Secret Place by Elizabeth Cunningham
An excerpt from So Ecstasy Can Find You
Beyond the field into a wood, deeper,
the stream winds green and black under
ice, bend after bend, while pine and oak
grow on and on and under the snow
the undergrowth rests awhile. Wearing
snowshoes, I can make a path where I will
through the wood, along or above the stream,
deeper, till I come to a place where
there is no sound but the wind in the pines
the creak of cold trees, the groan of the ice
and the stream now frozen, now broken free
singing on and on. There are no other human
tracks but mine in this beautiful water-carved
bowl of wood and rock and earth and shine.
The posted signs I passed say this wood
belongs to a developer. Then I must love it
all the more fiercely in this moment, love it
as I love all passing things, my own life,
my friend’s life. She died almost a year ago.
For two months we knew she was dying
and so we spent all the time we could
sitting beside her, catching last words and looks.
When my husband says, “we are doomed,
the tar sands oil is already being sucked out,
we have irrevocably fouled the nest, life
as we know it on this planet is ending,” I can only say
hush, let me love let me love let me love
this place, let me love this life as long as I can.
In her third collection of poems, novelist Elizabeth Cunningham leads us on an intimate journey into forest and mountain, garden and dream, along a hidden stream bed and beside a friend’s deathbed. She also explores poetic form, drawing inspiration from ghazal, haiku, tanka, and song lyric. Eye and ear are equally important to Cunningham; her images are rich, her rhythms, sure. By turns wry and tender, awed and amused, the collection displays the emotional range of a writer whose questions have led her on a quest, whether it is following blue trail markers along a cliff or confronting her own aging and death. These poems are grounded (literally and figuratively) in Cunningham’s ecstatic connection with the earth in all its strength, fragility and mystery.