“the deepening ground”

The deepening ground, both as a site and poem, emerged from my recent fascination with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time Quintet. More specifically, it took root (pun intended) in my mind after listening to A Wind in the Door during a long car trip. I knew I’d have to come back to the book itself and mark up all the passages that resonated with my soul. In the refusal of the farandola to deepen, I saw a reflection of myself and every human who has ever lived. As L’Engle so aptly put it, “The temptation for farandola or for man or for star is to stay an immature pleasure-seeker. When we seek our own pleasure as the ultimate good we place ourselves as the center of the universe. A fara or a man or a star has his place in the universe, but nothing created is the center” (A Wind in the Door, 178). The deception lies in the belief that remaining a self-centered pleasure-seeker will most fully satisfy our deepest longings.

The poem begins with the seductive call of self (the sirens of Odysseus’s journey or the echtroi of L’Engle’s novels). It’s all hot air, and yet, it moves this flesh so easily, like the winds that puff the sails of sea vessels and spread seeds over distant fields. Still deep calls to deep, and stronger forces (gravity and the tides) resist. The ribbed bark (the wood of the ship, or the trunk of a man) remembers the distant wood (perhaps Eden itself) where a truer center, a deeper truth brought real life. As the second stanza ends, I echo the words of Wendell Berry’s immortal “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” with the “rich humus.” (If you haven’t read it, you MUST!) Rather than a temptation, it’s an invitation to deepen!

The poem concludes with a direct address to the self, a call to awaken and shake off the spell of the deception. Despite the allure of putting self first (I believe the Prodigal fell for that), it is in deepening, sowing into a truer center outside of oneself, that life truly happens. The self-contained seed will never be more than itself; the seed sown dies to itself, but lives in a fuller way – the way it was intended to live – and multiplies exponentially beyond its hard shell.

the deepening ground – vincent h. anastasi

seductive winds
puff this flesh-sail seaward,
lift this soul-seed samara heavenward,
promising the satisfaction
of the unsettled self.

yet gravity pulls,
tides resist,
and the ribbed bark heeds
the distant echo of ancient woods
where leaves translate breezes
into the slow and sure
speech of trees,
and roots drink deep
of the rich humus
and sound the subsoil depths.

o insufficient self
amused and bewitched
by hot air spectacle –
sing a sounder center
and sow into
the deepening ground.

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