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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’


Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

West Wind #2

You are young.  So you know everything.  You leap
into the boat and begin rowing.  But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul.  Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me.  There is life without love.  It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe.  It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied.  When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
toward it.

~ Mary Oliver ~

And from Roger Housden’s “Ten Poems to Open Your Heart” – the opening coda to his discussion on this poem is a quote from Mary Oliver:

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force.  For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down for the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.  Yes indeed.”

This is a magnificent poem and Housden’s commentary on it is brilliant as well.

We bumble along, focusing on minutiae, worrying and fretting away our days, too often worrying about things which will either never happen, or things over which we have no control.  Which distracts us from “that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming.”

Or, I think we sense the “embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming” and mistake our excitement for fear and so turn back to the litany of mundane cares that pull us away from our true being.

There was once a collection of Doonesbury cartoons, the title of which has always stayed with me – “Dare to be Great, Ms. Caucus.”

Or – as Mary Oliver says in another of her brilliant poems – “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

….Naomi Shihab Nye

Another beautiful poem from the lovely collection “Ten Poems to Open Your Heart”, compiled by Roger Housden.

And presenting it to you here tonight involved synchronicity and grace. 

I’m tired.  I rode my motorcycle all day then played with my kittens.  And it occurred to me that I’ve likely written enough about these new parts of my life, so I grabbed this book from the shelf for inspiration and opened it to this poem.

Which perfectly describes exactly WHY I got a motorcycle and two dear little kittens.  Because of the 5 deaths in 14 weeks.  Because of the crazy ache in my heart that seizes me like I’ve been sucker-punched, as out of the blue as Caity the cat’s death, as shocking as my beloved friend Becky’s death.

Because watching Becky die, I did indeed see how “this could be {me}, how {she} too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept {her} alive.”

So yes, watching my beloved cat and my precious friend have life yanked away DID make me want to live life full throttle and not hold back on joy, it also very much attuned me to the suffering we all feel.  Every one of us, every single one, will die. We will all suffer, one way or another.  Each of us feels grief and sorrow and disappointment, heartbreak, loneliness, tears and fears and rage.

And it is so good for me to remember that – not only with the slow-moving stranger I find annoying (is he driving so slowly because he’s coming back from visiting his wife’s grave?) but, harder for me, with those who have broken my heart, who have tossed out my friendship, who have, as the country songs so well describe “done me wrong.” 

I’m going to work on that a bit more – tapping into that spring.  Remembering that the tears we cried at Becky’s bedside, or my heartbroken drive to the vet to pick up Caity’s ashes – those I feel have harmed have suffered their own losses, their own Caitlin’s or Becky’s. 

Seems, like Michael’s treasure box, that this poem gives me another way to make gold out of dirt.  And while it doesn’t bring back my Caitlin or my Becky, it consoles me.  If I can be even a tinier better a Diane as a tribute to them, that would help.  It would definitely help.

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

“Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
that I had a beehive here inside my heart.
and the golden bees
were making white combs
…and sweet honey
from my old failures…..” – Antonio Machado

One of my friends posted a lovely Mary Oliver poem the other day on Facebook and that sent me scurrying to a book I really love “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” compiled by Roger Housden to find an echoing refrain – to answer her back with another poem.  Each of the poems is truly outstanding, but the one that leapt out at me yesterday was Antonio Machado’s poem “Last Night as I was Sleeping.”

And while each stanza of that lovely poem is worthy of a separate post (and may, over time, get one!) the one that I posted above really spoke to me.

We all like to be the hero, I think.  We like to think kindly of ourselves. To be good. And accomplished. And smart. (and maybe thin and rich and all the other illusory attributes as well).  And yet, with all our good intent and our earnest efforts (and most assuredly WITHOUT said intent and efforts) we fail. Sometimes miserably.

So that thought of the bees turning our failures into white combs and sweet honey “while we sleep” – I mean, really, too good to be true, ya?  Can’t you just hear the carnival huckster “right over here, folks! step right up and lay on our marvelous machine.  Turn your failures into honey – WHILE YOU SLEEP!”

And yet, I think redemption when it comes is like that. 

Or, as Mary Oliver says:

“You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. ”

What I think each of these poems is getting at, in very different ways, is grace.  Grace, and acceptance and a nod towards the Mystery.

And they each have a subtle nod towards our animal, biological selves, as well.  Antonio Machado with the mysterious repair of sleep and dreams; Mary Oliver with our desire nature. 

I’ve seen this in my own life – how the Mystery and God and Time DO turn my failures into something far more palpable.  Sometimes merely by softening me – I guess a form of honey, that.  Sometimes showing a path I never would have chosen, which, as it turns out, suits me.

And perhaps the sweetest part of that transformation is that in watching that type of miracle unfold we are gifted further – with discernment and attentiveness (always a gift) and the ongoing proof that there is a God and it’s not us. 

I looked for that poem yesterday and posted it on Facebook mostly for its inherent loveliness.  Then, last night as I was just about to be sleeping, I got a sudden ‘aha!’ about two seemingly unrelated perplexing physical problems I’ve been struggling with.  Since I pride myself on my hardiness, physical problems in and of themselves seem like failures to me.  But the aha related to my egoistic stoic toughness and the travail it seemed to be creating.  So today I REALLY felt like a failure – sheesh! in my effort to be hale and hearty and tough I have created chaos that will likely be more problematical than had I submitted to God’s little hint (pain) and dealt with the seeming failure of my body.

Thus,  tonight when pondering the spirituality topic finding the Machado poem again, it had a much more personal feel to it.  Therefore, I’ll do all the practical things for my animal body and then turn the whole mishmash over to the bees in my heart (one of God’s clever disguises) to make it into some honey.

Do you feel as though the Machado poem is fantasy? Or have you sensed that – your failures being turned into honey?  And, like Mary Oliver, do you let your soft animal body just love what it loves?  I’d really like to know!

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