Glass sunflowers

It’s difficult to imagine
a time before that afternoon,
the rain laden sortie into here,
flung pebbles off the kerb;
chess pawns pushed upstream
to land within this cathedral.

Strange, the weather changed
while shaking out the deluge,
stone floors outlined our passing
from the outside to sanctum in,
presence of a cloistered garden.

Following plain columns I felt sure
a withered vine climbed the ceiling,
only to resurface near the vaults,
where unexpected, it lit up, bloomed

sunflowers for an atheist to believe.


14 thoughts on “Glass sunflowers

  1. Helena K says:

    Hello Matt,
    I landed on your site under some little good-willing wing of fortune while making acquaintance with writers’ blogs to decide whether I would like to keep one too…
    and I thank you kindly for this poem that so beautifully breaths a human longing in the details of the presence, captured in the end by the “sunflowers for an atheist to believe” – oh, those sunflowers, that turn to light, just turn to light, and turn to light, without questioning the matter!

  2. Matt Clendon says:

    Helena, thank you for the kind remarks. I’m quite new to blogging myself, and i hope you
    decide to keep one.

    I wrote this because I’m not religious at all, far from it, yet some places do undeniably have an impact on me, such as King’s college chapel in Cambridge, England. You can’t help but be awed the first time you walk into that place as it’s truly magnificent, awe inspiring.

    In this case, there really was a stained glass window with sunflowers, which lead to the idea and I amalgamated that with my first view of the chapel and how I felt at the time. My idea of religion is nothing to do with God or a god, it’s more a feel of something beyond knowing, beyond organised religion, something that has a positive core to it although I can’t define it, that’s why I say for an atheist to believe.

    The idea was to move from rain to sunlight with all the colours intensified in the stained glass.

    I hope that makes sense 🙂

  3. Helena K says:

    Hello Matt and thank you for your answer, that seems to make perfect sense to me.
    Besides that I have, to say the least, a problematic relation to the monotheistic-patriarchal theologies, I would reluctantly go into a discussion about whether God or god might exist or not…consequently, I wouldn’t call myself an atheist, either, as this seems to implicate a decision in this very same discussion. But I do think, in a platonic and stoic sense, that we need to have a relation to an idea of something better or more perfect beyond us human beings – we may call this God, god, truth, goodness, Beauty, the cosmic wisdom, cosmos, life itself or “something that has a positive core to it”, as you said – in order to have a goal beyond ourselves, in order not to take ourselves as the golden point of measure in the ethical geometry. These in all haste clumsily put thoughts, of course, I have eaten from some thinkers wiser than me…
    In a film about C.S.Lewis’s life, as I remember it, one of his academic friends asks him why he prays. Lewis answers something like: “It doesn’t change God, but it changes me.”
    My best wishes from the midst…? or mists…? of wrestling with something that I hope to be a novel, some day.

  4. Matt says:

    I like the C.S Lewis quote, the film was called Shadowlands, and detailed really his academic, and personal loneliness in many respects until finding his wife, until her early death from cancer. A sad, and moving depiction of his life, and how they both dealt with her terminal diagnosis. He was of course, a devout christian and her illness did shake his beliefs a little I think at times.

    His quote on athiesm –

    “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.”

    Thank you for your comment, best wishes to you too. I hope you decide upon a blog, It’d be good to read your thoughts further.

  5. Helena K says:

    Oh, yes, Shadowlands it was… I’m glad that you happened to remember the film, too, and I like the quote on atheism.
    Thank you for encouraging me towards a blog of my own, but oh, Matt, it will (or would) be mainly in Finnish so I guess I might keep on popping on yours every now and then to read your thought-evoking poems… as my first blog-discussion this exchange of thoughts with you has surprised me with subtlety.
    And now, as one has entered the habit of quoting, one cannot but quote Blanche from Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar named desire: “I’ve always counted on the kindness of strangers…”

  6. Helena K says:

    PS I meant subtlety in a positive sense, of course… my dictionary tells me this might also refer to something annoying…?

