This is what joy looks like

By

This is what joy looks like:

It looks like walking over the lawn in that time
of late winter’s striving with early spring,
when afternoon and evening brush fingers in passing,
throwing careless glances over shadowed shoulders,
and all the wealth of the sun’s bullion lies heaped in treetops,
mounted and piled among far-flung boughs like plunder, forgotten—
or abandoned—in sudden flight. (Boys once sought a piece of this prize,
training their darts towards all that opulence, aiming to see an arrow
gilded before falling to earth once more, transfigured.)

All earth holds its breath, waiting, for that one, clear, cold note;
for the ache of the thing that is surely coming; for the nativity of the world.
(You have forgotten to wait for it, sitting indoors with your fingers
interlaced, or kneeling to blow on bloodred coals yet smoldering upon a bed
of grey ash. But now you remember, stung alive by that keen air,
bearing tinctures of delicate things for all its rude handling—violets and tiny white feathers
and bits of blue shell at the foot of a tree. Forgetting takes time, but
remembrance is the matter of a moment.) It is then, when you have finally

opened your eyes that the miracle steals on tiptoe, lifting with smallest hands
the bank of heavy cloud which has sullened and saddened the earth all day,
throwing out in one radiant glance enough glory to christen the world. Thus known
and named, all things sing back themselves for sheer gladness, in flashes of
birdsong and music of color: Glory to thee and all thanks to thee, O Namegiver!
In that light, all is canticle and verse; all is wild tumult of praise: leaping serum
of veining sap and homing dove and bright cacophonous rooster’s crow!

And yet, the bird in the hedge falls silent, checked in his mad virtuosity
by that strange creeping splendor decanting itself like summer wine, casting a holy blush
over every living thing. It is in that moment, poised in perfection upon
the very doorstep of eternity, that you catch the echo of scarce-dreamed-of
desire, resonating down darkened vestibules, haunting the ventricles
and chambers of your heart. For one searing instant, you prize past all equal
the spangling of sun-shot tears trembling from the naked branches; the rising incense
of mist is more costly than gold, and that one aureate wisp caught among
the dark tresses of the pines far more precious—and then you know:

You are more alive than flesh and bone could ever hold;
more vital than body and blood and thought.

You are made for more
rapture than one life can contain.

Profile photo of Lanier Ivester

Lanier Ivester is a “Southern Lady” in the best and most classical sense and a gifted writer in the most articulate and literal sense. She hand-binds books and lives on a farm with peacocks, bees, sheep, and the governor of Ohio’s leg. She loves old books and sells them from her website, LaniersBooks.com, and she’s currently putting the final touches on her first novel, as well as studying literature at Oxford.


18 Comments

  1. Mark Geil

    This is also what joy looks like: when someone manages to express a thought you’ve had, deep down, when you looked up from cold rotting leaves to see sunlight warming earth again, and that someone expresses that thought just exactly right. I started reading this, and then realized something special was happening, and so I stopped the music and read it aloud – whispered – and celebrated.

  2. Barbara Lane

    Oh my. Just…stunningly gorgeous. The whole thing, of course. I find this line particularly poignant:

    “Forgetting takes time, but
    remembrance is the matter of a moment.”

    Thank you, Lanier…

  3. Shelbie Kaye

    Very few writers make my soul thrill with joy, but you have managed to do it!

    “You are more alive than flesh and bone could ever hold;
    more vital than body and blood and thought.

    You are made for more
    rapture than one life can contain.”

    These thoughts of yours awakened a small piece of the rapture that we’ll have eternity to unwrap. Thank you so much for sharing your gift.

  4. Jennifer K.

    Your images pierce my heart – the gilded arrow, the bird “checked in his mad virtuosity”. All this plays in my soul as a beautiful dream that is coming true, day by day, and which, thank God, we will all taste in its fullness someday. Thank you for this.

  5. Judy

    ” – and then you know:

    You are more alive than flesh and bone could ever hold;
    more vital than body and blood and thought.

    You are made for more
    rapture than one life can contain.”

    Is this not what it means to be ‘surprised by joy’!

    Thank you Lanier.

  6. Amanda Brindley

    Wow, Lanier. Thank you. Such beautiful words to capture one of my favorite moments of creation’s rhythm and to describe why I love watching sunset.

    Especially love this:
    “All earth holds its breath, waiting, for that one, clear, cold note;
    for the ache of the thing that is surely coming; for the nativity of the world.”

    and this:
    “poised in perfection upon
    the very doorstep of eternity, that you catch the echo of scarce-dreamed-of
    desire, resonating down darkened vestibules, haunting the ventricles
    and chambers of your heart.”

    Beautiful!

  7. Annie Drew

    Thank you so much for this – for the reminder of the beautiful union between the created and the spiritual, and the hope of glory. I plan on saving this and re-reading it many times in the future.

  8. Laure Hittle

    i think i need to learn how to read poetry. This is beautiful, and my heart wants to engage it, and i think it is teaching me. i can feel the joy in it—and peace. Those last lines stopped me cold. They’re so true. And on a second reading, i am beginning to guess at the truth of the whole.

  9. EmmaJ

    Lanier,
    This is so beautiful. I need to read it over and over and over and over until this is engraved on my heart. Thank you.

  10. mitsiemckellick

    After a Maine winter that has just now “left the building” in the southern part of the state, this captures the glory of a long-awaited Spring in our little neck of the woods.

  11. Jody

    Oh, glory…

    I have been saving this post for weeks–and now I’ll be savouring it for weeks and months and more time to come.

  12. Holly

    I printed this to go in my journal. There is not a lot of beauty here (Afghanistan) and not much prospect for joy (facing a year’s deployment) but this piece gave me peace. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Lanier.

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *