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  • To Account for Such Grace, and: Early Pastoral, and: The Consolation of a Company of Acrobats, and: A Temporary Delaying of the Inevitable
  • George Looney (bio)

"Walt Whitman, influenced by Elias Hicks's doctrine of the Inner Light, believed the profane world was the only aspect of the sacred world that was knowable: our only hope for understanding the sacred was in the full experience of this world we know with our inadequate senses. 'You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life,' he tells us in 'Song of Myself.'

"These four poems are part of a manuscript written after the loss of my second parent. A little more than a year ago my father, after a rapid decline into dementia, died, and I found myself filled with thoughts of that other realm Whitman believed we could only know through fully knowing this world.

The poems attempt to get at the nature of the spiritual realm, to allow for a momentary experience of it that might imbue this world with solace for the grief that accompanies us here."

  • To Account for Such Grace
  • George Looney (bio)

Some nights, light's particle nature is italicizedby the downward emphasis of a steady rain.

History is the distance between what happenedand what we say happened. A woman without

an umbrella is a frail shadow hunched overa small flame flickering between her palms

in a shallow alcove, the only light the flamecupped in her hands and a sixty-watt bulb

somewhere behind her in the niche she's foundthat almost keeps her out of the frenzied rain.

If this were being painted in sixteenth-century Florence,the woman would be a statue of the only woman

the church could love, the mother of Godthe son, and cupped in her delicate, trembling hands

would be the burning heart of God become man,having flown out of his dying chest with a last wheeze

from the cross. Rain, in the painting, would bean occasion for the artist to show off his brilliance

with reflective surfaces, nothing more. Historymight ask us to ignore the woman's hands, the calluses,

how they tremble and seem too delicate to hold upunder her grief. No matter is as delicate

as light. Or as alluring as the face of this woman,having a smoke, waiting out the rain. Entire histories [End Page 80]

have been imagined to account for such grace.Music has transformed the human voice

to make possible even a vague hint of the delicacyof this woman's fragrant hands, moist with mist,

reflecting light in ways a Renaissance masterwould have bowed down to, envious, rapt. [End Page 1]

George Looney

George Looney's most recent book is Open Between Us (Turning Point, 2010). His A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness is due from Stephen F. Austin State University Press in 2011.

His work has been recognized with an individual artist's fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, two grants from the Ohio Arts Council, and one from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and has won awards from literary journals such as the Missouri Review (in 2003), Zone 3, New Letters and the Literary Review. Among other duties, he serves as Chair of the BFA in Creative Writing program he created at Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, where he is editor-in-chief of the international literary journal Lake Effect.

  • Early Pastoral
  • George Looney (bio)

for Diane

Morning glares, crisp, on a freshly mowed lawn.In the shadow of a bird feeder, sparrows

ask of the shorn grass nothing but the fallenbirdseed, and in this light everything is

granted. Not even the dulled absence ofmeaning could ruin this moment. A finch

flashes its cartoon yellow from one edgeof a stunted tree's shadow and explodes

in this light that, if it had a voice, wouldno doubt whisper golden as it revels

in leaping from that bedlam of feathersand insistence in a way that seems to,

just now, scar this landscape with a feverof color. A cardinal in the shade...


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