Night draws near, brother ass
pale sister moon ascends the dark
brother wind makes a chill pass
from long ago and far away
where Francis dogs still bark—
they echo sorry old beliefs
that make you lesser than
a thing that’s called a soul.
As if some merciless sneak thief
has stripped you of your rigmarole
stolen all your oomph for dreams
of grasping the elusive carrot
and your fear of prodding stick
you slow a bit now, and seem weary
though you stubbornly as ever climb
the slope of each day, brick by brick.
You’ve been a good and faithful
servant— more than I can say
for parts that think and speak.
Yours is an understanding deeper
than all hope and pray. Are we perhaps
at last in sempiternal unison about
the moment that must come? Then
let’s together bray..and bray…and bray!
I have seen Assisi from afar …
I don’t know that I have ever read/listened to a poem so hauntingly beautiful. To me it is a spiritual song to the body that has carried us so far and through so much and to whom we are so deeply attached. I feel that this old friendship with mine is something more than just that as a vehicle for my soul. I am so fond of the old girl. I don’t want it to decay. We’ve been together through the fun of childhood, when it could skip and jump and it burst with energy through fields and woods and sat in the school desk looking out the window at the rain. And, all the other glorious years, when I loved dresses and shoes, and heads turned. Now, a smarter mind, but I have to use two hands to get up off the ground. Damn. I liked you, but I know what lays ahead. Our bodies are more than a favorite pair of shoes that we’ve worn out, aren’t they? I know they aren’t. They are like a favorite pair of shoes that we’ve worn out. I’ll put them on, those favorite shoes with the perfect size heel and the soft band across the top and I’ll dance in them, in the kitchen with the radio on and the curtains closed, until the sole is gone and my feet touch bare floor. I know what lays ahead, but I will go down kicking.
No one is better than you, Cynthia. I put this right next to E.St.V.M. You have reached, to me, the apex with this one.
Thinking of you daily,
Thank you Ginene!! You wrote here so much of what is welling up in me wanting to say to Cyn!
I “heard” what she said in her last post, but was unable to respond….waiting for what I really wanted to say back in response to her revelation… now with this amazing new poem, and your response, I can at least acknowledge what I heard….I am right there with you, with it all…thank you!
hauntingly beautiful!!! yes, hauntingly…
Beati quelli ke ‘l sosterranno in pace…
(I’m not so erudite as to have typed this without looking it up! from Francis’ Canticle of the Sun). This wondrous poem almost surpasses all others. (Although I’ll never be able to hear the priest say “Let us pray” again without thinking of your braying Brother Ass).
There’s a certain parallel perhaps with R.A.K. Mason’s “The spark’s farewell to its clay” – https://sites.google.com/site/selectedpoemsrakmason/home/the-sparks-farewell-to-its-clay – which has been one of my favourites over the years, and is now perhaps supplanted by your “Night draws near, Brother Ass”.
I have taught and loved the Canticle to the Sun over many years – but here I love even more how you have united Bother Ass with the body. The home of the soul while we sojourn here. This is indeed a profound poem Cynthia, and listening to you speak it reduced me to tears. Let us bray indeed!!
PS I hope this will be included in the new anthology!
“….the new anthology….” oh, may that be so! soon!
Dearest Cyn, so…here I am, with tears and fears. Just able to say right now that I heard you….I got your message with the previous posting. This poem is a jewel….thank you for continuing your work of such exquisite truth telling in such brilliant beauty….
I love this work, the donkey of the body, and yes, why not bray. I have not yet thought it through, but it called to mind some lines: Some/ Should know better than to promise/ Time, or their bodies, even if/Trust lives first in the body/ Before rising like an ether/Into the mind.
Some time ago I was one evening at the edge of a pasture at dusk. A horse approached and came to touch my cheek with his muzzle over the fence. I stroked his neck. With this experience I easily compresnd what you feel with this donkey and that you express so well ..
I see that it is not you who answer. I hope you are not sick , Cynthia.. Personally I had to stop a month and I just started over again.
This brought tears to my eyes – tears of admiration and joy as much as those of impending loss. Such a splendid analogy and courageous reading – possibly your best – certainly the most poignant.
Simply a joy to hear your voice.
