Poem Therapy: Offerings - Howard Altmann

Howard Altmann

To the night I offered a flower
and the dark sky accepted it
like earth, bedding
for light.

To the desert I offered an apple
and the dunes received it
like a mouth, speaking 
for wind.

To the installation I offered a tree
and the museum planted it
like a man, viewing 
his place.

To the ocean I offered a seed 
and its body dissolved it
like time, composing
a life.
When I read this poem all I could think was what is it that I am offering?

I was raised Mormon. It wasn't a good fit. But as a child what can you do but carry out your secret rebellions? I vowed once I was old enough I was out, and never would be at the mercy of another religion. Even so, as a child I was fascinated by the small stone statue of the Virgin Mary outside the church of Rosa Lima. I knew I didn't want to be a Catholic, but I wanted her. I still do.

My first religious experience was at mass in the Cathedral of the Madeline when I was in my early twenties. The light filtered through the stained glass windows, the choir boys were singing in Latin, as I remember it there was a haze from incense. I burst into tears. My first husband was Catholic. That is as close as I got to the religion, other than the history and the images. Mary is something altogether different, though. I can't say that I can explain it.  

I have had similar experiences, when I remove my shoes and step into a holy site, sit in the blistering cave of sweat lodge, or enter certain groves of trees.

For a time I covered all the bases religious-wise, by making offerings to all the gods of which I was aware, from various religions and belief systems, present and ancient. I still have all of them, and my house if peopled with tiny altars and their saints or gods. Sometimes, I'll still put an orange at the base of one of the niches or a coin in the hand of an image.

In times of strife or desperation, I have struck so many unrealistic bargains that I should know by now that Deity is not a shopkeeper.

I stopped bargaining eleven years ago, out of anger and stubbornness. What will be, will be. It is what it is. Lately, though, I find myself haggling, just a little again. Perhaps, this means I am ready to look to the stars again, in hope of finding the Old One Einstein spoke of when he spoke of God. Perhaps it means I am finally ready to let the anger and stubbornness go, and allow something else, offer something else.

In truth, all I can offer up to lay on the altar, any altar, is my gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. Could you tell me the meaning of this poem? I'm not a native English speaker. Nor am I a person who reads many poems. But I just happen to read this poem online and altho' I've liked it very much, I didn't get it's symbolic meanings and it's contextual meanings. It would be great if you could email me your reply.
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