Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Resurrection



My friend a writer and scientist
has retreated to a monastery
where he has submitted himself
out of exhaustion to not knowing.
He’s been thinking about
the incarnation a.k.a. Big Bang
after hearing a monk’s teaching
that crucifixion was not the hard part
for Christ. Incarnation was.
How to squeeze all of that
all-of-that into a body. I woke
that Easter to think of the Yaqui
celebrations taking place in our city
the culminating ritual of the Gloria
when the disruptive spirits
with their clacking daggers and swords
are repelled from the sanctuary
by women and children
throwing cottonwood leaves and confetti
and then my mother rose
in me rose from the anguish
of her hospice bed a woman
who expected to direct all the action
complaining to her nurse
I’ve been here three days
and I’m not dead yet—not ready
at one hundred and two to give up
control even to giving up control.
I helped with the morphine clicker.
Peace peace peace the stilling
at her throat the hazel eye
become a glassy marble. Yet here she is
an Easter irreverent still rising
to dress in loud pastels
and turn me loose
in Connecticut woods to hunt
my basket of marshmallow eggs
jelly beans and chocolate rabbit
there fakeries of nature made vestal
incarnated in their nest of shiny manufactured grass.

--Alison Hawthorne Deming (1945- ), American poet and essayist

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Sonnet Prayer (in memory of Shakespeare)



In gratitude we bow before your grace,
O God, our bulwark and our steadfast shield.
We humbly offer You our thanks and praise,
That love be sown within our hearts, and yield
A hundred-fold, all for your gospel's sake--
That life and hope may rise on eagle's wing,
That we bless all by Christ's clear call, and make
Our lives, for all in need, an offering.
Burnish our souls, O Truth of God, like brass
That we reflect your love that makes us one.
"Let never day nor night unhallowed pass,
But still remember what the Lord hath done;"
Lord Christ, may we walk humbly in your way
And grant your peace upon these souls, we pray.

Amen.

-- LKS, written on the 505th anniversary of Shakespeare's death on this date in 1516.



Monday, April 19, 2021

Memento


We will all leave
                  unfinished business.

pages scattered across a desk
grit on the windowsill
                  where the leaves blow in
laundry at the bottom of the stairs
the fetor of old bacon seeping through the house.
With interminable patience a single white cup
                 endures the dripping faucet.

Your query hangs in the air.

But for a debt paid
a word spoken
a life given
fitly received.

--The Rev. Michael Knowles, poet, preacher, teacher, and cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada, from The Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2020, Volume 102, Number 1

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Idea of Order at Key West



She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.
The see was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.
For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
                            It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour it solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
in ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.


-- Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), American lawyer, businessman, and poet

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Starlight Night



Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.

Buy then! bid then! — What? — Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), English Victorian poet and Jesuit priest

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A Wild Embrace



How creation dares us into
a wild embrace of what is
too beautiful to ignore. You open
your front door.
Breathe, and all the old dust and confusion
of your life falls behind you.
You are not to obsess about it, 
no matter how it calls you.
Instead, bend and examine
closely how the grass has grown
an inch under last night’s rain,
and the peony buds are swelling,
the tips of pink petals already
bursting free like prisoners
wrongly convicted and now
released. There is such generosity
out there, reaching towards you
with hands open, claiming you,
a created being issuing
from the open mouth of God.

--Luci Shaw (1928- ), poet, editor, and Episcopalian, from The Generosity: Poems (2020).

Monday, April 5, 2021

Late Easter, Spring Come Lately



She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

In one of John Donne’s under-read
hymns, on his sickness, he claims one place
held Paradise and Calvary—Adam’s disgrace,
too: over whose tree we choose instead

the cross of the tender forester.
He tended there by virtue of his blood
the ancient ruin of that prior wood.
(Its seed was left in Adam’s mouth at first,

by Seth, as legend has it, or so it goes.)
And so the fevered poet felt the sweat
of elder Adam, even as his soul met
in extremity new Adam in clothes

fit for cultivation. Lilied fields exhibit
still some aboriginal greenhouse of Love.
It’s enough to make one’s mind flutter over
another poet full of holy ambition,

who borrowed lilies from a deceased
imperial nephew, scraped the epic
sadness from their petals. He quickly
tuned them to a better season,

while with great reasonableness
his blessed one arrived by chariot,
clad in green and red, his fair excoriator.
Her lesson? Hope should be unceasing,
yet stern as a plunger that excavates
those parasitic sins from any scrounging,
gaunt-faced pilgrim. Then the longed-
for orbit commenced, longing sated.

His soul became both wholly full,
yet pulled by fiercer hunger from folly
toward heaven’s center, ultimate pole,
temple where God welcomes fools.

--Brett Foster (1973-2015), American poet, Renaissance scholar, and teacher,  from Image Journal

Image: Noli Me Tangere, Grant Sutherland, Chichester Cathedral