The book has five movements:
Conflagrations: The tongue is a fire, both for love and destruction.
Habitations: How can we feel at home if our things don’t speak to
us or we fail to inhabit our moments?
Adorations: The women portrayed by Botticelli, Blake, Rembrandt
and Vermeer step from their gilded frames and their light plays freely.
Dedications: A handshake is a holy place. Words are made new in our
attention to each other.
Distillations: Dew gleams on oak leaves and the flanks of horses as
the ‘I’ grows quiet. To speak the essential name of a thing is our peculiar
pain and privilege.
The book ends with a quotation from William Carlos Williams: The government of words is our responsibility since it is of all governments the archetype. This is my urgent concern. Words can be hurtful and destructive, but in giving our loving attention to whoever we talk to we can heal our language and thereby enrich our communities and relationships. In ‘Adorations’ and ‘Dedications’ the poetry springs to life out of such a practice.
Another concern is to do with how we perceive the things around us. Look up ‘thing’ in the dictionary, and you will find it means not just an object but an ‘assembly’. I like that. Each thing is a gathering place for memories, feelings and stories. Things and flowers speak to us through their gestures and colours. As for the animals, their appearance in the final pages of this book culminates in a letter to the poet William Blake regarding our responsibilities for their well-being.