Ancient Language by Hannah Stephenson

If you stand at the edge of the forest
and stare into it
every tree at the edge will blow a little extra
oxygen toward you

It has been proven
Leaves have admitted it

The pines I have known
have been especially candid

One said
that all breath in this world
is roped together

that breathing is
the most ancient language

Ancient Language

I’ve chosen this poem from the anthology Poetry of Presence for two reasons. First is its simple elegance of imagery to convey what the poet imagines breath to be. I loved the notion that trees at the edge of the forest will will blow a little extra / oxygen toward you. Have you noticed that about trees? The poet even says Leaves have admitted it, thereby proving this is true.

What strikes me especially is the idea that all breath in this world / is roped together, an image of that interconnection of our being which we know about but forget. And finally, that breathing is / the most ancient language, the first sound before words. That just feels so true to me.

The second reason is that the editors of this anthology later invited people to write a poem inspired by one we had read. This is my response and it is included in the online anthology, Beginning Again.

BreathTaking

The sacred language of the breath

has no words:

a speechless entry

into the body, a tidal connection

with all that is,

the language we were born into,

the last silent word at our death.

 

It is the poetry of call and response:

inhaling news of the world,

exhaling delight and despair,

inhaling stories of life and death,

exhaling our own narratives

in sound no more than a whisper.

 

With each breath we take

life is poured into every cell,

announcing our presence

without ever saying a word.

Janice Falls

 

 

8 thoughts on “Ancient Language by Hannah Stephenson

  1. Breath Taking is breathtaking. I remembered it immediately from your collection “Once Upon a Poem”. You have captured the simple elegance of imagery and the primacy of breath.

    Like

  2. Very struck by these lines from your poem:
    It is the poetry of call and response:

    inhaling news of the world,

    exhaling delight and despair,

    inhaling stories of life and death,

    exhaling our own narratives…

    Love both of these poems…so glad to be connected!

    Like

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