Sunday, July 12, 2009

Not Unworthy

Rebecca & Kitti, All Dressed Up & No Place To Go

"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose" (Luke 3: 16)

I have been trying to track down another quotation that I recall reading awhile back, something along the lines of "When our shoelaces come untied, it's so that the gods can give us a kick in the behind when we bend down to tie them up" (very rough paraphrase). Does that ring any bells with anybody? I have searched all my saved files but just can't put my finger on it. I do remember that at the time it reminded me of the following poem, which has been one of my favorites for many years:


The life I could have lived,
that other, better one,
is also mine. Who else
can claim it?
Each morning, stooping down,
I know that I am not worthy
to tie my own shoelaces.

Ernest Sandeen, 1908 - 1997
Notre Dame Professor and Poet

I've always regretted that I did not take a photograph of Professor Sandeen and his wife Eileen when they came to an "All Dressed Up and No Place To Go" Party at my house in South Bend, back in April 1986. I can see now that he was legendary. I just wish I'd had the foresight to ask for his autograph while I had the chance.

1 comment:

  1. Jenny W. H. writes: "This poem reminds me of Stanley Kunitz "The Layers". No ref to shoelaces but, still..."

    The Layers
    By Stanley Kunitz

    I have walked through many lives,
    some of them my own,
    and I am not who I was,
    though some principle of being
    abides, from which I struggle
    not to stray.
    When I look behind,
    as I am compelled to look
    before I can gather strength
    to proceed on my journey,
    I see the milestones dwindling
    toward the horizon
    and the slow fires trailing
    from the abandoned camp-sites,
    over which scavenger angels
    wheel on heavy wings.
    Oh, I have made myself a tribe
    out of my true affections,
    and my tribe is scattered!
    How shall the heart be reconciled
    to its feast of losses?
    In a rising wind
    the manic dust of my friends,
    those who fell along the way,
    bitterly stings my face,
    Yet I turn, I turn,
    exulting somewhat,
    with my will intact to go
    wherever I need to go,
    and every stone on the road
    precious to me.
    In my darkest night,
    when the moon was covered
    and I roamed through wreckage,
    a nimbus-clouded voice
    directed me:
    “Live in the layers,
    not on the litter.”
    Though I lack the art
    to decipher it,
    no doubt the next chapter
    in my book of transformations
    is already written.
    I am not done with my changes.

    Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers" from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.