Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Found Treasure


When I was an undergraduate, I discovered Gerard Manley Hopkins through poetry.  Oddly, though, not through Hopkins' own poetry, but through that of Ray Bradbury.  A friend had this poem of Bradbury's, a tribute to "that gentle Manley Hopkins."  So many lines here that speak of a sense that God has designed our merest molecule, each drop of blood, has designed a self that we must journey toward, be, and even "do"--these spoke so deeply to my 19-year old self.  So deeply, in fact, that I had to run to the library and figure out who this Gerard Manley Hopkins was.

At some point, I lost the dot-matrix printer printout that my friend had given me of Bradbury's poem.  Though I had treasured it for a while, I came to prefer Hopkins himself.  But several times in the last two decades, I've recalled this poem and tried (not too hard) to find it, but failed.  Yesterday, I found it, and I'm placing it here so that I can find it and share it in the future.

What I Do Is Me—
For That I Came
By Ray Bradbury, for Gerard Manley Hopkins

What I do is me—for that I came.
What I do is me!
For that I came into the world!

So said Gerard:
So said that gentle Manley Hopkins.
In his poetry and prose he saw the Fates that chose
Him in genetics, then set him free to find his way
Among the sly electric printings in his blood.
God thumbprints thee! he said.
Within your hour of birth
He touches hand to brow, He whorls and softly stamps
The ridges and the symbols of His soul above your eyes!
But in that selfsame hour, full born and shouting
Shocked pronouncements of one’s birth,
In mirrored gaze of midwife, mother, doctor
See that Thumbprint fade and fall away in flesh
So, lost, erased, you seek a lifetime’s days for it
And dig deep to find the sweet instructions there
Put by when God first circuited and printed thee to life:
“Go hence! do this! do that! do yet another thing!
This self is yours. Be it!
And what is that?! you cry at hearthing breast,
Is there no rest? No, only journeying to be yourself.
And even as the birthmark vanishes, in seashell ear
Now fading to a sigh, His last words send you into the world:
“Not mother, father, grandfather are you.
Be not another. Be the self I signed you in your blood.
I swarm your flesh with you. Seek that.
And, finding, be what no one else can be.
I leave you gifts of Fate most secret; find no other’s Fate,
For if you do, no grave is deep enough for your despair
No country far enough to hide your loss.
I circumnavigate each cell in you
Your merest molecule is right and true.
Look there for destinies indelible and fine
And rare.
Ten thousand futures share your blood each instant;
Each drop of blood a cloned electric twin of you.
In merest wound on hand read replicas of what I planned and knew
Before your birth, then hid it in your heart.
No part of you that does not snug and hold and hide
The self that you will be if faith abide.
What you do is thee. For that I gave you birth.
Be that. So be the only you that’s truly you on Earth.”

Dear Hopkins. Gentle Manley. Rare Gerard. Fine Name.
What we do is us. Because of you. For that we came.
***

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