Ginger tea

Dear Readers: as I recover from cataract surgery (left eye this time), I am choosing to wait a bit before taking on any of the longer articles that I might feel inclined to write. The surgery went very well but the eye takes time to heal. So, in the interim, I thought I’d post a poem I wrote some weeks ago. I submitted it to a local literary magazine that is just starting up – but alas, it was a reject. 😦 Such a wonderfully humbling experience. 🙂

However, since I enjoyed the poem, I thought I might share it here. Knowing you to be a compassionate group, I gladly open my work to your comments, critiques and even interpretations. What is this poem about anyway?  (Small prizes will be awarded for particularly insightful, insulting or interesting comments!)

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how to make ginger tea

 

do not trust those little packets

found suffocating in boxes,

like a well-trained choir

in an airless oratory.

 

no, ginger is a wild root

and it must be hunted

in the fresh open air

or it will not sing.

 

try to capture a fat one

its buds still green with life,

and break not its bones

as though it had no spirit.

 

speak to it with gratitude

as you gently skin it,

for it has given its life

that you may be consoled.

 

then slice it and dice it

with swift, firm strokes,

mercifully extracting its soul

as you draw forth its essence.

 

choose a vessel that is pure,

whether pot or cup or jar,

and give the ginger to dwell there

as it awaits the holy surrender.

 

prepare now the kettle,

filling it with all earthly tears,

and ignite the fire beneath it.

the ablution will soon begin.

 

allow the kettle to scream a bit –

it too must release its pain.

then grant it time to rest;

it has labored for this moment.

 

it is time to fill the vessel.

as you pour out the libation,

feel its steam upon your face

and listen for its song.

 

you will smell it,

deep and rich and earthy,

drumming its music in wafts,

rich flavors for the soul.

 

as it thrums and steeps,

slice a bit of lemon to add –

for the journey has been

both bitter and sweet.

 

drink it while it is hot,

allowing its song to warm you.

fear not the wildness of its dance

as it flows like a river within.

 

absorb the ancient comfort –

drink and be cleansed.

sing the root, be lost in song –

until the cup runs dry.

 

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6 thoughts on “Ginger tea

  1. mary Post author

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for commenting. Yours qualifies as an “interesting” response. (I like it.) Can you take it any further? No rush, of course. Prizes will not be awarded for a while yet. Like to give more people a chance to comment. 🙂

    BTW, I took a look at your blog – like it…

  2. albert

    It’s about how the mysteriously happy paradox in the world of nature (i.e., that through death new life is energized ) mirrors the hard teaching of Christ that suffering and sacrifice can bring a new life of the spirit.

    Or it’s about how the benefits of healthy eating and drinking (i.e., no processed food, no additives) involve the same kind of “suffering and sacrifice” –of a plant in this case– that all forms of life-sustaining nourishment require, and how that natural process is mirrored in Christ’s sacrifice.

    Or it’s about how preparing your own food, or any kind of refreshment, can bring to mind rituals in the Christian faith tradition.

    Lots to think about in a poem about making real ginger tea and feeling uplifted by it!

  3. mary Post author

    Thanks to all of you who responded. Anyone else happening upon the poem is still welcome to add their thoughts. “Prizes” (all are winners) will be forwarded to the email account associated with your comment.

    As I sip my ginger tea this afternoon, I will share a few of my own thoughts about the poem. As I have stated elsewhere, I believe that a true poem is a gift from God. This does not mean that it is perfect poetry, of course, because it has to come through my brain (or yours). But it often contains messages that even the author has to unpack. We do not always know the meaning of what we write.

    On a surface level, this is an instructional poem. It tells you how to make ginger tea. This is no small matter! Ginger tea is great stuff.

    However, there are many hints from the beginning that the poem has a spiritual level of meaning as well. Some points to ponder:

    1. We cannot settle for a neat-and-tidy, prepackaged spiritual life – we must hunt for it. The Spirit is “wild” in a sense. (“He is not a tame Lion.” – C.S. Lewis) Life in Christ is not something we can control or mass produce. If we try, it “will not sing”.
    2. There allusions to Jesus specifically in the poem (“root”, as in the “root and stock of David”. “Break not its bones” is another – since, of course, ginger has no bones. Hence, while the poem contains a metaphor that sound like an animal hunt, it is, in actuality, a hunt for the truth as revealed in Christ.
    3. There are references to the need for purification (“ablution”) and for the vessel (us) to be pure if this truth is to come alive within us.
    4. There is sacrifice involved, as Al noted, (“libation”) as well as “surrender” and the releasing of pain. Can we drink of this truth without entering the sacrifice?
    5. There is also a universality hinted at in the tone of the poem. The expression of gratitude while “skinning” the ginger, the thrumming and drumming of the song, the wildness of dance – these are reminiscent of Native American culture. The reference to “ancient” and “comfort” hints at ancient China where ginger tea has long been used for medicinal purposes. The truth we hunt for is one that belongs to all peoples, regardless of our different styles of expression.
    6. And when “the cup runs dry”? We “sing the root” and lose ourselves in the song – up until this point. The reader is left to ponder what comes next…

    BTW, most of these thoughts were not present before or even during the writing of the poem. This is some of what makes poetry such a gift – there is always more to uncover.

    Praise Him.

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