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The Words of My Mouth and The Meditations of My Heart: A Poetic Pilgrimage from Illness to Healing-Living


by Louis Daniel Brodsky


Womb

We begin as finite infants, in the womb of the universe,

And begin again, in the infinite,

A place we've named Infinity, Afterlife, Eternity,

Forever, the Immutable Beyond,

In the vastness of space.

 

Once we're born, our hearts start beating,

Our blood flowing in time with the inscrutable cadence of the cosmos.

Soon, our souls begin glowing, warming our spirits,

Which awaken our torsos, with toddling legs eager to master balance,

And our tongues, with the magical abracadabra of babbling.

 

Ultimately, our evolution leads back to the original womb,

Where we were originally fitted to our shapes,

And consumes our being, transmutes us into infinite particulates

Of existence that will sustain the universe,

With pulsating memories

That will illuminate and regenerate the future,

Limitless Heaven's numinously shimmering —

Dust from dust speck from dust mote, from womb to womb —

Flowing throughout the limitless infiniteness.



Summary:

This newest book of poetry by Louis Daniel Brodsky, The Words of My Mouth and the Meditations of My Heart, was written in the aftermath of the discovery of his brain cancer and a complicated operation and chemotherapy. During his long period of convalescence and treatment, the poet transforms his pain and struggle into a sequence of poetic meditations and prayers that can inspire and enrich the reader.



 

Praise:

A spiritual journey. A pilgrimage toward an ever deeper faith, but one in which the pilgrim must travel through his own dark night of the soul. Louis Daniel Brodsky creates art that is at once stirring, evocative, and beautiful yet gut-wrenchingly honest at every step of the way. As someone who is only recently introduced to the man and his art, I have found each to be utterly true to the other. Just as he is one of the sweetest, gentlest, and most loving people I have ever met, so his poetry is a perfect reflection of who he is. To encounter him in these pages is to encounter the man himself. Read, reflect, and travel with him. You won't regret it. 

— Eric Stiller, Associate Pastor, Central Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Missouri

 

I've been an admiring reader of Louis Daniel Brodsky for many years, and yet I was quite unprepared for the power and beauty of his latest sequence, which arises from his own experience of illness. Only in times of suffering does spiritual progress seem likely, even possible. Brodsky takes us on a harrowing journey but, in the end, he can sing with D. H. Lawrence: "Look, we have come through!" This is strong writing by a poet of considerable range, talent, and freshness.

— Jay Parini, author of Jesus: The Human Face of God; The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems; Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America; and The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Final Year

 

In these moving and insightful poems modeled after the Book of the Psalms, Louis Daniel Brodsky, gravely ill, looks Death squarely in the face and answers with a series of unyielding affirmations — a faith in God, faith in human relationships, faith in life's precious passing moments, and, undergirding and supporting all of these, faith in the power and beauty of the poetic voice.

— Robert Hamblin, author of From the Ground Up: Poems of One Southerner's Passage to Adulthood; Keeping Score: Sports Poems for Every Season; and Crossroads: Poems of a Mississippi Childhood

 

Louis Daniel Brodsky’s The Words of My Mouth and the Meditations of My Heart brings us a rich autumn harvest of the poet’s lifelong project, to sing his body and mind electric. In this suite of poems, often his own "Odes to Joy," he seizes and sings his present days, in a chorus of voices ranging from incredulous celebration of the ordinary to clear-eyed wonder at his own complexly-pitched battle. No more alone, he revels in his family, offers playful homage to Dr. Seuss, and logs two more voyages to his beloved Lake Nebagamon.

And sometimes, he makes perfect prayers of supplication and thanks for the divine order he has seen in the world and the word.

— James B. Carothers, Conger Gabel Teaching Professor of English, University of Kansas, author of William Faulkner's Short Stories; and co-author, with Theresa M. Towner, of Reading Faulkner: Collected Stories   

 

This newest book of poetry by Louis Daniel Brodsky, The Words of My Mouth and the Meditations of My Heart, was written in the aftermath of the discovery of his brain cancer and a complicated operation and chemotherapy. During his long period of convalescence and treatment, the poet transforms his pain and struggle into a sequence of poetic meditations and prayers that can inspire and enrich the reader. Although these poems are, at times, reminiscent of Whitman's Song of Myself, Pascal's Pensées, and the Book of Psalms, Brodsky nonetheless has succeeded in creating his own unique insights and his own unique voice. Brodsky asks, "Could it be that I've finally discovered the core, the reservoir, / The source where all joy, contentment, serenity, and glory are born, / Which our minds breathe when we sense the reason for being / Our destinies have assigned our lives, spirits, and souls?" Having walked through the valley of the shadow of death, Brodsky writes that "these meditative manifestations are finding their home, / Page by page, day by day, in my peaceful soul." Reading this book, we discover that the poems, these "meditative manifestations," may be finding a home in our own souls as well.

— Yakov Azriel, author of Threads from a Coat of Many Colors; and Swimming in Moses' Well

 

Just a word about just one miracle-working word in Louis Daniel Brodsky's moving new book of poems, a book about suffering and fear and, most of all, the unembarrassed love a man can feel for everything he encounters, even from the depths that threaten to swallow him. (Water or liquid imagery washes over, and through, the entire volume.) The word I choose (it's a favorite with this poet) is "glistening." I stop to savor just one moment of its magic, in "Meditation #53: Green Tea." You see, what happens there (it happens throughout this book) is that the struggle to find healing gives way to, relaxes into, the inflow of the world. The poet seeks the elixir that might restore him. Instead his meditation produces a concentrate of poet-world that dissolves self-concern. Brodsky pursues this High Romantic design with the collected force of his life experience, a story that breathlessly outruns story. It's the story and, finally, the achievement of a good man who struggles continuously to be even better, more aware of others (including loons and leaves), more loving. When we get to the word "glistening" at the end of this poem, we hear the word voiced, flowingly from its gl, by the green tea and the green scene as much as by the poet who sips it, accepts it, past his silent lips.

— Sanford Budick, Professor of English Emeritus, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and author of The Dividing Muse: Images of Sacred Disjunction in Milton's Poetry; and Kant and Milton

 

In the past, Brodsky's reveries about the lake and the boys' camp in Wisconsin were about his perceptions and experiences of the meeting of nature and humanity, but not so much about them as givers or renewers of life itself. This offering, expanded to include another natural setting as well, this time in Missouri, also includes religious imagery that clearly and intentionally adds deity to the growing equation.

Brodsky has confronted death "up close and personal[ly]" and has come away with a felt need to explicate poetically what he has experienced, and seems to continue to experience, subsequently. He brings us into the realms of his joys and his fears, his hopes and his anxieties, returning often to his geographical, emotional, physical and personal places of solace and solitude, to the places where he hopes and expects healing to find him. The writing is different this time, more acknowledging of God's place in his life, whether new-found or remembered, and he asserts his relationship with that God in a typically Jewish, but not entirely, almost conversational, way. One comes away from these poems feeling hopeful, both because of him and for him. He understands, and through him we understand, that we are not alone and that we are stronger when we are together than when we are separate or independent.

A monumental and masterful effort from a remarkable writer and poet, especially considering that this was written during convalescence from brain surgery.

— Allen B. Bennett, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Israel, Alameda, California

 

Louis Daniel Brodsky is one of our most prolific, life-affirming, and accessible poets. His silky language, his quiet humor, and his capacity to surprise are as strong as ever. While his words remain a delight to the ear, this cycle of poems adds a deepened love of life.

— Dan Doriani, Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, and author of The Life of a God-Made Man: Becoming a Man After God's Heart; and Putting the Truth to Work: The Theory and Practice of Biblical Application

 

I was unable to put this amazing and inspiring book down. It kept me up late, reading into the night, convinced me to put aside little tasks and relish Brodsky's words as if he were speaking directly to me. It has been, in every way, a gift, and I am so grateful for having had the chance to look so deeply into the author’s soul. He is heartbreakingly honest, perfectly expressive, and his words are worthy of being the prayers they so clearly are.

— Rabbi Amy Feder, Congregation Temple Israel, St. Louis, Missouri