry micro-chapbook, Journey,
is now available from Origami Poems Press (2019).

Special directions:
how to download, save, print,
and fold the chapbook.

Journey - CVR

From Los Angeles to Vallejo and Back

 from Los Angeles …

Angelenos drive
slowly through the pouring rain
no longer racing

red-winged blackbirds sing
together in Tejon Pass
the rain stops falling 

to Vallejo 

red-breasted robin
on the rooftop after rain
singing to a friend

no old woman here!
eyes sparking with youthfulness,
she laughs everyday

three brothers drinking
before nine in the morning
I’ve seen this before

in a sudden storm
hail breaks hard on my windshield
the road disappears

my lover leans back
his eyes meeting mine like doves
drawn to the river

my love is with me
quietly talking at night
intimate whispers

my lover draws close
our hearts sing without touching,
kiss without kissing

I stand with Stacey
on the pier and look across
the water at the white boat

the bridge spans the Bay
from Benicia to Crockett
view from the Dead Fish

three children painted
in bright colors yesterday
picture them smiling!

moon sets at sunrise
in pale pink, purple, and blue
as we walk and pray

my grandmother’s heart
is being opened today
a new pacemaker 

… and back

pink blossoms
sunlight on green grass
swaying in the wind 

snow-capped peaks
greening mountainsides
spring is near

jb

***

for Miguel
you are the perfect lover for me

***

Journey (Origami Poems, 2019)

“A Walk to Remember” by Jane Beal

My haibun, “A Walk to Remember,” now appears in Haibun Today 13:1 (March 2019).

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A Walk to Remember

You, Opossum, are slinking along the edges of the building in the faint light of morning. Aren’t you nocturnal? Shouldn’t you be deep in a hole, sleeping? You’re so sly, pausing behind a spider plant when you notice me noticing you. You grow impatient, then bold, and finally sprint across the path to the next building. Is it the smell of frying bacon that makes you scuttle off that way, I wonder?

I continue my walk, turn a corner, and see the full moon framed perfectly between the dark, green leaves and the luminescent, purple clusters of bougainvillea blossoms.

the face of the moon

my mother’s face over

the baby’s cradle

jb

Amber Ridge, La Verne, CA

Medieval Bestiary Poems by Jane Beal

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 4.10.53 pmMy poems ‘Kyrios,’ ‘Light,’ ‘Star,’ ‘Unicorn,’ ‘Pelican,’ ‘Lamb,’ ‘Phoenix,’ ‘Lion,” and ‘Logos,’” now appear in Integrité: A Journal of Faith and Learning 17:2 (Fall 2018), 77-80.

EXCERPT:

A medieval bestiary is a manuscript book that contains “scientific” descriptions of creatures alongside “spiritual” interpretations of those creatures; these derived from an older text called the Philologus. In the Middle Ages, the traits of certain animals were associated with Christ’s life, the Devil’s threat, or the Christian’s spiritual progress. Five entries in medieval bestiaries were particularly associated with different stages of the life of Christ:  the unicorn with the Incarnation; the pelican and the lamb with the Crucifixion; and the phoenix and lion with the Resurrection.

The Unicorn was associated with Christ’s Incarnation because of the myth that a unicorn could be calmed and captured by a virgin’s purity. The Pelican, because of belief that this bird pierced its breast to feed its young with its own blood, and the Lamb, because of the descriptions of the atoning sacrifice of the lamb found in Scripture, were associated with the Crucifixion. The Phoenix, because of the myth of how it rises from its own ashes, and the lion, because of the story that it roared its cubs back to life again, were associated with Christ’s Resurrection. In addition to these meaningful connections, many medieval people associated Light (“God is light, and there is no darkness in him”) and the Star (“I am … the bright Morning Star”) with Jesus because these were associated with him in scripture. In medieval bestiaries, the Annunciation to Mary, which presaged the conception and Incarnation of Christ, was associated with the light that shines on an oyster because light and dew were believed to help create the pearl inside the oyster. In general, the star was associated with Christ’s birth because the Magi followed it to find the Savior.

The nine poems below were inspired by these images and ideas in the Christian tradition. In the opening poem, “Kyrios,” the speaker sees a collection of animals at a circus and, inspired by their grandeur, wonders if she is hearing from God and asks God for mercy. In the closing poem, “Logos,” the speaker meditates on the sacred name, Jesus, which in the medieval period (as today) was often abbreviated IHS.

Kyrios 

Kyrios, I’m curious –
did I hear you right
in the dark?

