“Faith is like a Shimmering Veil” by Jane Beal

My creative non-fiction, prose poem reflection, “Faith is like a Shimmering Veil,” now appears in the blog of Tiferet: Screen Shot 2019-12-06 at 4.18.19 PM

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_Bliss_ by Jane Beal

Bliss

My new haiku micro-chapbook, Bliss,
is now available from Origami Poems.

BLISS

sunset over Wales
a girl looks through the window
of a speeding train

from a tower-top
in a big, modern city
the medieval bridge

walking down the hill
to Indian food in Leeds
the blue hydrangea

Museum Gardens
a Yorkshire hedgehog waddles
under a green bush

at Castle Howard
little, brown butterflies
dance in the heather

an old woman sits
on the park bench by herself –
the river flows by

jb

 (Britain, 2019)

  • You can click, download, print, fold, and cut this micro-chap into your own little book! Directions here.

 

 

“A Gather of Lesser Goldfinches” by Jane Beal

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My poem, “A Gather of Lesser Goldfinches,” now appears in the Anglican Theological Review 101:4 (Fall 2019), 732.

A GATHER OF LESSER GOLDFINCHES

The lesser goldfinches have come!
They gather in the November colors

of the California maple tree, whistling as they
turn upside down and eat the seeds,

letting black husks fall to the ground
with the dead leaves, crackling.

The gathering of lesser goldfinches
is a magical crown around the maple tree,

gently turning in gyre,
expanding, contracting, singing

that a new life will come—
a new life, a new life, a new life.

jb

“The Bird of the Soul” by Jane Beal

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My poem, “The Bird of the Soul: A Psalm of Lament,” now appears in the Jewish Literary Journal 77 (November 2019).

The Bird of the Soul
A Psalm of Lament

I.

I am in love with you.
I need you
to come to me
here.

Why will you not come?

I bow my head in grief.
The tears come from a deep place.
Shana tova,a woman says,
and I understand what she means.

Why will you not come?

How can it be a good thing
if my heart breaks,
and out of the ashes of my heart,
something new grows?

Why will you not come?

O God, perfect heart-builder!
You said he would come to me here.
But he says he will not come.

O God, I am alone without him.
My heart is breaking in pieces,
and it is a new year.

II.

My soul is a bird
in pain.  

My heart is a leaping bird
breaking in flight.

The nest is empty.
The nest is empty now.

When there were nestlings,
a cruel child came

and struck the mud nests
from the wall, so that they fell

and all our nestlings
died.

Now my soul is with the other bird-women,
crying in a wheeling-circle over the nesting place

where there is nothing
except what has fallen

to the ground,
to the ground.

My soul is a bird
in pain. 

My heart is a leaping bird
breaking in flight.

III.

Now it is the Day of Atonement,
and I must atone for my sins.
I know I have sinned, and I blame myself,
and I fear that I have forsaken my blessing
by reaching out to take it too soon.

O Lord God, have mercy on me!
My longing was so great!

If you cut open the pomegranate,
you will see my heart.
My heart is a leaping bird, breaking in flight.

All night I lie dreaming, and nothing
takes away my sorrow.

IV.

On Wednesday, I will go outside
and begin to build the outdoor tent, where
I am supposed to live this week and remember
how my ancestors dwelled in tents
in the wilderness before God
brought us into the Promised Land.

I will see the birds fly overhead by day,
and the stars wheel overhead by night.
It is the season of harvest.
Even my dog knows the time.
My womb, however, weeps blood,
again and again and again.

V.

I want to sing the songs that are inside,
each one a little babe –

I want to sing the psalms that save and bind up
bright and broken wings –

songs like lullabies
to little hearts, like lullabies to mine –

but never again sung to rock the cradle,
never again to watch it fall down.

O, how can the childless mother
make a wish in the dark? The silence

is very deep now. The silence
is profound.

jb

“The Song of Dionysius” by Jane Beal

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My poems, “The Song of Dionysius” and “The Tattoo Artist,” now appear in fws: a journal of literature and art 1:2 (Fall 2019).

THE SONG OF DIONYSIUS              

I am coming to you
through the wine country
carrying my staff
wrapped in ivy
and dripping with honey.

Come meet me in the fields
of endless pleasure. 

Come to me, Ariadne,
darling princess, royal bride –
you are everything
I want, and I am
everything you want.

Come meet me, singing,
with the epiphany of your body.

I am coming to you
with the fox-skin of new life,
with the heritage of the twice-born,
richer than your wildest dreams,
more intoxicating than golden wine.

Come meet me at dusk, when the peacocks
are crying out from the shadows.

Come with me, and bring
the labyrinth of your heart –
I know the way in, and
I know the way out. My wine
is for your sweet mouth.

jb

 

_Hail, Radiant Star! Seven Medievalist Poets_ edited by Jane Beal

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My new poetry anthology,
Hail, Radiant Star! Seven Medievalist Poets (2019),
is now available from Finishing Line Press.

There are seven poets who have written poems to light up the little universe of the book:  Jane Beal, Gail Berlin, Albrecht Classen, Thom Foy, Katharine Jager, A.J. Odasso, and Katherine Durham Oldmixon (Garza). Each poet has contributed a group of nine poems, and in reading and re-reading these verses, readers may be able to discern themes that unify each group like constellations are connected by stars in the night sky … There are eighty-eight constellations in the night sky. In the microcosmos of Hail, Radiant Star!, there are just seven: the Crown, the Lyre, the Pegasus, the Lion, the Ship’s Keel, the Twins, and the Virgin. Yet hopefully there is enough light from them to brighten a reader’s heart.

–Jane Beal, editor of Hail, Radiant Star!: Seven Medievalist Poets

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Unicorn

The tender scene, so beautiful in the forest,
when the maiden sits in the middle of the path that runs
through the trees, and the unicorn lays his head in her lap:

Incarnation of God! What magic is in the world?
The hunters draw closer, but still, you lie at peace
like a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes

and laid in a manger. The woman with you cannot
imagine how the sword will pierce
her own heart, too.

~ Jane Beal

 

 

“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

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

(Photo: David Pereksta, USFWS)

tiny bird hidden

in mountain mahogany

a vanishing song

jb