This poem grabbed me by the heart and hit me in the gut. Your poetry is brilliant and profound.
Like your other friends, I am sitting here in tears, for you, for the courageous beauty of the poem, for the connections you have made with literature and religion and the sense of worldwide friendship your poems have created – these last tears are positive ones. Though an atheist, I can respond fully to that dialogue between head and heart – between the driver and the steed. Like Ginene, I hovered over a E.St. V. M. thinking of you last week. We will be braying with you all over the world.
A great joy, this one. Touching and yet characteristically touched with humour, too. I remember that old conversation we had about Francis’s Brother Ass, although I was until now unacquainted with his Sister Moon. She fits perfectly with the idea of death as a kind of night, I think – especially if you believe in, or hope to believe in, some kind of life after death… But she’s an earthy kind of spirit by the sound of it, braying along with her companion…
There is something philosophical in the poem, too, though I can’t quite name it – I was going to say stoicism, but, well first of all Saint Francis (the sissy) would not approve of that pagan philosophy, but also because whatever philosophy it expresses is something more warm-blooded than stoicism.
Which is all a way of saying, I am happy to see you in a frame of mind to write such a poem!
Oh, God! This has got to be the most devastating work I have read in a while. How lovingly you have remembered, toasted, exalted, mocked and solaced the fragile casing we call our bodies, through which we complete the pilgrimage called life. The sempiternal unison seems a fait accompli, and a poetic justice at that. The numbness in my heart though would have none of the night —not yet.
It feels so good to hear your voice, Cynthia. I just have to ignore the fact that you are not commenting on this post. Love the honesty and poignant humor of your poem, and hope that your servant keeps climbing and remains faithful. Love xx
Thank you dear Cynthia for your beautiful gift – allowing us to hear your words as you summon the strength to read through your poem. I think of you often my friend with smiles and tears ~
This is almost unbearably poignant. Your verse is strong, supple, sophisticated and soulful, as are you.
I’m speechless as I hear your words and join your loving fan club as they continue to share their thoughts on the way that you impact our lives. We love you Cynthia!
Cynthia, I am sending a letter soon.~Ginene
Dear Friends of Cynthia, I know many of you are wondering what has become of our friend. I found out three days ago and now there is a post on my blog regarding our friend. I wish it were better news. Here is the link https://paulinekingblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/saying-farewell-to-friends-who-blog/
Thank you to everybody who has commented on Cynthia’s blog. I do not want to taint her writings, with anything I could write. I did want to let you, her friends ,..know that she wasn’t physically with us anymore. I would love to share any things I may come across of her drafts, new poems etc… There is so much she would love me to share. I have to use her means to do this, and I’m having difficulty mastering her computer. Please, anybody who may want to post anything at all, feel free to do so. Cynthia would love that! I, myself will let her blog rest for now, in hopes ,you, her friends can go on and enjoy her poems. I know in the future, (and when I can figure out the way she did things) I will come across many things I’m sure ,she would have loved to share with you! She thought the world of you all! So many thanks to the special people who have sent me sweet notes. My sister was very lucky to have such true friends… sometimes the deepest friendships are more meaningful even when miles apart, than the one standing right in front of you. This was her heart, the people here, I would love to see it keep going. Thank you to all of you and for bringing sunlight and smiles to my beloved sister Cynthia It means so very much. I apologize in my ignorance in working her computer, as this may be shared with her name not mine, but, then again, maybe it was meant to be that way, because she would be thanking you also! 🙂
Wishing you all a very Blessed Christmas,
Jennifer – thank you for your comment, for thinking of us all at this saddest of times. I feel orphaned, just cannot believe Cynthia is not with us anymore. She is one of the finest poets who ever put pen to paper, and a magnificent human being. I am so very sorry.
I am only seeing this now, Jennifer. My condolences to you and all who love Cynthia. We’ve lost someone unique and special. I’ve never met Cynthia in person, but her poetry touched my soul, as did her kindness and fierce intelligence. I was honoured that she took the time to read and review my new book and her review remains one of my most favourite. My heart goes out to you. Ah….
Deep sadness wells in me at this news. I too will remember Cynthia for her wit and beautiful words. Her readings were always so perfectly married to her written words. She was, and is a wonderful poet. Much love to her soaring soul, to her friends and to you and her family also. – esme sending love and light. X
Ginene Nagel on December 24, 2016 at 4:14 am said:
Pauline, Thank you for telling us. In the beginning of December, I was sleeping in one morning after working late the previous night. The telephone rang and I heard the recorder come on and a voice say, “Ginene, this is Cynthia Jobin.” I flew out of bed and said, “Cynthia!” She said that she “thought she would take a chance” and ask me if I wanted a collection of sound recordings of her reading her poems to publish or to just listen as she noticed I particularly liked the recordings. It was a good thing that I was half asleep because I probably would not have been able to talk if I had all my wits about me. It was easy to realize on the phone that she was a very private person regarding personal matters and I thought that I would ask her at a later time for a biography to go along with the CD. I thought I would ask her for a photograph of her desk or perhaps a view out of the window where she wrote if she didn’t want her picture on the cover of the CD. I thought I would have time. I wrote her a week after I received the recorded poems, but she didn’t get my letter in time. Not knowing that, I was waiting for a word in return.
When I read on her website that she had terminal cancer, it took me three days to be able to function again. Last night, when I read that she had died on December 13th, eight days after mailing the recording to me, I was left standing with the wind knocked out of me.
How can we explain these deep friendships with someone we have never met? It isn’t really that surprising when we remember that many women and men formed deep friendships through writing letters in earlier times. Many of these relationships evolved into lifetime friendships and even marriages.
I was overwhelmed with Cynthia’s gift to me, a woman she never met, and at the end of the phone call, I said, “Well, I love you, Cynthia.” She laughed at the strange circumstance of someone saying they love you when you have never met them. She laughed. And, then she said, “I love you, too.”
Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
– Alfred Tennyson
Thank you, Bruce!, thank you!
Cynthia … If it is possible for you to see this, I want to say thank you for sharing your life on this pages and interacting on mine. A tip of the cap to a scholar with wit.
Cynthia gone? The craftsman, artist, poet gone? How can that be? I was just going to tell her how much I loved seeing her poem in The Lyric.
I sit inside the dark and look for light,
but life’s a storm, and as the brooding night
comes on I wonder, where do spirits go
when they have trembled in the blazing glow
of sunlight generated from their hearts?
My sense of who I think I am departs
Into the maelstrom made by ringing bells
that toll of grief, of loss, of carousels
that spin and sing life’s carnival of song
that leaves us sad, bereft, a day turned wrong.
Ah, Cynthia Jobin, you were learned grace,
a poet from a special kind of place.
Thomas, this is not only an extraordinary wondrous tribute to dear Cynthia, it’s an extraordinary good poem. Thank you for it. I think she’d be pretty proud of you!
Bruce, I am still trying to get used to the idea that Cynthia is gone. It does not seem real. There are so few poets with her skill at craft. Then her art! Her passion as she looked upon the world. You and I, among many others, will miss her.
What am I going to do without Cynthia Jobin’s wordpress site? There are so few poets with her craftsmanship married to art. I shall miss her poetry. I shall miss it.
Goodbye, my friend, Cynthia Jobin.
I learned just this morning that Cynthia is gone. Am feeling shock and heartbreak…. There will be a void – not just in the realm of her excellent poetry but in the kindness she showed to us all. Her encouragement, her sincere comments. Her gentleness. And yet I know she would want us all to carry on in her memory. Her presence here on her blog extends outwards beyond time and space. But oh, I will miss her just the same.
Sending love to you, Cynthia… Somehow I know you can still hear us. You would have us transcend our tears and go write some poetry.
My condolences to her sister and all her family.
I’ve just learned of Cynthia’s passing as well. She was an immensely talented and lovely soul.
I will miss you, dear Cynthia! I pray you know how much your support meant to me over the years. ❤
I’m so so sad to hear of Cynthia passing. She was (I hate using the former-tense) such a very good poet, one of my favorite on WP. This is so sad. I am very, very sorry for her family and glad that they had such a luminous and beautiful soul in their family – God Bless you Cynthia so much.
My own tribute to the wonderful poetry and luminous character of Cynthia Jobin.