The poet Franz Wright once described his art as “the glove with which you touch the universe, as well as your spiritual quest and your physical sustenance.” His later work was filled with the slack-jawed wonder of finding himself alive…really alive…in a luminous world.
The poet Laura Martin found that wonder early and has been waxing poetic throughout her life, finally reaching the world of print in her collection Breaking Into Light [Opus Self-Publishing, 2023]. The world around her is full of huge miracles discovered in small moments.
Maybe you will be there when the cardinal comes to drink,
or the eyes of someone you love turn to your face.
Maybe you will grow something or harvest something.
Maybe you will make a stitch or let a prayer rise.
There are no simple acts.
This is your foundation.
—‘Priority List’ (41)
There are no simple acts. Every one of these maybes can open up a treasure house.
Martin’s poems have been delighting her Facebook friends for years. She has also brought that poetic spirit to her advocacy on behalf of unhoused persons and to her ministry at Rock Spring United Church of Christ in Arlington, Virginia. It is a joy to now have this resource which reflects her exuberance and vision.
The five sections of the collection cover major themes in her work from justice work to grief and, most especially, the presence of the holy in the every day. The poem ‘In the Silence’ describes waking with her dog in the ‘color-dark’ of early morning where he listens for movement and she listens for Silence, which “is not the sound of absence/but the sound of so much presence.” (9)
In ‘Seasons of Presence’ she captures the sense of the everlasting in the passing: “I know then that everything is fragile/and that everything does not have to last/to be eternal.” (65)
What Martin may not admit in herself, she certainly sees mirrored in the life of the creatures around her. When she describes the wild abandon of dogs, she could surely be describing her own headlong approach to life:
‘Run when the possibility of it finds you.
Take joy, in bones or people or
in the sigh at night when you
circle to sleep.
Hold nothing back.
Play every day, with rainbow unicorns or old tennis balls
or the one who giggles and pretends to chase you.
Give away your heart
and keep your soul.
Believe that forever is this moment,
and that is enough.
—‘For Dogs’ (13)
This is a collection to savor and return to many times, wherever we are on our spiritual quest. Thank you, Laura.