Thursday, November 12, 2009

"The Perfect Gaze"

I was thinking today (and chatting with a couple of friends on Twitter) about love across theological differences. As our own denomination (PCUSA) continues to struggle with how to stay unified in the midst of deep theological divides, I remembered this poem.  Regardless of what we do with the structure of our church, I hope we can regard one another with this kind of tender care.

"The Perfect Gaze"
by Mary B. Campbell

Great care must be taken in looking
At the beloved. If you look
Too long, the spirit of the other
Will be forced into hiding
Or disappear from this world.
The gaze must be no longer
Than five glances; otherwise
It is fatal.

The gaze should be empty of design
Or content; it is like a question
Which is satisfied at every moment.
Even in sleep, the face of the other
Forestalls the need to know more.
If you ask out loud
You will waken a liar.

Ending the gaze is a rupture:
You look away, you abandon the beloved
You travel inwardly. This is freedom
And the hardest part. But love
Is the breaking of all spells,
Even its own.

Campbell, Mary B. The World, the Flesh and Angels: Barnard New Women's Poet Series. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1989.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! It really does speak to the tenuous nature of authentic relationship -- that we stay in a state of regarding the reality of the Other, not emmeshed in our own reaction to the Other, and not disengaging until it is time.

    Thanks, Katie!