Cirque du soleil,
and the cabinet of curiosities,
is still spinning in a lost memory in my mind …

But now, the little boy is dancing
with the little girl, casting light with the lantern
on the wall, dreaming and singing

of a future better than the past:
will you embrace them,
will you embrace us?

Kyrios! Kyrios! I reach out my hand
toward the light from your Star,
as I behold the circus animals in the ring

all of them roaring – lion, lamb, unicorn,
pelican and phoenix, bursting into flames –
as a red cardinal transforms into a parrot

and the valley of peace is pierced
by the beak of my lover’s soul, fearful
and yearning for our embrace, our

embrace, dear Lord! Have mercy,
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison –
his mouth is so sweet against my mouth.

Kyrios, I’m curious –
did I hear you right
in the dark?

jb

“Revelation and Transformation: Avian Imagery in Gerard Manly Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty,” “The Windover,” and “God’s Grandeur” by Jane Beal

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 4.10.53 pmMy essay, “Revelation and Transformation: Avian Imagery in Gerard Manly Hopkins’s ‘Pied Beauty,’ ‘The Windover,’ and ‘God’s Grandeur,‘ now appears in Integrité: A Faith and Learning Journal (Fall 2018): 25-38.

Excerpt: 

“The religious, meditative quality of these poems is well-known and widely-acknowledged. So too is their starting point and source of inspiration: the beauty of the natural world – especially its avifauna. Hopkins certainly noticed the “finches’ wings” he mentions in “Pied Beauty” and the Common Kestrel he describes in “The Windover” in nature, and his comparison of the Holy Spirit to a bird who “broods” in “God’s Grandeur,” in language that evokes the creation narrative of Genesis and the traditional, biblical comparison of the Holy Spirit to the dove, also appears to have a direct connection to his lived experience, for he wrote in a letter to his friend Robert Bridges of birds brooding and making their nests in boughs. As this essay will show, the birds in these poems are revealed through Hopkins’ poetic descriptions, but their significance is heightened, and indeed, transformed, in order to align with the themes of his poems. These themes are God’s immutability, God’s immanence, and God’s intimate care for the created world.

Three major cultural developments in Hopkins’ Victorian society provide contexts for interpreting these sonnets and their avian imagery: theories of natural selection, the invention of photography, and the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Evidence from Hopkins’ life and letters shows his awareness of “Darwinism”; ephemera associated with Hopkins and his extended family, including the carte de viste, show his familiarity with the popularity of portrait photography. The poet certainly echoes the complaints of other nineteenth-century poets about the damaging effects of industrialization. The evidence of his general knowledge of these wide-spread cultural shifts in Victorian England lends support to a literary-critical investigation of how Hopkins may be responding to such developments in in his sonnets in ways that previously have not been recognized.

As this essay will suggest, Hopkins’ reference to “finches’ wings” in “Pied Beauty” can be read as a subtle response to Darwin’s use of “Galapagos finches,” described in a study he published as a prelude to On the Origin of the Species (1859); this reading is consonant with the theme of God’s immutability celebrated in the poem. In “The Windover,” Hopkins appears to be incorporating Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering developments in photography in his description of a Common Kestrel. In his book, The Pencil of Nature (1844-46), Talbot described photography as “light” that “draws” pictures. Likewise, Hopkins writes of how the dawn has “drawn” the windover that he equates with Christ, a comparison which supports the theme of God’s immanence in the poem. Finally, in “God’s Grandeur,” Hopkins is contrasting the effects of industrialization, which he associates with the Fall, to the ongoing, intimate, and creative care of the Holy Spirit for the world, which he depicts in his poem.”

Two Haiku by Jane Beal: “Sun-Diamonds Spangle” and “A Tiny Bird”

My haiku, “Sun-Diamonds Spangle” and “A Tiny Bird,” now appear in The Asahi Haikuist (30 November 2018).

sun-diamonds spangle

the bright blue, wetland waters

brown pelicans nod

jb

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(Photo: David Pereksta, USFWS)

tiny bird hidden

in mountain mahogany

a vanishing song

jb

“Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.18.38 PMMy poem, “Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 57 (Winter 2016).

Lúthien’s Lullaby
for Dior

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you, before me, there was my mother,
Melian the Maia, who lived in Valinor,
and served the Valar, and saw the light of the Two Trees
with her own far-seeing eyes.
In the gardens of lovely Lórien,
she took on the form of the fairest Eldar
and taught the nightingales to sing.
She was standing in a glade open to the stars
when my father, Elwë Singollo, came fast to her,
and took her hand, so that, with that touch,
they were both enchanted and stood for years together
as the trees grew around them and the stars wheeled overhead.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you were born, I was born,
in the Kingdom of a Thousand Caves, in mighty Menegroth,
in Beleriand, protected by the Girdle of Melian,
and they called me the fairest of the Children of Eru Iluvatar.
I grew and sang and danced, free in my forest of trees,
to the sound of a secret flute, and there, your father
found me, as my mother knew he would, at moonrise,
but I vanished, even as he called me Tinúviel, daughter of twilight.
By doom and by destiny, oath-bound and enchanted,
we two became one on a journey to do justice:
I shifted shape to set your father free, and he
cut the Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Now I know the future, and the hard sorrow that it holds,
as I look ahead through a veil, like my mother before me,
and I see the wide waterfall of Lanthir Lamath,
and Nimloth, your bride, and Elured and Elurin, your mighty sons,
and Elwing, your darling daughter, the Star-Spray of Night.
I see the defeat of the Dwarves, at your deft hand,
and Nauglamir – ah, Nauglamir! – the necklace you will bring me
to avenge my father’s death, shining with the Silmaril
your father cut from Morgoth’s Iron Crown,
so that I will wear it and so that the Land of the Dead Who Live,
and even this green isle of Tol Galen,
will be filled, in the new near, with the last light of Yavanna’s Two Trees. 

One day, your father will die in his last battle,
and I, too, will die, for I have Chosen,
but you will live until you are slain
and descend into the Halls of Mandos.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son,
chosen before Time for the triune blood
that flows like a fountain of hope through your veins
from the far-seeing Maiar, the immortal Eldar,
and the swift Edain, your father’s people,
the ones who live and die,
for a doom Eru Iluvatar deems,
and I know, my sweet son, lying innocent in my arms,
that you bear within your beautiful body
the whole future of Middle-earth.

  • This poem was commissioned by Eileen Marie Moore, Professor of Music at Cleveland State University, who set it to music and performed it at “The Tolkien Unbound” session of the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May 2016.

“The Lais and Fables of Marie de France” by Jane Beal and Michael J. Hartwell

MariedeFranceMy co-authored essay, “The Lais and Fables of Marie de France,” now appears in Major Authors and Movements in British Literature (Gale, 2017), edited by Kirilka Stavreva, accessible through The Gale Researcher. 

Abstract:

“This article provides a brief introduction to the poetic works of Marie de France including her lais, fables, dream vision of Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, and hagiographical poem about Saint Audrey. A survey of Marie’s literary sources and immediate cultural context is followed by a discussion of the role of magic, romance, and gender in her poems. After a look at the major social and political themes of Marie’s writing, the article concludes with an examination of her influence on later medieval literature.”

UNCAGED by Jane Beal

My new collection of poems
about birding and the spiritual life:

BEAL-Uncaged-BkCvr

UNCAGED
hard-copy * read online

WHAT NEVER FAILS

We went to the water
to see the Pelican –

the one, they say, who stabs her breast
and feeds her young with blood (like Christ),

but there was no bird like that
on the little islands by the pier.

There were Western Gulls instead,
crying out like Alcyone for Ceys,

flying over us like the ragged mists
of dreams we dream at dawn

and, waking, find
have told us the truth.

We were standing close together, just above
the water, like the Light Princess and her Prince,

when I noticed the cliff swallows
darting over the waves, under the pier

where they have hidden their nests
and are feeding the future

with a constant love
that never fails.

jb

 

“Destiny” by Jane Beal

ContemporaryPoetry.jpgMy poem, “Destiny,” now appears in the poetry anthology, Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 4, edited by Pradeep Chaswal and Deepak Chaswal (2017), 24-26.

DESTINY

I feel
blown away
like a dry leaf.

Now the rain begins
to fall

on my crackling
skin, so that it softens,
and I cling to the loam
dark as night
beneath me.

I feel
myself
disintegrating,
becoming one with the dirt,
sinking into the earth.

I feel the tender, slender roots
from a nearby patch of grass
reaching into me –

I feel
a dandelion seed.

What will we become,
this tiny seed and me,
entwining in the dark
under the earth
where no one else can see?

When the rain stops,
when my former shape
is unrecognizable,
when I am spread out
and taken in,

when I can’t speak
in the usual way, when the vocal-chord veins
in my skin can’t be played
like a harp, by the wind, the wind I love,
the wind I remember so well,

when I grow
through the new life
of a flower
pushing herself
through the soil to the sun,

opening her green self
to become her yellow self,
feeling the light
to transform into her white self,
clean and pure –

who will I be?
Will the wind come back
and blow through me,
scattering me again,
for the sake of someone else’s wish?

Jane Beal