Tag Archives: poetry

Disgraceland

Every week at St. Lydia’s we read a poem (I wrote a bit about it here). I read Disgraceland by Mary Karr last week, which goes well with this song by Fink, I think. Here’s a bit of it:

Christ always stood
to one side with a glass of water.
I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough to ask,
a clear stream welled up inside,
some jade wave buoyed me forward,

and I found myself upright
in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish.

Read the entire poem here.

 

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Thoughts for Thursday

firefliesFireflies
by Cecilia Woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn’t hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who’ve wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don’t even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.
—–

I love this poem. Good poetry, I think, is honest, and it’s a peek inside someone else’s soul–a peek that also reveals something about the reader, maybe that they didn’t even know about themselves. Her vices are also my vices–some of them anyway. And it makes me think about myself, and what mine are, and how there’s something beautiful in sharing them with others.

Impatience is something I have struggled with my whole life. I have learned that for the most part patience pays off, like when you decide to re-heat pizza in the oven instead of the microwave. But when it comes to being patient with other people–waiting on someone else to do something or complete something–I struggle. It’s hard to slow my pace down to match someone else’s.

It has taken several not-awesome learning experiences to slow down, breathe, and let go of the thought that I’m in control. I am most certainly not and that is for the best for everyone. It’s hard for me to sit in that tension, that anxiety.

Recently my boyfriend went on an 8 day mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I missed him a lot, and the communication black out was hard for me. So impatient was I (and, also I just love surprises) for his return that I drove to the Atlanta airport (both of them.. ugh, Atlanta, why you so crazy?!) to meet him there. I stood in the arrivals area with my little sign positively WRIGGLING with impatience. His flight came in early so I was dancing around for 30 minutes, searching faces coming off the escalator. There were two little boys waiting for their father who exhibited more patience than me.

When their group finally did come of the escalator I didn’t see him. I went up to someone else that I recognized and I was like “Welcome back! Where’s James?!” I ended up completely missing him in the crowd because I was so impatient. He saw me before I saw him and I totally missed that fun little moment of surprised recognition. A small thing, but something I had been looking forward to.

I wish I had been able to calm myself down enough to patiently wait there. I wish I had talked myself down, breathed, and let things happen as they would. Hindsight’s 20/20, right? I can see why they say patience is a virtue.

As I continue my journey through (formal) discernment I’m learning more and more that I definitely need to cultivate patience in my heart, and to let God handle things. It’s really freaking hard, y’all. It’s not like I can just up and decide to go to seminary–other people, the church, are part of this. And I’m sure I will have many, many more opportunities to practice patience in my life, not just waiting at airports or for correspondence from committees.

All those Psalms about “wait for the Lord” make so much sense…

Thoughts for Thursday

Just this, today. I don’t know about you but I’ve had a rough week! I love Mary Oliver’s poetry and the peace it brings my soul.
Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

from Dream Work (1986) by Mary Oliver
© Mary Oliver

Thoughts for Thursday

The Good, Great Man

BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

      “How seldom, friend! a good great man inherits
      Honour or wealth with all his worth and pains!
It sounds like stories from the land of spirits
If any man obtain that which he merits
      Or any merit that which he obtains.”
REPLY TO THE ABOVE
   For shame, dear friend, renounce this canting strain!
What would’st thou have a good great man obtain?
Place? titles? salary? a gilded chain?
Or throne of corses which his sword had slain?
Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
The good great man? three treasures, LOVE, and LIGHT,
      And CALM THOUGHTS, regular as infant’s breath:
And three firm friends, more sure than day and night,
      HIMSELF, his MAKER, and the ANGEL DEATH!

Thoughts for Thursday

The Road Not Taken

BY ROBERT FROST 1874–1963

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thoughts for Thursdays

These are some of my favorite TfT entries from 2013. 

[3/21/13]
Happy the Man
by Horace

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite or fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

[5/23/13]

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

[5/30/13]

“…If we are called by God to holiness of life, and if holiness is beyond our natural power to achieve (which it certainly is) then it follows that God himself must give us the light, the strength, and the courage to fulfill the task he requires of us. He will certainly give us the grace we need.”

Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness

[8/22/13]

Prayer is not a monologue. It speaks to God and to the community. In the last analysis, religion is not what goes on inside a soul. It is what goes on in the world, between people, between us and God. To trap faith in a monologue, and pretend that it resides solely inside the self, undermines the true interchange of all believers.

