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Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Today I participated in a poetry reading at Ohio University Eastern.

I had been wondering what poem to read. My brother just died in December, and I had been finding solace in Wordsworth's  "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" but felt I shouldn't use it. 

What then can I recite, I wondered? I had chosen a stanza from a poem called "The Java of Pussycats" that I found on Ellen's blog, but I needed more. Several hours before the reading a poem called "What is Death?" showed up in my mailbox, sent out by Friend Susannah Rose. 

Not only was the timing of the poem's arrival and its theme perfect, the poem was written by Henry Scott Holland, the same name as a mentor who encouraged me strongly on my Bonhoeffer book.

 I read the poem, which I reprint below. 

Hat tip to Camille for the images

Not only was it perfect for the occasion, but our emeritus English professor, Tom Flynn, read "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." Tom not only read it but said almost exactly what I would have said about it. 

I tend to be suspicious of "connect the dots" serendipities, but yet I wonder. Is this all coincidence? The uncanny timing of the poem's arrival, the poem itself, the author, Tom reading Wordsworth? 

Perhaps I construct all this. And yet. Is a construction, like a poem, real? I suppose the most important takeaway is that we never know who we will touch when we send a poem or a word out into the world. Susan Rose could not have suspected that I needed just that poem for a poetry reading just that day. As I worry about this post, I am trying to trust that maybe it too will speak. 

What is Death?   

Henry Scott Holland
Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, 
  that we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
  which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed 
  at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
  that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
  without the trace of a shadow on it. 

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
  because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you,
 for an interval, 
    somewhere very near,
      just around the corner.

All is well.



  1. Things happen and we make links between them: they become a thread and weave their way in our lives and others'. Call that coincidence or constructio, but is't it beautiful?
    The poem you were sent and you chose to read echoes what The Girls tell me about our family members who have gone. They are here and we shall meet again. This is peace and contentment.
    Your illustrtaions are beautiful.

  2. Camille,
    I found the illustrations through you. :) Thanks for the comments and I commented on an older blog of yours, wondering if you consider Elizabeth Goudge a lady writer?