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Gregory Orr – Ⅰ

Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved 


Part One (Selections)




Who wants to lose the world,

For all its tumult and suffering?

Who wants to leave the world,

For all its sorrow?

Not I.

And so I come to the Book.,

Which is also the body

Of the beloved. And so

I come to the poem.

The poem is the world

Scattered by passion, then

Gathered again

So that we may have hope.


The shape of the Book

Is the door to the grave,

Is the shape of the stone

Closed over us, so that

We may know terror

Is what we pass through

To reach hope, and courage

Is our necessary companion.


The shape of the Book

Is dark as death, and every page

Is lit with hope, glows

With the light of the vital body.




I read the Book for years

And never understood a word.

Scrawled in its margins.

Wrote my own versions

Of what I read there,

But never got a thing right.


Didn’t understand that each

Poem was a magic spell.

Was a voice,

And under that voice: an echo

That was the spell.


As if each poem clearly spoke

The word “Death”

And the echo said “Life.”


Echo roiling the poem’s surface

As the angel was said

To trouble the waters

Of Bethesda’s pool in Jerusalem

So that the first person

To enter the water

After the angel had been there

Was healed.




Those who wake in the middle

Of the night read a different book.

For one thing, the world’s all dark

Around them, as if it disappeared.

The poems they read are anxious,

As if they feared the world

Might not return next morning

Or if it did might bring them

Sorrow or bad news. more sorrow,

More bad news.

A little light

On the book’s white pages

While they read for an hour:

Pages lit up like a sail at dawn.


The boat alone on the sea.

But the wind steady, pulling them along.