the oak branch scribbling itself: cloud cover, mossy stone, creekbed, talking tree uprooted and smelling of sod, sky-film here at the edge of the necessary field, the ancient bridge
(river or pond), a hundred thousand paisleys and teardrops in the undergrowth, the leather chair or the wicker chair (take your pick), awen, breath, a slight breeze and a paintbrush
or stain, I know exactly how you cover my shoulders and my mouth and how you trace
my name on the glass to have it disappear and how everything is taken by this rain
Caroline Goodwin lives in the San Francisco Bay area and teaches poetry and nonfiction writing at California College of the Arts and Stanford Continuing Studies. A former Stegner Fellow in poetry, her books are Trapline, Peregrine and The Paper Tree. From 2014-16 she served as the first Poet Laureate of San Mateo County.
"Sacrament" was written at Talking Tree artists' residency in Placerville, CA in early March 2019. I was there with friends during a torrential rainstorm, which felt very spiritual to me. The sights, sounds and smells were transformative. I walked in the rain, noticing the oak trees and their branches, the lush undergrowth, and the ways in which the landscape was in motion and in conversation with such man-made objects as chairs and bridges. The word "awen" is a Welsh word which, loosely translated, means flowing spirit or flowing inspiration (or breath). It is directly linked to poetry.
At the end of the poem, I wanted to point to a sense of both empowerment and erasure. I hoped that the poem could point to the experience of connecting with the rhythms of nature while simultaneously being overpowered or muffled by them.