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
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?
May this poem wrap you in a cloak of compassionate warmth.
May it help you recollect the loveliness of all life. Especially in these times. Amen.
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
Galway Kinnell from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words
Copyrighted material, for educational/therapeutic uses only.