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We are here to abet creation and to witness it, to notice each thing, so each thing gets noticed. . . so that Creation need not play to an empty house.
    -Annie Dillard

The key scene in M. Night Shyamalan's film Signs comes when Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) are discussing the implications of what seems to be an alien visitation, signaled by a number of lights that have appeared over Mexico City:
People --- break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck or a coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence that there is Someone out there watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck, a happy turn of chance. Well sure there are people in group number two are looking at those 14 lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation isn't fifty/ fifty could be bad, could be good , but deep down they feel that whatever happens, they are on their own, and that fills them with fear.

Yeah, there are those people, but there's a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights they are looking at a miracle. And deep down they feel that whatever is going to happen, there will be Someone there to help them, and that fills them with hope.

So what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles, or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or look at the question this way --- is it possible that there are no coincidences?
Luci Shaw's poetry is based on the thrill of finding those signs in the everyday, of having faith that it is God who has placed them there and hope because of that.

A few examples will serve to give the flavor of the batch and speak far more eloquently than can I:
We know this to start with:

If we understood everything we wouldn't
be baffled. But mystery lives; somehow
without witchcraft or chicanery

we collect sounds and colors in a skyward
dish, like fruit in a bowl, and channel them
into verisimilitude--faces talking at us

from the tube's glass eye. Hallways of fog
enfold us in enigma. And then, the marvel of
window glass--how can anything be

hard enough to stop the hand and
hold its smudge while letting through this
soft light? The one wheat kernel that

breeds a thousand--a miracle of
loaves over and over again.
The stars, invisible in the blind day

revealed, thick as pollen, by the absence
of light. A billion spiky grass blades that melt
into a perfectly flat horizon. The Holy Ghost

waking me in my bedroom, drenching my
dry heart with fluid syllables, breathing
flesh into the fetal bones of this poem.
Rising: The underground tree
(Cornus sanguinea and cornus canadensis)

One spring in Tennessee I walked a tunnel
under dogwood trees, noting the petals
(in fours like crosses) and at each tender apex
four russet stains dark at Christ-wounds.
I knew that with the year the dogwood flower heads
would ripen into berry clusters bright as drops of gore.

Last week, a double-click on Botany
startled me with the kinship of those trees and bunch-berries, whose densely crowded mat
carpets the deep woods around my valley cabin.
Only their flowers--those white quartets of petals--
suggest the blood relationship. Since then I see

the miniature leaves and buds as tips of trees
burgeoning underground, knotted roots like limbs
pushing up to light through rock and humus.
The pure cross-flowers at my feet redeem
their long, dark burial in the ground, show how even
a weight of stony soil cannot keep Easter at bay.

I watch it being blown, swelling and rising
from my grandson's red plastic ring, fresh-filled
with eager air, tenuous as just-spilled
dandelion silk, a fluid wobble, quite surprising

me with its likeness to our cosmic bubble,
all greens and blues, each continent and sea
etched in bright enamel by God and gravity--
a film's fine iridescence fixed. The trouble

is: before the shivering, frail balloon has hovered
long it bursts in a star of spray that pricks my skin
with cool fireworks, so that, in vanishing, it winks
at my comparison just as the simile is offered.

But mind's a watercolor paper. This visual spasm
has brushed me with its indelible, swift
rainbow strokes of form and gleam. My visions shift
between the micro- and the macrocosm,

ephemeral both, as radiant as grace,
glass globules in the furnace air, both sealed
off after a creative breath, and then annealed,
floating their minor vessels into space.
Reading these poems awakens us to the wonder of the world around us and, if we've a mind to allow it, transforms the mundane into the miraculous. You can't help but observe your surroundings more closely and ponder existence more fiercely. And it's certainly possible that you'll choose to be the kind of person who views it all as lucky chance and insists we're alone and nothing means anything. But, there's also a possibility that you too will see signs and miracles and be infused with hope. Ms Shaw enhances the latter possibility. Her poems, in that sense, are an extraordinary gift to the reader.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Luci Shaw Links:

    -BIO: LUCI SHAW (1928-) (Lydia McCauley Recordings)
    -POEM: The Pink Hibiscus (Luci Shaw, The Crossing)
    -POEM: The Labors of Angels (Luci Shaw, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the USA)
    -POEMS: Morning at Legoe Bay; Confession; Litchfield Woods (Luci Shaw, Communique)
-POEM: Weather Forecast: Prolonged Dry Period (Luci Shaw, October 1997, First Things)
    -POEM: Flathead Lake, Montana (Luci Shaw, Aug/Sep 1998, First Things)
    -POEM: Beachcombing (Luci Shaw, Aug/Sep 1999, First Things)
    -POEM: Oriental for Robin, my daughter (Luci Shaw, November 1999, First Things)
    -POEM: The writing on the rock (Luci Shaw, 6/21/00, Christian Century)
    -POEM: What the wind can do (Luci Shaw, 11/03/99, Christian Century)
    -POEM: Country road from Sumas (Luci Shaw, August 29, 2001, Christian Century)
    -POEMS: Listen to the Green (Luci Shaw, Scholia)
    -Wheaton College Special Collections - Luci Shaw
    -INTERVIEW: Christianity And The Arts: Imagination Redeemed to Impact the World: A Dialogue with Luci Shaw (Interviewed by Stephanie Kirtland, 2 May 1995, Mars Hill Review)
    -ESSAY: Hearing the "Voice of the Infinite" In the Poetry of Luci Shaw (Suzanne U. Clark, Spring 1993, Contra Mundum)
    -ESSAY: Ears to Hear, Eyes to See: Luci Shaw's poetry helps us pay attention to God's world. (John G. Stackhouse Jr., 12/26/02, Christianity Today)
    -ARCHIVES: "luci shaw" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: ofThe Green Earth: Poems of Creation By Luci Shaw (John Tintera, Green Earth Review)
    -REVIEW: of Water Lines by Luci Shaw (D.S. Martin, Christianity Today)

Book-related and General Links: