The Psalm of Little Things, by Roma Ryan

Reviewed by Kerry Brennan

In the first edition of her book Water Shows the Hidden Heart, Roma Ryan includes a set of poems dedicated to "Nicholas." The first to appear is the poem (lyrics) for the song "Amarantine," which will be reviewed under "lyrics." So, for me at least, the first true poem is The Psalm of Little Things. Yet, a reference to "Amarantine" is most relevant here. In that song, Roma uses the lyric "love is love is love" to sum up her feelings about humankind's most complex emotion. How different is The Psalm of Little Things, which begins with this couplet:

There is no simple song to love.
It is full of everything.

Roma has here moved far beyond "love is love is love" into a realm where love demands finer definition. Defining "love," however, is never simple, as the lines to come reveal:

It is the psalm of little things;
the touch, the word, the look.

Love is manifest even in little things like a touch, a word, a look. Yet these "little things" hold great power: the loving touch brings comfort, the loving word, when spoken, can move mountains, and the look filled with love can join two hearts as one.

It is the ode of exaltation,
it is the lament, it is the despair.

But this psalm of exaltation can become a lament, for there is another side to love - the dark side of love doubted, or even lost. Such dark love brings the deepest despair to the heart, and Roma continues to explore this theme:

It is filled with every grief.
It is a sadness sung from nowhere.

From "exaltation" we are taken to the deep realm of grief, where "the word" of line four (above) has become a song of sadness sung by a lost and mourning heart, the sadness everywhere, yet nowhere all at once. But, even in this sadness, Roma still finds hope for love:

It is the hymn of hope,
it is for him, it is for her.

These are transitional lines (coming right at the centre of the poem) in which love endures even in darkness. For love always carries within itself enduring hope for all lovers. And love is indeed "everything:"

It is the air that each one breathes,
it is center, edge, beginning, end.

It is everything our small hearts need.
It is the rise and fall of all who ever loved, and then

Here Roma breaks the flow of her "psalm to love" with "and then" - the only time in the poem that she leaves a line "hanging." This signals that what comes next has a special status within the poem:

It is more than diamond, ruby, pearl,
it is more than a rule, a place, a prayer.

What is the worth of love? Indeed, can love even be "evaluated"? The answer Roma provides is "no" - love is beyond material wealth, it is a metaphysic beyond any limitation:

It is the song that is sung
full of everything, everywhere.

With these lines the poem comes full circle, back to the opening couplet, and we see that love pervades, and even governs, the universe.

This poem is cleverly crafted in couplets (reflecting perhaps the "two-ness" of lovers), and all but three lines begin with the simple statement "it is." At first this repetition of "it is" at the start of a line struck me as awkward, but on reflection the phrase is basic to a poem which tries to capture the essence of love, to define something that defies definition. This poem is programmatic, and indeed sets the tone for the remaining poems in the collection.


Kerry Brennan is a member of the Unity and Marble Halls fan forums, and a former senior moderator of Unity. An accomplished photographer and poet, Kerry has published several books of her own poetry.