Tuesday, January 6, 2015

James Broughton: "If you hanker"

                                                    If you hanker for
                                                    a zenith of felicity
                                                    on the bed of the Divine
                                                    begin by dusting off
                                                    the wings of wonder
                                                    on your local pillow
                                                    Lift your ineffable
                                                    out of the mundane
                                                    Aim for airborne
                                                    with the eye of the heart
                                                    as your sky pilot
                                                    and soar to glory

"If you hanker" by James Broughton, from Little Sermons of the Big Joy (Insight to Riot Press, 1994). Text as posted on A Far Distant Howl, November 20, 2006. 

Art credit: "Soaring to New Heights," painting likely by Gary and Jessica.


  1. The ineffable can emerge precisely from that "mundane" which Mr Broughton appears (unless I misread him) here to reject. In the eyes of a William Carlos Williams, something as mundane as a wheelbarrow takes on the numinous quality of a holy icon! And don't the Buddhists say, "After enlightenment, the laundry"? The things of the world -- ephemeral, ramshackle, mundane, and even (in Adam Zagajewski's words) "mutilated," can bring us a glimpse of that glory for which we all yearn. Or so I believe.

    1. I'm totally with you, Thomas. However, I guess I read Broughton's phrase "lift...out of the mundane" a little differently. I read him as asking us for a change of attitude or perspective, after which the "mundane" becomes "divine." Perhaps I'm reading into the poem my own predilections, but I think this is interpretation is valid, given other poems of his. What do you think? Thanks for raising the question!

    2. I think it's possible to read Broughton as saying that the ineffable emerges "out of" the mundane, arising from it, as it were! And yes, I do admire the poet's verbal agility and unique perspective here, and in some of his other poems, read many years ago. Thank you for posting this poem -- so thought-provoking!

    3. The hallmark of many of the best poems--they touch people for different reasons, through varied interpretations. They stand the test of being mulled over.

  2. I also read this as meaning that we already have the wings of wonder and the ineffable is here within the mundane. So much in such compact lines!


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