Everyday Poems #8, “What Did Flannery See?”


I honestly cannot remember if I read her in High School or college for the first time. But I know it took me years to understand what I was reading. And then contra the snobs, I had my best Lit teacher at Jeff State Community College (she was there because she loved the subject and college students, not for tenure or research). And she talked briefly about Flannery O’Connor and what she was doing with her stories.

And then there was Bill Mallonee singing “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and that line/title stuck in my head more than any 80’s pop earworm ever could..

Before Seminary, on a lunch break I drove from Vestavia down to the Books-A-Million that used to be in Hoover and bought The Complete Stories and read them in my cubicle every day. I read every one, front to back. And then, realizing they were in chronological order, I read them back to front. I was mesmerized and confused. And then I read Mystery and Manners.

The Habit of Being is my favorite, though…, along with her short A Prayer Journal.  I know you are supposed to like her stories the most. But it dawned on me a few years ago – I like Flannery’s life far more than her stories.

“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

The way she saw things was singular. The way she saw herself. Her world. Christ. Grace. The South. Money and wealth and acclaim. Sin and death. Writing. Her Lupus.

I expect she saw things before her death much as she sees them now.

What Did Flannery See?

What did Flannery see
with one eye squinted?
What was the blessing?
Was it the reality
she knew was coming
and could only be seen
by crowding out the world
with one weak eyelid?
Did she see her one
Savior more clearly fair?
Did she see her healing?
Peacocks? Swans?
A typewriter and a chair?
What did that one eye
so full of all that is
wild and holy and dark
see? Maybe all the
weariness coming to rest.
Maybe, just maybe
so much more than this.

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