Pilgrimage in Winter (an old poem, recently revised)

Pilgrimage in Winter

Diana Senechal

Praise for the hill and the cold air over the hill,
the stones on the hill, the stones on stones, the stone
in my hand. The one who moved me over the land,
may you rest well, brave soul; may blessings fall
on those you led from the cruelest fields and those
you helped bring forth. Great worker, receive this stone,
these feet, these tears. I will be leaving soon,
lest figures form or I start taking stock.
I know what Buber meant: measure has fled;
shadow and light have joined. There is no picture.
For a moment (where are its edges?) I was with you,
a moment past the fence around myself.

A fenceless hill it seemed, without a tree
(it had both, but the bareness covered them).
A glittering snow came down later that day
and blessed the stones. By then I had gone home,
but nothing was the same. I mean: the desk
had lost its former purpose. Sitting to write,
I buoyed with words. I took a walk and sang
the snowfall, marveled at the marks of paws,
and thought again of clambering up that hill,
and praised the source of chill around my head.

It happens to you, and you walk alone.
This truth comes over you: this secret that
can never be a secret, as it’s all
that has been known and all that can be known.
No, that’s not true. My speck was just a speck;
against it, an encyclopedia
could still do well, I figure. All the same,
I walk bareminded to the end of love.

Thank you for the company of good prophets.
Thank you for the closed fountain underground.
Here is the weight of all that I have met;
here is the mark of dignity in stone.
Where, though, where are you? Memory wraps up,
unwraps again, and wraps, but finds hard air.

Stones there were many. The one I left behind
joined a sweet multitude but stayed alone.
Music is made of solitudes like this.
Somewhere, in the kindred air, there were songs.

A miracle, your life; a miracle
to meet a speck of it through hill and stone.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • TEDx Talk

    Delivered at TEDx Upper West Side, April 26, 2016.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     

    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

  • INTERVIEWS AND TALKS

    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.
     

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.

  • ABOUT THIS BLOG

    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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