The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book

Came across this exquisite poem on Cellpoems and had to post it. From poet Jeffrey Pethybridge – “The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book” is part of a book-length sequence entitled “Striven, The Bright Treatise,” which was written in the wake of my brother’s suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge in the winter of 2007. This excerpt from “The Book of Lamps” represents a fourth of the full poem; in its entirety, the poem is composed of 128 stanzas with each quarter attaining––as in the interrelated movements of symphonic structure––its own shape and theme.


Drug-tired, at a loss, above the lucid waves.


Palms rested on the railing (like anyone
looking out at the Pacific sun-set).


Palms pressed against the railing, the      last
solid thing held, the limit touched—
drug-tired from the chronic drag of days.


Palms open to the light-
ness in letting go: liberty, relief—
but also plummeting and irrevocable;
the waves, unsparing.


Palms pressed flat up
against the wailing wall
in your gut, ulcerous,
pocked by guilt, shame—
secret pains in being.


Palms open and upturned,
good little supplicants,
what is their (secret) prayer?—
what is open to praise?


Candor?—the grace of accuracy
to say what happened? Facts
merely disclosed by the Angel
of the Police Report?


The right note to elicit
briny-air?—or that thick beach-chill
along the skin at dusk? The nouns
to summon it.


The fall is four seconds long, the body
reaches a speed upwards of—as physics
describes the case.


(The truth is I know the truth is
made through work: lucid, unsparing).

Read the rest at Cellpoems


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