–David Wolpe, In Speech and in Silence: The Jewish Quest for God, 1992.

[10/10/13]

Often we know the lonely and fail to reach out in love. We may be shy or find it hard to show love. We may feel that we are being insincere if we try. Then let us accept ourselves as we are–God’s imperfect instruments–and pray that he will use us despite our shortcomings.

Mother Teresa, 1980

Across a New Dawn

Over 70 people died in the terrorist attacks in Nairobi this week. Among them was the poet Kofi Awoonar. He was set to publish a new book of poetry next year, among them a poem called Across a New Dawn.  It includes this stanza, which I think is a good way to remember those who have died this week:

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn

Untouchable

trayvon rowrace is every

where

in my world in a way

it has never been before

the exchange of money

the palm to palm and mouth to mouth

of words

rings through my mind

and body

in constant clarity

front loaded consciousness

that throws off my balance.

 

The lone star state divided in threes

and the coast fractured into tiny pieces

but here

how is it so

raw?

and yet scabbed over?

Is excavation always too expensive here

to risk breaking skin?

 

trayvon rowSo we dismiss it from the courtroom

lest it sway our moral compass

in this vital moment

(that is, moment of life.

And before?)

not acknowledging the poles have already shifted

and what was once the south

is now center

and what was once the skin

has soaked through the fiber

and stained the core

 

With one breath white

and the other victim

with one breath criminal

and the next

 

forgotten?

 

Can we forgive

what is never apologized for?

Dare we forget

trayvon rowwhat we have failed to atone for?

 

I am broken in this place

Saying it is not mine to claim

my silence not abdication

my waiting not vain hope for peace

there is anger there

and sadness

and willingness to rise

when you tell me it is time

 

but the telling is mine

the you us

the when now

no longer untouchable

but slain, again and again

the dull grey of the parking lot

every parking lot

stained red

beneath flooding orange siren lights

and a hand, whether gripping a gun

or limp and lifeless

trayvon rowbegging us

demanding we

touch and hold

mourn and mend

burden and lighten

until we claim our share of wound and will

to rend

the untouchable bond

that separates us.

Into the weekend

Another week has passed, week of work or rest, a week of joy, wonder and discovery, of heartache, frustration and anger. Perhaps  this week has mended relationships, torn relationships or just made things more confusing. But I hope on this Friday afternoon you can take a minute to give thanks for the week that has passed, another seven days of life, and that at the end of them your are better prepared for the seven days to come.

may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will

love your back may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton

Lords of Life

snake with text2

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

I have been fascinated by this poem, Snake by D.H. Lawrence, for over a decade. In high school it took me to state competitions in Poetry Reading — I read it with a slight British accent and in a higher register than my natural voice. I was drawn to it by its length, its narrative, its ambling pace and graceful imagery.

The poem tells the story of approaching one’s garden water tap in the morning to find a snake drinking there. Fascinated and afraid, the poet watches the snake drink peacefully, but when the snake begins to retreat into a hole in the wall, he throws a stick at the snake frightening it. The snake writhes “in undignified haste” and disappears into the hole. The poet immediately regrets what he’s done and begins the above lament.

I’ve never liked snakes, personally, but Lawrence begs us to honor the un-understood, the mis-understood, that which we have been taught to write off.

This fall I will enter business school in the South after having worked four and a half years in a faith based non-profit in New York and Seattle. In some ways, going to business school will be for me a practice of honoring the snake. My queer, racialized, poverty-conscious sensibilities and communities have led me to, by and large, write “business” off as morally vacuous and vulgar. And yet I am fascinated by it, and I have written this fascination off as equally suspect.

And so, I’m making a commitment this fall, I’m choosing to move beyond my pettiness into real conversation, with my classmates, my worldview, and myself, hoping that this conversation will move me toward transformation and self-realization.

I also see that I am equally the snake in this story. I come as a visitor to drink where both the faith-based and non-profit are immediately suspect. My classmates will have stories running around in their heads of what they should do with me as a person of faith and a do-good-er, what they should expect of me and my history. If I want them to receive me in all my human possibility, I’ll have to do likewise.

And so, I begin these two years of unknown promise, putting aside my prejudice and dropping myself into an unknown world, to celebrate with and as unknown Lords of Life.