Sunday, May 2, 2010

In the Valley

In the Valley

I expect when I get to the valley of the shadow of death,

I will find a whole forest of petrified souls,

A horde of giant rocks as far as I can see,

Crowded in together but standing each apart.

Some, like Lot’s wife, will be casting craggy glances

Over their shoulders, straining for the land of milk and honey,

Wishing someone would start the game all over

So they could learn the rules;

Others, stoic as those terra cotta warriors,

Will face forward with their hands still on the hilt

Unflinching and ready to take whatever comes their way.

Some will be massive, silent and implacable as Stonehenge.

I think my soul will be small and hard as flint,

A little me-shaped boulder wedged against a barren hill

Where I’ll wait for a weeping savior to heave me away from

The cavernous dark inside which, like Lazarus,

I find myself hobbled and bound.


  1. Karen, your love of language simply shines through this poem -- especially in your use of alliteration. Brava!

  2. Well, you took the "rock" and made it uniquely yours. This was beautiful. The idea of it was brilliant, and the execution was impeccable. And jeepers creepers, those last three lines gave me a thrill. I couldn't decide if they were reverent or sardonic. I don't care. They vibrate.

  3. I like the idea of seeing your own soul so clearly...and especially the idea of it being so small.

  4. what a chilling image! really love the idea, made me think of all the turned stone characters in Narnia. Love the images and the grim bleakness... I hope your description isn't real :-D

  5. I love "my soul will be small and hard as flint". I also liked the biblical references to Lot's wife and Lazarus. Nice piece, Karen.

  6. Huge. And haunting.

    My first image of myself would be a tall, narrow stone lean forward as if to fall. Not sure exactly why.

  7. Hello, Karen! My soul is always thrilled when I come to your blog and find a new poem. I love the images you have created. What beautiful music...and deep thoughts. It reminds me of a Native story I read about spirits in the rocks. The fact that the spirits in your poem ARE rocks is such an interesting twist!

    I love that the narrator's soul is a "little me-shaped boulder wedged against a barren hill," but it continues to wait for the savior. And the lines of comparison to Lot's wife are awesome. I also love "casting craggy glances." I had a similar reaction as Chris did...maybe the ending is reverent. Maybe it's tongue in cheek. Maybe it's a combination of the two. That is awesome!! The questions do echo and make me think. Big applause, my friend:)

  8. Wishing to start the game all over to learn the rules would be fairly fruitless. For the rocks and stones have learnt them a'ready. I will no wait for a weeping savior but a laughing one, the one that gets the joke.

    Love this rich tapestry of the dead and dying and no little boulder be you Karen. Maybe the mountain that drops a boulder now and then but no little stone will you ever be.

  9. Funny you should mention "terra Cotta warriors" as I was reminded of them while watching the Kentucky Derby this past weekend. As the horses came down the home-stretch, they were all covered in the same muck and looked identical. It put me in mind of those warriors on their chargers.

    Love the poem and the reference to Lots' wife is brilliant. (Have you read C.S. Lewis's, "The Great Divorce"?)


  10. "A forest of petrified souls,' a powerful image here, Karen. I was just speaking with a colleague of the life absorbed by rocks. This poem aligns well with that concept.

  11. I like the craggy glances, very nice one.

  12. I could really see this forest of rocks and enjoyed how you highlighted each of them with such a light touch. Not sure what my sould would be, small certainly, probably one of those little brown pebbles you find everywhere.

  13. Sandra - Thank you for that!

    Chris - Thanks so much for your generous comments. The ending? Not telling.

    Rachel - Thanks!

    Watercats - It's amazing what comes into my head when I'm driving. I composed this on a six hour drive and had to keep saying it over and over so I wouldn't lose it. I've had too many close calls writing poetry while driving (DUIM - driving under the influence of the Muse), so now I wait for stoplights, stop signs, and destinations. Meanwhile, I recite an recite. I've lost too many poems out the window! Sorry I couldn't manage the podcast. Little time and no talent for it. That'll be my new technology goal.

    Willow - Thanks!

    Jason - That's an interesting image. Thanks.

    Julie - You always read so carefully, and I thank you for that. Your comment about the Native Americans makes me think you read my mind, because that's where I started on this idea - the soul in the rock that sort of morphed into this. Thanks for your comments on the ending; I think you've nailed it.

    TWM - I like the idea of a laughing savior - much more appealing than tears! Thank you for your reading and your sweet personal comment. :-)

    Kat - I see a poem in the making for you: Derby and Terra Cotta Warriors - sounds like a good combination! I have not, by the way, read "The Great Divorce," but I'll give it a look.

    Jeanne - Hello, and thanks. I mentioned above that the idea of spirit in the rock is what led me to this.

    Niamh - Thanks!

    Argent - It would be interesting to see how we each see our souls. Sometimes, I think mine would expand and expand until it floated away; other times, it's this small, hard thing.

  14. After reading the first line, I thought you were writing about the 23rd Psalm from The Ten Commandments, but you did one better.

    My fav. line was "Wishing someone would start the game all over
    So they could learn the rules;"

    How many times do we think about that about our lives too?

    Good luck with your technology goal. Meanwhile, others, if you see a lady driving with a pen in her hands, duck to the side.

  15. I enjoyed that immensely. I didn't think it was going to be for me when I started to read, but it won me over. I ended wondering what my soul would be like. I decided a small stone ball that would roll at every tremor.

  16. Hi Karen, still have the images of those weeping angels in Doctor Who in my head and this reinforced it!
    I imagine mine will be pebble of shale that crumbles at the touch...

  17. I've never thought of death and the afterlife in that manner. That is very creative. I really like this post!

  18. Beautiful poem Karen; allusive and yet so, so solid; metaphysical theme realised in rock imagery.
    Real depth in this, and I loved the different direction you took the prompt in.

  19. Ani - If I see a lady driving with a pen in her hand, I'm probably looking in the mirror! :-)

    Dave - I'm glad it got you in the end!

    Peter - Thanks a lot! Now I have Dr. Who in my head!

    Quackster - Thank you!

    Titus - Thank you so much. I truly appreciate your comment.

  20. Karen, this is big work. You are amazing sometimes. This is one of them.

  21. I agree; this is a very moving and powerful poem.

  22. i find thes places like stonehenge or callanish fascinating and inspiring. there seems to be so much in the air around them.
    i bet these stones were supporters of wooden buildings, churches or community buildings.
    anyway, i loved the rich images in your poem, too.

  23. oh, i've already read this one three times. i like it very much.