Why, in the middle of your busy life, would you pause to read poetry?
Because good poetry points us to what truly matters, which is why I use poetry so much in my work. A good poem offers sanctuary, reminding us of the necessity, power and beauty of contemplation. In a world hell-bent on filling space with activity and silence with noise, this is a subversive act. So slow down, digest a poem, let it take you by the hand. Allow yourself be touched, even changed. Indeed, poetry has been know to save lives. Nuff said. Onward!
Image: Paul Cezanne, Still life, pitcher and fruit
May we embrace this floating world and rise up in compassionate celebration of life.
If You Knew
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?
Ellen Bass, from The Human Line
Copyrighted material; for educational/therapeutic purposes only.
How does the realization of impermanence impact the way you see yourself, others and the world? Notice whether you become sad and despairing, or more empathic and grateful for life.
Image: “Tenderness,” Collage by Vesna Pavlovic
I chose this poem by Rilke to celebrate National Poetry Month. What a stunning evocation of incomprehensible faith, and a deep homage to our beloved Earth.
All Will Come Again Into Its Strength
All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong and varied as the land.
And no churches
where God is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering in all relations,
and in you and me.
No yearning for an afterlife,
no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth,
lest we remain unused.
Rainer Maria Rilke, from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.
For educational/therapeutic purposes only.
Image: Working the land, 1873, Paul Gauguin
Go Deeper: What does faith mean to you? In what do you place your deepest faith during both times of darkness and light?
Carefully consider what you are devoted to. If you persevere in what matters to you,
this tarot card says, your efforts will be worth it. The fruits of your labors will be realized.
The Influence Coming Into Play: The Seven of Pentacles
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting, after the long season of tending and growth,
the harvest comes.
Marge Piercy from Circles on the Water
(The Seven of Pentacles is a Tarot card.)