A brief word of thanks for an old collection of poems by Scott Cairns. Twenty years has passed since the first publication of Recovered Body, a small collection of Cairns’ poetry. It doesn’t have the warmth of some of his later work, (despite the passionate interludes with Erato, the muse), but it is fun to watch Cairns play with themes of spirit and flesh.
The title contains multitudes. It’s Jerusalem reclaiming the body lost to Athens’ ethereal metaphysics. It’s the body exposed and re-covered. It’s Jesus incarnate once again. You see it all here. And Cairns plays with midrashim to revisit familiar stories from the Hebrew Scriptures and Byzantine iconography to explore scenes from the life of Jesus.
Through it all there is the wonder of our own incarnation, the meaning of our own enfleshment. There is also the awesome power of the divine pulsing through the creation. And even when Jesus descends to hell, it is to surprise the dead with one further possibility:
They have yet to enter bliss,
but they rise up, eager and a little shocked
to find their bodies capable of this. (73)
Once more I express my gratitude that there is such a thing as a poet like Scott Cairns in this world.