The Glass Jar Poem by Gwen Harwood

The Glass Jar

Rating: 4.5


To Vivian Smith
A child one summer's evening soaked
a glass jar in the reeling sun
hoping to keep, when day was done
and all the sun's disciples cloaked
in dream and darkness from his passion fled,
this host, this pulse of light beside his bed.

Wrapped in a scarf his monstrance stood
ready to bless, to exorcize
monsters that whispering would rise
nightly from the intricate wood
that ringed his bed, to light with total power
the holy commonplace of field and flower.

He slept. His sidelong violence summoned
fiends whose mosaic vision saw
his heart entire. Pincer and claw,
trident and vampire fang, envenomed
with his most secret hate, reached and came near
to pierce him in the thicket of his fear.

He woke, recalled his jar of light,
and trembling reached one hand to grope
the mantling scarf away. Then hope
fell headlong from its eagle height.
Through the dark house he ran, sobbing his loss,
to the last clearing that he dared not cross:

the bedroom where his comforter
lay in his rival's fast embrace
and faithless would not turn her face
from the gross violence done to her.
Love's proud executants played from a score
no child could read or realize. Once more

to bed, and to worse dreams he went.
A ring of skeletons compelled
his steps with theirs. His father held
fiddle and bow, and scraped assent
to the malignant ballet. The child dreamed
this dance perpetual, and waking screamed

fresh morning to his window-sill.
As ravening birds began their song
the resurrected sun, whose long
triumph through flower-brushed fields would fill
night's gulfs and hungers, came to wink and laugh
in a glass jar beside a crumpled scarf.

So the loved other is held
for mortal comfort, and taken,
and the spirit's light dispelled
as it falls from its dream to the deep
to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken
to peace in the paradise of sleep.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
69deano69 19 March 2019

stfu you dumb off

3 6 Reply
Robert Murray Smith 28 May 2018

This poetess has encapsulates the mind of the child that is fantasy filled. Great imagery and imagination.

2 1 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 28 May 2018

So the loved other is held for mortal comfort, and taken, and the spirit's light dispelled as it falls from its dream to the deep to harrow heart's prison so heart may waken to peace in the paradise of sleep.

3 0 Reply
Edward Kofi Louis 28 May 2018

His jar of light! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

2 0 Reply
Susan Williams 28 May 2018

She certainly knows about childhood fears and how they are translated into nightmares. Besides this level, there are several more layers of meaning one can easily see in the first reading which makes me wonder how many more there can be. There's Oedipus type mishmash going on in the kid's head, Freud would have a hay day with this, and there is the Christianity of this whole story. Breathtaking brilliance in this write.

2 0 Reply

A child's mind through fears, nightmares, dreams how evenly set finally is depicted here line by line brilliantly Very well scripted......10+××

0 0 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 31 July 2020

To Vivian Smith The glass jar A crystal mirror of life Time to time it shining The essence of life.... Under The story poet crafted great imagery

0 0 Reply
M Asim Nehal 31 July 2020

Fantastic imagery and wonderful poem.

0 0 Reply
Dr Antony Theodore 27 May 2020

he bedroom where his comforter lay in his rival's fast embrace and faithless would not turn her face from the gross violence done to her. To the worse dreams he went.... a very fine poem. tony

1 0 Reply
Dr Antony Theodore 25 April 2019

hen hope fell headlong from its eagle height. Through the dark house he ran, sobbing his loss, to the last clearing that he dared not cross: a great poem indeed. tony

2 0 Reply
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Gwen Harwood

Gwen Harwood

Taringa, Queensland
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