“Unraveling from the Dark”

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As You Label It, So It Appears to You

by James Crews

If I say I see a heron lifting off
hours before dawn, I mean I see
a long, blue piece of me unraveling
from the dark, landing in the creek
to hunt a glint of fish, then taking it
writhing into a mouth silvered by
light some call the moon, but which
is only a buffed steel cap that barely
holds back the spill of summer sun.
The heron can already sense the water
warming up the way we know a word
spoken to a glass of liquid over time
will change its molecules: Call it holy,
holy is what you will taste.

from How Light Leaves
FutureCycle Press, 2016

With so much hateful rhetoric and sadness out there right now, I have to remind myself that the words we use, and how we use them, can absolutely change the world. This poem, when I wrote it, was all about the power of language to shape us, and it remains so. The last few lines refer to famous (and some say, dubious) experiments conducted by Japanese researcher, Masaru Emoto. Taking samples of water from sources around the world, Emoto exposed it to different kinds of music, and typed certain words and phrases onto slips of paper, which he then taped to glass bottles of water and left on overnight. Emoto also asked a Buddhist monk to pray over a sample of very polluted water from the Fujiwara Dam, then examined the frozen crystals. He contends that the chanting purified the water and brought it back to its more natural, harmonious state, but whether this research is scientifically true or not does not concern me. I’m a writer because I know that words—and the intentions behind them—can help or harm. I know that it’s terribly important for us to remember those moments that make us pause and force us to name our pleasures and joys. And I know that anything I call holy will end up being holy to me, whether it’s a heron, a creek, or the smile a barista offers as she hands me my morning latte and tells me to have a good day. As Mary Oliver says: “My work is loving the world.”