Chalice

“Spanish Chalice dated 1640 found here.”

~ Historical marker along lower Padden Creek, Fairhaven District

I

I have no doubt that it was beautiful
for its day: precious metal molten metal
fired, molded, shaped in fires of purity,
faith, & zeal. Turned & hammered at forge,
turned & beaten, turned lovingly & expertly
by a craftsman in his foundry. Engraved
finally with a date of great significance.
I picture it silvered & though flawed, even
more beautiful for its irregularities.

Borne great distances as if it were love
itself, its bearer likely an important man
in a party of soldiers accompanied
by a priest with a great cross to bear.
Its bearer & the others killed or driven
away in a legendary battle. Its gleam isn’t
important; the gleam & glint in the men’s
eyes, their hungers & their thirsts, & what
they searched for & found is what’s relevant.

Now a curiosity useless & finally discarded
by people known as crafters of earthenware
& as weavers of fine cedar bark baskets.
Found—rediscovered—by a farmer working
land near newly-renamed Padden Creek.
Where was it taken? What happened to it?

II

Don’t wonder or speculate over the tale.

We are looking in the wrong places.

For chalice look no further
than here—
look here, in your heart

            your heart is a chalice

it is not wealth
we mine or extract
it is wealth
we build & craft

            craftsmanship is a chalice

There is treasure here

            longing is a chalice

            the realization of longing is a chalice

Treasure is not what we expect or search for
or find

it is what we feel

Life unpinned is a chalice

            your life unpinned is a chalice

Lives informed by our hearts are chalices

            your life informed by your heart is a chalice


Andrew Shattuck McBride
September 28, 2012
PaPoWriMo ~ 2012 *Day Five Poem*

[slight rework, September 30, 2012]

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About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, Can We Talk?, PaPoWriMo ~ 2012, Samples, Trail Offerings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Chalice

  1. …a chalice so full.

    Zowie, is this beautiful. Where did you GET this???

    The first stanza, especially, is extraordinary. The sounds! “…precious metal molten metal /
    fired, molded, shaped in fires of purity, / faith, & zeal,” followed by the 3 parallel “turned” phrases. All the “r” and “l” sounds are…marvelous!

    St. 2: “Borne great distances as though it were love / itself” is both beautifully tender and radically theological–the chalice bearing, at least in theory, the merciful blood of Christ.

    In Part 2, the poem absolutely takes flight. Those imperatives and assertions “unpin” the significance of the chalice from the historical narrative and enact a salvation even more potent than the one offered by the chalice itself.

  2. Wow, thank you so much Jennifer!

    “Where did [I] GET this???”–!!!

    I noted the historical marker a few years ago, when I first started walking that trail down Padden Creek. I’ve thought about it over the years. Last evening I tried imagining my way into a possible narrative.

    It’s at least possible that the chalice was borne “great distances” by a priest with the soldiers.

    I focused on the chalice as treasure and tried to hint at what the Spanish were searching for in the New World and the Pacific Northwest. When I started thinking about a heart as a chalice, that’s when the poem took flight for me.

    BTW, I used devices from Terry Tempest Williams and her beautiful book When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice (2012).

    I’m wondering if the structure undisciplined and unpinned in the second stanza works, and whether it works with all the repetition. “my heart is a chalice”–I didn’t intend for this to be “about me.” (?)

    Exhortations, certainly. Gentle exhortations, I hope.

    Thank you! Blessings, Andy

    P.S. I’ve removed some of the references to me.

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