Gone for a Year, Today – Dear Patrick, Poet and Friend, Bless You. And Thanks for Your Great Kid’s Book Poem! It Cheers Me Up!

Patrick Lane – March 26th, 1939- March 7th, 2019. Photo: with thanks to Liz McNally

An excerpt from Milford and Me – An Illustrated Kid’s Book

(Milford in this poem/book is a small turtle)

We walk along down by the turnips.
There is no one but Milford and me.
We’ve been sharing a cucumber sandwich
is the shade of a very tall pea.

There are things I don’t know about, Milford,
I say when I take my last bite.
Who is God and where is he living?
Is God in the day or the night?

It can be quite confusing, says Milford,
to explain God and all sorts of things,
like maple trees, wagons and turtles,
and baseball, and robins, and swings.

You see, god is more than just seeing,
or having, or being, or not.
God isn’t a He or a She thing.
God’s an Everything, so I was taught

when I was a very large turtle
back in the days before days.
god’s an inside, an outside, an all-thing,
a backwards, a forwards, a maze.

But mostly God is a Not-Name.
A word that is never a word.
Something you can’t put your eyes on,
like a song when you can’t see the bird.

I thought about Milford and Not-Names,
I thought and I sat while I sat,
and I know now I know what I’m knowing,
so I think I’ll go play with the cat

cause if God is an Everywhere-Always
then my cat is part of God too,
like Milford and my mother and father
and all of my best friends and you.

Patrick Lane from Milford and Me, Coteau Books, 1989

I have written a lot of serious blogs on Patrick Lane since he died a year ago today. And I thought, why not find something serious yet light hearted, which led me to Patrick’s  kid’s book illustrated by  Bonnie McLean and published back in 1989. I love this book-length poem written in a young boy’s voice talking to the turtle Milford. A poem exploring as the book’s back cover says: a child’s many wonderings about life. And what could be a great wondering than the wondering about God!


And what a better creature to talk about God than a turtle! Especially because of Milford’s reference to once being a very large turtle/
back in the days before days which echoes back to early stories of a great turtle holding up the world. I love that Patrick was able to get that into a kid’s book!

I love the bigness of the God Patrick describes in this poem especially in these lines:

god’s an inside, an outside, an all-thing,
a backwards, a forwards, a maze.

But mostly God is a Not-Name.
A word that is never a word.
Something you can’t put your eyes on,
like a song when you can’t see the bird.

Patrick, you were no god, none of us are but although today you too are someone I can’t put my eyes on I can hear your songs, I can hear your poems!

Here is a small poem/song of Patrick’s with God in it that I remembered when I picked up his book of poem The Measure published in 1980. In an inscription there to me he had written these mysterious lines from this poem: this is the web/and the ritual of/the web.

The Garden    for Jack Hodgins

praise the idea
the disordered care
so that the stone

you have placed 
for beauty continues
with a studied delight

as if a god
had dropped it.
arrange, arrange

plant within
the casual border
your desire.

This is the web
and the ritual of
the web.

And if God is not that web what or who is? What stones for beauty can we plant, can I plant, these troubled days that remind me and all of us that we aren’t these huge differences we hear shouted out in headlines and television but we are part of the web we are all part of Milford’s God:

cause if God is an Everywhere-Always
then my cat is part of God too,
like Milford and my mother and father
and all of my best friends and you.

You are gone Patrick but I still hear you.

 

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