Original Poem: "Immortal Memory" with Commentary

Updated on July 23, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, & Mr. Malcolm Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

Moon Over the Ocean


Introduction and Text of "Immortal Memory"

The spiritual path offers the best path that leads to self-improvement. Introspection is a central factor in improving human behavior. Every human life is filled with regrets, wrong decisions, poor judgments—all of which become obstacles that the spiritual aspirant must hurtle. The speaker of this poem is expressing a simple desire to see her life clearly, to be able to erase the mistakes that now prevent her from reaching her divine goal.

The speaker of "Immortal Memory" is dramatizing the expression of a wish to become fully soul aware. Sometimes merely expressing oneself leads to understanding. Painters, poets, and other artists engage in a constant battle to portray their inner understanding. Putting their wares on display helps them understand the act of communication—whether it leads to self-awareness might be debatable, but as they are compelled to create, they become compelled to understand.

The poem "Immortal Memory" is an American (or Innovative) sonnet. It features 14 lines as do the English and Italian styles, but that is virtually all this poem has in common with those older, traditional styles. The poem offers a lament, as the speaker grieves at the prospect of not being a self-realized or God-united soul.

Immortal Memory

A rough sea whips the raft
I call my life.
My brain cannot register the images
In the distance when my eyeballs
Jostle in their sockets.

Days I lie stretched out baking in the sun;
Nights when the sea is calm,
I pull in music from the blue vault.

I work.
I vacation.
Breed, wait,

I know I need to learn to swim in the sea.
I know I want to dive deep into immortal memory.


The speaker is offering her heartfelt lament, dramatizing her desire to attain total self-fulfillment and self-realization.

First Movement: A Nautical Metaphor

A rough sea whips the raft
I call my life.
My brain cannot register the images
In the distance when my eyeballs
Jostle in their sockets.

The speaker begins with an inverse metaphor: what appears at first to be a literal statement, "A rough sea whips the raft," becomes the metaphoric image of the speaker’s "life." She then offers a quite literal statement. If one’s eyeballs are violently moving, one cannot see clearly. The speaker adds the qualifier of "in the distance" and that keeps the reader on the rough sea-whipped raft.

By placing herself on a raft of life, the speaker sets the scene for navigating to some other place from the one in which she finds herself—a situation that almost all stories, novels, movies, and other narratives employ.

Where is she trying to go? How is she trying to get there? What will happen next in her journey toward her destination? All those questions are the ones that keep the reader, listener, watcher involved with the story in all cases. The universality of story-telling—what happens next?—captures the human imagination.

Second Movement: The Music of the Spheres

Days I lie stretched out baking in the sun;
Nights when the sea is calm,
I pull in music from the blue vault.

The speaker then states the gist of her daily and nightly engagements: "Days I lie stretched out baking in the sun" and "I pull in music from the blue vault". She lies in the sun, perhaps on a sunny beach by the sea, and at night she meditates listening to the om-sound, the sound of the Divine Motor, the Upholder of All Things.

Quite historically, she labels the om-sound "music from the blue vault." She is obviously referring to the "music of the spheres." About the "music of the spheres," John Milton has explained:

Aristotle ... imputed this symphony of the heavens ... this music of the spheres to Pythagoras. ... But Pythagoras alone of mortals is said to have heard this harmony ... If our hearts were as pure, as chaste, and as snowy as Pythagoras' was, our ears would resound and be filled with that supremely lovely music of the wheeling stars.

In the practice of yoga as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, one engages in a technique called the Aum Technique, in which one listens to the om-sound. The speaker is likely referring to such a technique. Christ promised to send a "Comforter," and according to Paramahansa Yogananda, that comforter is the om-sound.

Third Movement: Life's Duties

I work.
I vacation.
Breed, wait,

The speaker then sums up her life by listing those activities that most human beings on planet Earth have participated in sometime in their lifetimes. People work and go on vacation; they produce children, and they wait for stuff, whether a meal at a restaurant or while the wife is giving birth.

And people pray—whether a simple hope that all goes well or a full devotional effusion to the beloved Divine. These are all things that human beings do. They cannot help themselves—nature and the way things are demand them.

Fourth Movement: A Divine Swim

I know I need to learn to swim in the sea.
I know I want to dive deep into immortal memory.

The speaker, because she remains on a metaphorical raft on the tempestuous ocean, asserts that she knows she "need[s] to learn to swim." Yes, if you are anywhere near a large body of water, it is a good idea to know how to swim.

But this speaker, of course, in not talking about a literal ocean, she is talking about the "ocean of life" in which she must dive to discover who she is, how she got here, and where she is going. She, therefore, must "dive deep into immortal memory."

The Nature of Immortal Memory

Immortal memory resides in the soul of each human being, where all the memories of each and every incarnation are held. Fortunately, those memories are not permitted to intrude from one incarnation to the other, or else no progress toward ultimate liberation and enlightening would be possible because of the confusion.

However, that soul reservoir becomes a place into which one must search for information that may reveal directions and guidelines. Immortal memory becomes a metaphor itself for the Ultimate Awareness that each soul is seeking, in order to realize its own being in unification with Divine Awareness.

Guided Meditation on Creating an Inner Environment for Success

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Sue Grimes


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