Northern Bard: Jessica Pumphrey “Commonty”


“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver asked,

And I hesitated to reply. 

I have lived so long 

in the in-betweens,

Wanting to be somewhere else,

Then wanting to return.

Like a condor, 

Wanting to be both unfettered at sea 

and safe on a ledge,

I have been blown off course 

in to an unexpected land.

I have shied away from church; 

the catechism and dogma

Seem outdated,

unwieldy in my world.

But I love the romanticism, 

the ancient hands 

that shaped the churches of Europe.

The devout and trusting souls 

who sweated over stones 

to create a holy and sacred space for me, 

the non-believer to stand in awe

of the accomplishments of humankind.

Humankind who could revere a loving god, 

build a monument of worship 

that stands hundreds of years,

a solid symbol of faith 

in something larger than their own souls; 

and burn neighbours at stakes 

for casting a few askance glances. 

I love the dichotomy 

of consecrated ground 

tainted by the selfsame feet 

of worshippers and builders

who committed atrocious sins.

Led astray by their shepherds. 

I live in the in-betweens of what is, 

and was, 

and could be.

In my ancient cathedral 

the trees are the columns I wander through;

the stained glass 

comes alive at both night and day.

Light filtered through treetops 

dapples the mountain paths,

and the clouds make massive mandalas on the lakes. 

Grateful and privileged to be alive 

in this space; at this time

I can commune and be absolved 

for that which was or should have been.

Then the night sky comes alive

with stars 

and moon 

and shifting lights, 

white at the edge like a hot knife.

Cutting away expectations 

and making humankind

Seem so small and fragile.

Feel so far from the bastions built to belief 

that shape the European landscape, 

and guard the forgotten souls of past days. 

I love the chasm between

blessed untouched Yukon mountainsides,

paralleling the vaulted arches 

of gothic European churches.

Pagan shepherds made stonemasons.

I can rest in the in-betweens.

Like a condor, 

supported by air currents

that push it home 

or carry it away. 

I am learning to be secure

 in the anticipation;

Arriving at either 

and appreciating the flight.

A Free Verse Poem by Jessica Pumphrey  

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