Robert Bly, for Bill Holm

A great Minnesota poet died recently. His name was Bill Holm. Alas, I did not know of him until after his death, when I heard a wonderful tribute to him on April 19, on Minnesota Public Radio Presents. I had just jumped in the shower and (thanks to the shower radio from Kourtni) heard a beautiful poem by another Minnesota poet, Robert Bly. Mr. Bly was reading (with musical backing) some of his works, to honor the late Bill Holm. One of these pieces was particularly beautiful, so I had to give you the opportunity to listen:

The name of this poem by Robert Bly is “Stealing Sugar from the Castle”. And it goes thusly:

We are poor students who stay after school to study joy.
We are like those birds in the India mountains.
I am a widow whose child is her only joy.

The only thing I hold in my ant-like head
Is the builder’s plan of the castle of sugar.
just to steal one grain of sugar is a joy!

Like a bird, we fly out of darkness into the hall,
Which is lit with singing, then fly out again.
Being shut out of the warm hall is also a joy.

I am a laggard, a loafer, and an idiot. But I love
To read about those who caught one glimpse
Of the Face, and died twenty years later in joy.

I don’t mind your saying I will die soon.
Even in the sound of the word soon, I hear
The word you which begins every sentence of joy.

“You’re a thief!” the judge said. “Let’s see
Your hands!” I showed my callused hands in court.
My sentence was a thousand years of joy.

The music, the words, and the performance are, to me, perfect. I love the way Robert Bly tosses his lines out — his phrases are not precious; they are living, breathing. His inflection is dazzling, yet free of pretense. “My sentence was a thousand years of joy.”

Brief Notes Nearby