You’re coaching your first boys’ soccer game, and you err on the side of bending the rules so the kids can have a little fun.
An old resort hotel is abandoned to collapse in on itself. Or you cut your grass too short and here come the weeds. Or a water pipe breaks in the attic, ruining the stored Christmas decorations. A puppy dies when it catches the motorcycle it’s chasing. Two friends build a bookshelf. Deer show up in the negihborhood to eat your plants. Piano practice.
This is the stuff of poetry? This ordinary, everyday living stuff?
In Barbies at Communion: and other poems, poet Marcus Goodyear (editor of the High Calling Blogs) answers with a resounding yes, because something profound is found in this ordinary living.
We put our Jesus in the attic
after Christmas, buried in boxes
between plastic wreaths and cheap lights.
I rarely think about the idle figure
when I fetch luggage for business trips.
Near the boxes, the space is a maze
of pipes wrapped in thin foam, too thin
for January freezes when water reminds us
who is in charge. So here I am,
my breath like a pillar of cloud.
When the pipes crack, the water sprays.
There is no controlling this flood
and the damage it causes, soaking
through our Christmas, baptizing Santas,
Rudolphs, wreaths and every single Jesus.
Like many of Goodyear’s poems, “Epiphany” is full of Biblical allusions, and not only the direct reference to Jesus. Consider the flood, the breath like a “pillar of cloud,” the reminder of “who is in charge and the water from the broken pipe as a kind of baptism. On one level, “Epiphany” is a poem about nothing more than a broken pipe. But he massages it into a richly layered meditation on faith and God, using the commonality of Christmas decorations – how we understand faith – and how that understanding drowns in the reality of what faith is really about.
What Goodyear has done in this collection of “poetry in the everyday” is to demonstrate that poetry can be accessible, understandable, and real to people who long ago turned their backs when it came to be dominated by the academy.
This is about the poetry in life, about poetry as life, the life we all know.
Reading these poems was like reading some of my own personal history. Like when I was 5 and my dog was hit by a car. And the three days after Christmas we spent in a motel when the pipes burst in our house in New Orleans after a hard freeze. And cutting the grass too short. And cutting the grass on a Sunday. And riding my bike up to Tastee Donuts on Sunday mornings to get breakfast for the family. And the time when I worked with a carpenter friend who made me a typing table and a bookshelf out of yellow pine. That’s the stuff of Barbies at communion.
It speaks to the depth and insight of the poems that they become and reflect our own experiences.