Distillation: A Poem

By

I wrote this a few months back, but it came to mind today because I spent hours this week wrestling with a song. Knowing that I’m recording it in a matter of days ramps up the pressure to get it right–or, as right as I can get it. It’s a relief sometimes to remember that, as hard as I try to say what I mean to the listener, in the end, the song (or poem) is going to do whatever it wants.

DISTILLATION

It’s hard to choose,
Among all that is
And all that is not,
One small thing
To make much of:
One cell,
One star,
One wind,
One wound,
One old broken truck,
One undeniable infatuation
With one untouchable soul;
To pen a span of words
With myriad meanings,
Arranged just so, in order
That they might mean
That one single thing
Which can mean
A million things–
Depending on
The reader,
And the hour
He or she reads it,
And the angle of light,
And the heart’s condition,
And the temperature of the air,
And the presence

(Or absence)

Of demons
Or angels,
Personal
Or impersonal,
And the song that played
In the bakery and mingled
Perfectly with the aroma and
Aerated the anger, just enough
That the poem might seed the soul
With a fleeting, sacred silence–
Just enough to plant the secret
God is telling–the one thing
We’re all dying to discover–
Even if we have to find it
In a poem.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


26 Comments

  1. Caleb

    This is one I’ll be coming back to. It says a lot of things I often try to say. And isn’t that what a good poem should do, say for us what we are often trying to say?

    Nice work, Mr. Peterson.

  2. Sally

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Umm… and you might want to fix that “going do do” part. I work with boys and they would have a field day with it.

  3. Katherine Kamin

    To pen a span of words
    With myriad meanings,
    Arranged just so, in order
    That they might mean
    That one single thing
    Which can mean
    A million things–

    Mission accomplished beautifully. Thank you!

  4. Loren

    Magnitude meaning in single words, affected by when and where we hear them…. So true. I’ve been wanting to share Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark” with a friend, feeling it hits exactly where she’s at, and yet I don’t know if she would “get it” like I did. But I think I need to release it to her and let the Holy Spirit speak as He will.

  5. Joy C

    Andrew,

    You just keep going. Aslan is surely on the move.

    God bless you. And we’re eager for the new song(s).

  6. Karen Champoux

    Beautiful sound all through the poem and a beautiful cadence, too. I was sweetly struck by the softening “s”sounds of

    That the poem might seed the soul
    With a fleeting, sacred silence–

    getting us ready for the secret God is telling.

    Fine work. Thank you for posting it.

  7. Kathleen Krueger

    Which can mean
    A million things–
    Depending on
    The reader,
    And the hour
    He or she reads it,
    And the angle of light,
    And the heart’s condition,
    And the temperature of the air,
    And…

    🙂

  8. Jenny Leiter

    “One thing I have asked of the Lord
    that will I seek after;
    to live in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
    to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4 NRSV).

  9. April Pickle

    Beautiful poem and sweet introduction to it. There is such joy and blessing in the wrestling. (for you as you wrestle with the writing of the song, and for us as we wrestle with the listening to it). Such a GOOD THING. Ooooh ooooh take cover!

  10. Joy C

    “With a fleeting, sacred silence–”

    Andrew, your recording of RM’s “Calling Out Your Name” (on Above These City Lights) is profound. Rich nailed the music and words; you and Ben and Andy give it even more.

    Thank you.

  11. Peter B

    Superb. Poetry usually doesn’t get to me. Perhaps this is just real enough to slip under my defenses. Thank you — and we’re looking forward to the next project!

  12. sallie kate

    I love the undulating shape of the poem;
    each line stopping just short of
    or stretched just longer
    than the preceding line.
    Every phrase working together
    to make a beautiful picture.

  13. Megan Willome

    Came over from Glynn’s. I’m trying to focus on your poem while my daughter is playing piano and my husband is making pancakes, and your poem is about how poetry meets us where we are.

    Re-reading now.

  14. robyn blaikie collins

    n the end, the song (or poem) is going to do whatever it wants…

    this makes me think of the way that i pray. i pray with the asterisk…

    i want this person to heal*
    i beg you to change this situation*
    i think you want me to do this*

    *but whatever you already know is best, God… so, whatever you say.

    at the end of the day, God is going to do what God wants to do, we make a choice to be part of it or to not.

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