The Old Man and His Puzzle

This is my latest little poem. It is really a collaboration, as it has been pulled out of my earlier more wordy and less focused version, by my friend, a poet of rare gifts, who is encouraging me and nudging me in my writing life, and has inspired me to return to my neglected blog. We’ll see how this goes. I need someone to teach me how to put drawings and photos into my blog.

The Old Man and His Puzzle

Hour upon hour most days,
with no picture to go by,
he shuffles, shifting and selecting,
rearranging and regrouping,
making multiple minute modifications
scouring for clues that may converge,
allotments of decipherable witness
to the image that might be there,
or that has always been there
biding its time.

I found some wonderful words today in The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. As I’ve mentioned before, I own things by copying them. This is from today’s journal entry. She is talking here about the lines that the writer is writing.

The line of words fingers your heart.
The line of words feels for cracks in the firmament.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.

I was sort of startled when I read the second quote, as I recalled clearly having copied it into a journal several years ago. Lately I’ve been rereading some books I’ve read in years past, and find it a strangely encouraging phenomenon, that in revisiting them, I find them so familiar, so like the shape of my own experience, it is like a homecoming. This reminds me that we do ineffably become what we ingest.

I am trying to articulate what it is I want, expect, hope, or intend to do as a writer/poet, looking for the kind of poetry that does something like what I want to do. This is a wonderful sort of new adventure for me, which I hope to explore here. I am eager to hear from other Orthodox poets. I am thankful to Scott Cairns for his podcast: Flesh Becomes Word, that provided a key to a door I have been wanting to go through for years. The Word of God is surely the greatest poem, and so as creatures made in His image, let us also become poems!

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8 Responses to “The Old Man and His Puzzle”


  1. 1 tiajulianna June 9, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I am so glad to see this post!! What a treat today! I have kept your blog bookmarked in hopes you would pick it back up. That Annie Dillard quote is one of my very, very favorites. Blessings to you this day~ Tia (BTW…Celia will be in the area the last week of June/First week of July)

  2. 3 s-p June 9, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Martha, I loved your journal page… So now your blog is bookmarked. I will visit it regularly. I hope someone can help you post your journals.

    The Annie Dillard quote is a spiritual truth and discipline: to live in the present moment. A writer/artist/poet explicates the moment in hope that it will draw others into their moments, not our own. May your words, hands and moments be blessed.

  3. 4 s-p June 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

    It occurred to me when I read your post again this morning…
    “Let us become poems”… in Ephesians 2 St. Paul says “we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works”, the word for “workmanship” is “poeima” in Greek: poetry, an orderly creation that expresses beauty. Just thought I’d mention that. 🙂

    • 5 marthajaneinortn June 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you for noting that in this context. It seems highly significant, as I am trying to discern on a daily basis what is the “good work” I am created for in Christ Jesus–“what is that new name written on the white stone” and what it means to overcome (Rev. 2).

  4. 6 debd June 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    coming over from s-p’s blog. I loved that quote too. I look forward to more blog posts.

  5. 7 James, the Brother June 22, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Encouraging you to press on to bless and be blessed.

  6. 8 Verlene January 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article. I wanted
    to write a little comment to support you.


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