In March, I wrote a blog about fentanyl that featured a poem by Carol Bialock: Breathing Under Water. I knew almost nothing about the author other than that she was clearly a deep thinker and an excellent poet. After that post, I was contacted by Fernwood Press, to let me know that for Carol’s upcoming 90th birthday, they were publishing a collection of her poems.
I have since learned more about this remarkable woman who was a sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Chile and a lifelong activist for human rights. (To learn more about her, please go to www.CarolBialock.com.) I want to share some highlights from Coral Castles, her newly published book.
I am no poet and I confess, I struggle when reading most poetry – I do better hearing a poet read their work because they ‘sing’ it to me, words becoming melody overlaid on the rhythm of their voice. A true poet has rhythm in their voice and I must assume they hear that rhythm in their heads and hearts. But Carol’s poems sing to me because of what they say and how she says it, creating vivid word pictures. A magical combination. I could comment on almost every poem in the collection, but I will highlight just a few that relate to the world of addiction with all its complexities and disappointments.
The Ultimate Sin speaks about separateness as a sin, “an illusion of being only you.” I thought immediately of Dreamland by Sam Quinones and his main thesis being that the disintegration of community in our American society created the gap that has been filled by the opioid epidemic:
…I beg you,
the illusion of being only you.
Be what you are:
I beg of you, stop sinning:
give up your separateness.
The Future of Community speaks to us of our human need for sharing – sharing all of our life experiences with each other because we have them in common: joy, pain, hope, loss. By being honest with each other we build trust, which builds community:
We all come from a place of pain
and a place of peace
and the sharing is a resurrection.
It’s all right to be human, hungry, hurt;
and it’s all right to have joy, serenity, hope.
Trust opens our mouths to tell the truth of our pain;
trust opens our hearts to the balm of love;
trust opens our eyes to the thread of light
that weaves us into one.
What Dries our Tears and I Am of Those Who Go Down speak about the sorrows that can come suddenly in life and “how quickly life shifts from weal to woe and all our platitudes explode beneath us” and the important life lessons we learn as “wisdom is won through descent”
The poems at the end of the collection deal with death, clearly a subject someone in their 8th and 9th decades spends time pondering. I thought of my father who died almost a year ago at 92 as I read them.
Lest I have given the impression that Carol’s poems are all serious and devoid of any joy, I need to say that I have chosen to highlight the ones that speak to me in the part of my heart that carries the loss of our son. But, just as I have so many other areas of my life that are full of love and joy, so Carol’s poems overflow with her love for life, being a woman, the ocean, others, and God.
I leave it to you to buy Coral Castles and experience the love of life, the concern for others, the mysteries of the universe and the paradoxes of God communicated with beauty and encouragement. You can purchase Coral Castles at Amazon or here: