GIFTS FROM MY BREAST

A HANDWRITTEN CARD found amongst the papers of the late poet Sally Purcell bears the following anonymous and unsourced quotation:

… Y sobre todo tendras
los regalos de mi pecho,
las finezas de mi amor,
la verdad de mi deseo …

a translation of which is

… And above all you have
gifts from my breast,
the subtleties of my love,
the truth of my desire

the Epigraph in Sally Purcell’s Collected Poems

It’s possible, sometimes, to fall especially for anonymous poetry. The world’s sacred scriptures are full of it. Our ancient forebears believed that poetry (from the Greek for “to make”) carried the Word of the un-nameable maker, the breath, the creativity, the encouragement, the enthusiasm (the from-God-ness), the feeding, the fire, the grace, the glory, the hearing, the hope, the knowing, the order, the passion, the seeing, the voice, the will, the work and the yearning of the divine. So, for me, with this little Epigraph. And I wonder whether it is the very key to Sally Purcell’s life and poetry. And I wonder, too, whether I’m so attracted to it because it holds a key to what I want to be mine.

Writing for The Times of 19 November 2002, Libby Purves remembered her friend: “like Spender’s archetypal poet she was born of the sun, walked a short while towards the sun, and left the vivid air signed with her honour.” Ah! – notwithstanding my many frailties and failures I’dd nonetheless like to think that a beloved friend, some day remembering my life, might be able to say such a thing of mine. The home and the love we all long for will surely be the place where all the vivid air is signed with honour, God’s honour, your honour, and mine.

Here in this exquisite Epigraph is a hint of that Kingdom come, here, today, in us, on earth, in our breasts, in our souls, in our most intimate known and knowing depths, as it is in heaven. It’s an extra-ordinary sort of a love that tells someone that they have “gifts from my breast”. There’s warm and life-sustaining intimacy in the message that another has some understanding of “the subtleties of my love”. An achingly beautiful reaching and being reached in “the truth of my desire”. I think of “the disciple Jesus loved” at rest upon his breast. And inwardly, perhaps more intimately than outwardly, our poetry creates in the same wonderfully incarnate way as did His.

Caught up into one, in the One, because “You, You only, exist”, we hear, in our most beloved voices, an all-encompassing, life-giving and eternal Voice say

After Amairgen

I am the quiet fruit in your hand
I am the green weed that sways in the current
I am the dark red wrack
That clings to the oceans floor below all tides
I am shell or fossil that can strip no further
I am driftwood after its voyaging
I am the sunlight flickering on these pages
Who but I knows the exchange of sea and shore ?

Sally Purcell

And so we smile. Warmed inside. We pray.

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Fuerteventura, Spain