  7. Matt says:

    Helena, subtlety generally means approaching something with tact and diplomacy, gently or politely even, instead of being at the opposite extreme, overly abrasive in manner. Subtlety is fine by me.
    I suppose that would only be annoying if someone circled around a topic too subtley without saying what they really mean, which is definitely not the case here!

    By the way, I’d never have guessed that you weren’t a native english speaker, as your english is very fine.

    Ah, the kindness of strangers always reinforces our view of better side of mankind. 🙂

    That best portion of a good man’s life,
    His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.
    William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

  8. Helena K says:

    Thank you, Matt, for your kind compliment on my English. I haven’t really had the time or chance to practice it (I mean in dialogue, besides reading and films) for a long time. I’m afraid my lack of vocabulary would soon reveal itself in a real-time discussion as I do really have to seek for words and am not at all sure about the meanings of the ones that pop into my mind, as in case of ‘subtlety’, which alarmed me to check the dictionary and which I now know better, thanks to you!
    Studying languages is a great pleasure for me, though, and this has inevitably to do with growing up with a father who loves translating poetry and can go about for hours talking passionately about the etymological connections between some words in two related languages or dialects.
    I do speak two languages in my everyday life, too, as my husband belongs to the Finnish Swedish-speaking minority. Swedish is the other official language in Finland, which is a matter constantly under more or less emotionally heated political discussion.
    What a beautiful coincidence that you’d quote these words by Wordsworth, I am as touched as when I read them the first time. I do read the “nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love” as speaking about “Hers”, too, come to think of it. I am definitely not so much speaking of myself as I am thinking of, say, all the housewives, nurses, cleaning ladies and daycare mummies who just cannot be doing it for the admiring attention or the high wages…
    Well, I guess one mainly doesn’t go into writing for those reasons either, at least not in these latitudes… I’m going to meet two publishers tomorrow to get their first impressions on a bunch of prose poems. A mixture of growing curiosity and a kind of hollow fear of not getting understood… Have you published your poems, I mean as a book? If you haven’t, I definitely think you should, after reading some more of them. If you have, I’ll check the first bookstore in town and order me an example.
    “Meeting with the other, the different, this has happened to us. We were surprised, touched, wonder struck, called beyond or on this side of what we already were. At least it we were a little attentive.”
    Luce Irigaray (from a work transl. by Heidi Bostic and Stephen Pluhácek)

  9. Helena K says:

    Ps the last sentence should read “At least if we were…”, of course.”

  10. Matt says:

    What a great reply, I only know english, although I learnt a little french at school (but it’s sadly mostly forgotten) and I once had a girlfriend who was German, but at the time I was very lazy about learning the language which was mostly because her english was so good! (she was an english teacher)

    I love that quote of Luce Irigaray, which I’ve never read before, it’s not often that I converse with someone such as yourself who has such a lovely feel for language and its hidden gems, which can be such a joy to pass on.

    I hope your meetings with the publishers go well tomorrow, if your writings are even half as interesting as your comments are then they should ‘snap you up’ as we say (meaning they should be glad to publish you) while they have the chance.

    As for publishing myself, no, I’m not published and I wouldn’t to be honest know how to go about it with any certainty. I have thought about it at times, yet it seems to be such a minefield to be negotiated. Perhaps, I should venture out there, and see what’s possible. I would like to publish a little book of my poetry one day, if only so that I have them collected altogether for myself to have as a keepsake.

    Thank you for the compliment in saying you think they are good enough as something more.

    I quite like this quote on writing.

    “The coroner will find ink in my veins and blood on my typewriter keys.”
    ~ C. Astrid Weber

