Maybe it’s the ocean’s rhythmic tug
that helps me sleep, my body’s own
surge remembering its deepest pulse.
Think of those Celtic monks who
scaled the slippery rocks carrying
vellum and inks while the sea broke
and battered beneath them. High
in a crevice, a hidden stone hut
with cot and candle. The scribe
dips and swirls his quill to preserve
the story—Luke’s genealogy,
name after name, letters shaped
like birds in every color, a flight
of messengers released into history.
Each word unfurls the promise,
like Gabriel kneeling. The body
knows that wings, like waves,
can break through walls and enter,
that the secret of the story
is love, that even as we sleep,
its tides carry us in a wild safety.
The poem “What the Body Knows” by Jean Janzen is from her collection What the Body Knows (DreamSeeker Books / Cascadia Publishing House, 2015) and is used here by permission of the publisher.
The pages from the early ninth-century Book of Kells (IE TCD MS 58, fols. 200r, 200v, 201r, 201v, 202r) are sourced from the Digital Collections of the Library of Trinity College Dublin. They illuminate Luke 3:23–38 in the Latin Vulgate: Et ipse Iesus erat incipiens quasi annorum triginta ut putabatur filius Ioseph qui fuit Heli qui fuit Matthat qui fuit Levi . . . (“And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi . . .”) Click on the library link to zoom in and explore more, or on the individual images to view at full resolution.
2 thoughts on ““What the Body Knows” by Jean Janzen”
Hi, Victoria. Thank you for including the link to the Book of Kells. I visited the site. Amazing! Of course, I had no idea what I was reading or why the monks liked serpentine arms, entwined legs, and dragon figures. But the colors are beautiful, especially the green/aqua/mint colors. Blessings. –Emily
[…] “What the Body Knows” by Jean Janzen: The anonymous scribes and illuminators of the Book of Kells spent countless hours […]