What the Body Knows, by Jean Janzen


What the Body Knows

Maybe it’s the ocean’s rhythmic tug
that helps me sleep, my body’s own
surge remembering its deepest pulse.

Think of those Celtic monks who
scaled the slippery rocks carrying
vellum and inks while the sea broke

and battered beneath them. High
in a crevice, a hidden stone hut
with cot and candle. The scribe

dips and swirls his quill to preserve
the story—Luke’s genealogy,
name after name, letters shaped

like birds in every color, a flight
of messengers released into history.
Each word unfurls the promise,

like Gabriel kneeling. The body
knows that wings, like waves,
can break through walls and enter,

that the secret of the story
is love, that even as we sleep,
its tides carry us in a wild safety.

—Jean Janzen, a poet living in Fresno, California, is the author of six previous collections of poetry who has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other awards. A graduate of Fresno Pacific University and California State University of Fresno, she has taught at Fresno Pacific and Eastern Mennonite University. Janzen is author of What the Body Knows, from which this poem is excerpted (DreamSeeker Books/Cascadia, 2015, used by permission of publisher and author).

Editor’s note: Kingsview & Co guest posts will often not be intended to integrate directly with the flow of prior and future posts, and certainly this haunting poem can stand alone in its telling of the story’s secret. However, it’s also offered here in awareness that it joins the flow of “Blogging Toward Kansas City 2015” and the yearnings of so many of us, amid tumult in church and culture, to experience “that the secret of the story / is love, that even as we sleep, / its tides carry us in a wild safety.”

3 thoughts on “What the Body Knows, by Jean Janzen”

  1. Gwen, maybe you won’t mind if I add a P.S. yet for those not aware of it: a word of appreciation for the ways you, as the designer of the book’s cover, helped point us all in the same moving directions as your comments do.

  2. Michael, what a perfect time for posting Jean Janzen’s poem for such a time as this….to help us remember those deep pulses….that the secret of the story is love….wow. This should be read aloud—and/or could be a visual piece—during the assembly and beyond! Thank you for posting this reminder [of what we know], with such beautiful words, with its sounds and pictures that flow in my mind’s eye, through all of my being, as I read it. It has a way of cleansing.

    1. Gwen, many thanks for these thoughts. Sorry it took so long to acknowledge; your comment came in just as I was in the thick of Kansas City 2015 arrival and activities and in the flurry I never managed to get back to it until now.

      I do love that you picked up on the ways Jean’s poem holds power to speak to us about those deep pulses and about love at such a time as this. Your thoughts helped me remember the poem as a needed and healing frame for experiencing the intensities of what unfolded at KC2015.

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