The Reflection of God

Amy McCann is a brilliant poet and person. She’s a professor at my alma mater down the road, and I’m always thankful when our circles intersect. (I got to hang out with her a couple of weeks ago at the Festival of Faith and Writing while we waited an obscene amount of time for our food at a Thai restaurant one night. It was awesome.) I love what she brings us today. Please welcome her here!

Photo by Matt Gruber, CreationSwap
Photo by Matt Gruber, CreationSwap

Poetry is not a flat thing, a page thing, but curved, as an eye must be to clearly see our likewise-curved world. Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun writes, “He who truly sees nature / unravels the glove.” My goal as a poet is not to slide a sheet of paper between the reader’s hand and the world but rather to spur readers to lift their eyes from the page toward the sky, to strip away at least one of the many protective layers we bind around ourselves, our fallen impulse always to fig-leaf, to shelter ourselves from intrusive elements.

The only way I know to be brave enough to do this is through Christ. In a meditation on attention, poet Donald Revell quotes a line from a particular translation of Guillaume Apollonaire: “Christ    pupil of the eye.” This word, pupil, derives from the Latin pupilla, which means something like “little doll”; it is a diminutive, a term we apply to something small and dear.

A similar phrase in Hebrew, often translated as the idiom “apple of the eye” (e.g., Psalms 17:8), means literally “little man of the eye”–the tiny reflection of the self seen when looking intently at another. When I hear Apollonaire’s phrase, I remember to focus on and with the image of God–Christ superimposed over the miniature, distorted image of myself I project onto the world; Christ welling up in the eyes of the other and, too, in my own.

We say “apple of my eye” about what’s most precious, most beloved. When we slow down enough to see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others, it is difficult not to begin to consider–as we are called to by Christ–both them and ourselves beloved. I think a similar thing, then, occurs when we look very closely at a poem: we begin to see the text, and perhaps the poet who created it, as valuable; we begin to see our own small reflection, and the reflection of God, within it.

Note: This post is adapted from a longer article published in the Pilot, a publication of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul.

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amy.mccann_1391888798_27Amy McCann is the author of the poetry collection Yes Thorn (forthcoming from Tupelo Press, selected by Paisley Rekdal for the 2013 First/Second Book Award). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, West Branch, and Image. Recent recognition includes a 2012-2013 McKnight Artist Fellowship in Poetry, a 2014 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant, and a 2014 Pushcart prize nomination from Rock & Sling.

Raised in Illinois, she now lives in Minneapolis and teaches writing at the University of Northwestern–Saint Paul. She has an M.F.A. from Eastern Washington University.

6 thoughts on “The Reflection of God

  1. The apple-of-the-eye idiom appears four other times in the Bible, twice as a translation of a Hebrew word which is pronounced ee-shone meaning little man or reflection of the eye and twice as the one pronounced bawth meaning daughter (Solomon’s mother’s name Bathsheba means the daughter of Sheba).

    Sometime, walk up to a friend or family member and look them straight in the eye. Look right at their pupils. Keep getting closer and closer … and closer until you can see your own reflection in their eyes. I’ll warn you ahead of time, you need to almost touch noses before that happens. It is when you are THAT close, that you become the apple, the pupil, the little doll of their eyes.

    So when I pray Psalm 17, especially verses 8-15; when I ask Jesus to guard someone, to protect someone I care about from evil, or protect me from temptation, I want Him to come so close that I can see a tiny image of myself, like a little doll or marionette, in His eye. When I picture myself as the “apple” of Jesus’ eye I am overwhelmed by the image. It is hard to imagine Him holding me that close. It is difficult to accept Him holding me that dearly and loving me that much. What a comfort to feel Him that close when I am in need of protection. What a comfort to know that He will hold you that close as well.

    As for me, Lord, I will be satisfied in wakening each day beholding Your likeness. As I slide out of my slumber each morning, I will hold You close, carry You with me through my morning routine, and will fill my heart with prayer. Praying in the shower, praying through breakfast,
    praying on the bicycle on the way to work, holding You so close and so dearly that I can see the ee-shone in the pupils of Your eyes. Knowing that you are holding me so close that I am the apple—the little doll—of your eye. What a way to start the day!!

    …Just one of the pupils of Jesus.

  2. Amy, I like what you say here, that “My goal as a poet is not to slide a sheet of paper between the reader’s
    hand and the world but rather to spur readers to lift their eyes from
    the page toward the sky”. This strikes me as such an important task of poetry, to draw the reader away from a mediated experience and into the tangible realm. This seems all the more important as we spend more and more time in virtual and electronic spaces. Poetry becomes even more significant a sacramental force. Thanks for your thoughts here.

  3. I love this deeper thought. Thank you for sharing, Amy.
    And how fun to see that you went to EWU! I’m from Spokane, and went to Eastern for a time, myself.

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