Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses is one of the most theological works I know that doesn't overtly mention god or stray even a little from the things of this world, 'the world's hunks and colors' (as Richard Wilbur once gracefully put it). A few pages after devoting a long, lush paragraph to the Song of Solomon, or what she calls the most 'scent-drenched poem of all time,' Ackerman continues: 'A lock-and-key metaphor seems increasingly to explain many facets of nature, as if the world were a drawing room with many locked doors.' And yet, somehow, she seems to overlook the play of locks and keys that are part of the love-gone-missing and the love-regained in that biblical text she has just finished mentioning. Then again, perhaps, one thought does lead to another, even if it's not visible there on the page. An invisible key, a secret lock.
Not my picture
Driving Through Farm Country At Sunset
As I drive through farm country,
a damp reek brewing by the roadway
hits me. Manure, cut grass, honeysuckle,
spearmint. The air feels light as rusk.
And I want to lie down in the newly turned
earth, amid the wheat-chaff and the chicory,
while sunlight creeps up a mountainside
off in the distant whelm of color.
Each cemetery, flanked by poplars, looks ready
to play as a chess set. A dozen washloads
blow on the line, sock lanterns ablaze,
towels bellied like a schooner's rigging.
In a dogwood's petaled salon, bees leave
their pollen footprints as calling cards.
The occasional samba of a dragonfly
tightens the puffy-lidded dusk.
Clouds begin to curdle overhead. And I want
is to lie down with you in this boggy dirt,
our legs rubbing like locusts'.
I want you here with the scallions
sweet in the night air, to lie down with you
heavy in my arms, and take root.
--Diane Ackerman, from Wife of Light (1978), collected in Jaguar of Sweet Laughter (1991)
My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him. I arose to open for my lover, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the lock. (Song of Solomon 5:4-5, NIV)