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
Within true law, everything rises and falls together, inextricably interdependent.
The outlaw’s folly is to imagine this unified whole can be divided.
The cloud is free only
to go with the wind.
The rain is free
only in falling.
The water is free only
in its gathering together,
in its downward courses,
in its rising into the air.
In law is rest
if you love the law,
if you enter, singing, into it
as water in its descent.
Or song is truest law,
and you must enter singing;
it has no other entrance.
It is the great chorus
of parts. The only outlawry
is in division.
Whatever is singing
is found, awaiting the return
of whatever is lost.
Meet us in the air
over the water,
sing the swallows.
Meet me, meet me,
the redbird sings,
here here here here.
By Wendell Berry from Collected Poems, 1957-1982
Copyrighted material; for educational/therapeutic purposes only.
A reflection to take into your day:
What does this poem say to you about “living by the law?” What does it mean to “love the law?”
This great, much needed poem is a potent antidote to despair. I’m also using it to celebrate
12 years for Poem of the Month. According to Kaveh Akbar: “…bewilderment is at the core
of every great poem, and in order to be bewildered, you have to be able to wonder.”
Is this, then, why we don’t perhaps despair forever?
Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death’s great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?
By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.
And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses —
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.
Copyrighted material, for educational/therapeutic purposes only.
“…the miraculous that comes so close…wild in our breast for centuries?”
These words in a letter by John Muir entranced me. Immediately, I saw in them as a poem. I share this because it’s a beautiful teaching in the art of contemplation. His exquisite attention to detail and the joy he describes in the encounter offer guidance.
On the Long, Lonely Search for the Rare Calypso Lily
…when the sun was getting low
and everything seemed
and discouraging, I found
on the mossy bank
of a stream, growing
not in the ground
but on a bed of yellow mosses
in which its small white bulb
found a soft nest from which
its one leaf
and one flower
The flower was white,
of the utmost
No other bloom was near it,
for the bog below
the surface was still
frozen, and the water
It seemed the most spiritual
of all the flower people
I had ever met.
I sat down beside it
and fairly cried
K. Castelbaum, Found Poem. Source: letter written by John Muir.
Read the full letter here:
Reflection: When we hurry, attention is divided and cursory. Consequently, we miss simple joy and revelations that remind us of what matters. Try this: bring your full attention to details in people and things you overlook or take for granted, so you can truly see. What do you notice?