Like many lyric poems, Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s “Supernatural Love” contains a narrative element, a sort of dramatic situation that provides the framework for this meditation on the nature of supernatural love. At the end of this brief story of a young child and her father, the reader is invited to see the similarities between divine love and human love, similarities which the poem’s ambiguous title suggests from the beginning.
The poem opens as the narrator visualizes herself as a four-year-old child as she and her father work in his study. She is cross-stitching a sampler text while her father looks up word origins in the dictionary. The intertwining of the needlework, the etymologies, and the text of the sampler create the thematic web of the poem. The poem hints that carnations are present in the room. In any event, the narrator has apparently said that she calls carnations “Christ’s flowers,” although she can give no reason why. Curiosity has led her father to look up “carnation” in the dictionary. As he does so, the child notes how his eyes look through the magnifying glass he holds. In return, she peers at him through the eye of the needle and then returns to work on the word “beloved.” Later it becomes clear that her sampler has a religious motto and that “beloved” is one part of it.
From the dictionary, the father learns that the root of “carnation” is the Latin word carn, meaning “flesh,”...
(The entire section is 471 words.)