  11. Helena K says:

    Matt, I really think you should throw the dice and see what happens…oh, yes, the negotiations most certainly can roll one in and out (by the way, I don’t have the faintest idea if this translation of the thought I have in mind in Finnish expresses the state of order referred to! 🙂 , but I have come to the conclusion that this can also be taken as a good education for the writer’s Ego, a very good one, indeed.
    Let’s face it, I shouldn’t talk about this in a passive form. In my case, summa summarum, the process of publishing, with all its ifs and buts and diverse dialogues, plus the critics, whether they be positive or negative, has learned me at least that I might myself be the worst enemy amongst all of it…(which is not entirely news, either) … Who stands in the way, when something wants to be written? I don’t think that it’s anyone else than me, in a sense… (of course I know no man’s an island, but I hope that this utterance still mediates something of it). So I return to stoic lovers, Epiktet and Marc Aurelius, and hope to gain a better sense of geometry, step by step.
    Alas, Matt, there may be those who want to hold your book and drink it…!
    The Irigaray-quote is from a book called “the Way of Love” and I love the cover of it, too, which pictures a purple colored heart, and the veins of this heart look like tops of trees against the sky.
    Thank you for wishing me well, meeting one of the publishers did go well, (the other meeting got postponed for a couple of days and remains to be seen).
    What a strange thing it actually is to enter a reinforcing (I refer to your wonderful words about reinforcing our view of better side of mankind!) dialogue this way… and such this has been! Thank you for opening the door from your side.
    I actually like the morbid humor in your Weber-quote.
    Now I’m going to have to take a good dive in work, take care of your beautiful words and do breathe more of them…”Beauty on on the right of you, Beauty on the left of you, Beauty above you, Beauty beneath you…Beauty surrounds you.”
    (I got this blessing from my ex, he had it from a film, in which a wise Indian had said the words, if I remember correctly. Exactly which film and which character in it, I have unfortunately forgotten, I’m sorry for the inaccuracy of quoting.)
    Oh, and a thought to cherish on atheism, the topic we began with… I continued thinking aloud on it with my husband Mikael, who has spent years of his life studying Simone Weil’s thought, and he said something like “hmm, but atheism can be purifying…”

  12. Matt says:

    Helena, I know exactly what you mean, “Who stands in the way, when something wants to be written? I don’t think that it’s anyone else than me, in a sense… ” and it’s me who stops ‘me’ from publishing with hesitancy. Of course, part of me is not looking forward to the rejection, but a greater part just is unsure of where to start out there. Do you have any tips as guidance?

    I have looked at self-publishing, which would probably suit my needs, but I’m sure that’s the worst way to do things in some respects. For instance, if you want your book reviewed, the chances of it being so via that means are pretty much nil. And also, if it has been published in such a means, does that preclude it being published again in the future by a different publisher, I’m not sure about some of these points.

    I know what you’re thinking, “Procrastination!” and, of course you’re right, my dice is attached to my hand with a piece of elastic! 🙂

    “In matters of truth the fact that you don’t want to publish something is, nine times out of ten, a proof that you ought to publish it. ”
    Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) British journalist, novelist and poet.

    I like this one too,

    “For several days after my first book was published, I carried it about in my pocket and took surreptitious peeps at it to make sure the ink had not faded.” – Sir James M. Barrie

    And going back to the original topic again, I saw this and couldn’t resist sharing it with you, atheism: A non-prophet organization.

    And closer to the original theme of the poem –

    “What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of “humility.” This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.” Albert Einstein.

    Ps. I’ve added a watercolour to the poem which I think compliments it quite well, it is called “Woodspring Priory.”

  13. Helena K says:

    Dear Matt,
    as I do not know the geographical ‘coordinates’ of publishing in your country, the only reasonable tip I can give is not to give up and to count your blessings every now and then after letting the dice roll…and oh, yes, I do agree with you about that self-publishing may be ok, but it maybe should be weighed against how much it to be honest would take for you to collect the texts, write a short presentation of yourself and send your darlings to a sight-seeing amongst the gate-keepers…? 🙂
    I take it you already know that the deeper value of your texts (not to mention you!) is not in the hands of publishers, and I do not mean this solely in case of dismissal…
    What the heck, life’s a risk, anyway, would my ever so wonderfully-firmly-on-the-ground sister say.
    Mm…Einsteins words are wonderful with the reservation that I’m not sure whether he has grasped a trifle about mysticism!
    The citation reminds me of Jacques Cousteau, whose expeditions I have the habit of watching when sleepless at night.
    The watercolor and your poem make a beautiful pair.

  14. Matt says:

    Thank you, Helena, for the wonderful and interesting thoughts you promoted in this thread. You should translate some of your writings so I can read them too (as your english is so good), and return the compliment. 🙂

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