Poems I Love
Annunciation - Marie Howe
Even if I don’t see it again,—nor ever feel it
I know it is—and that if once it hailed me
it ever does—
and so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as towards a place, but it was a tilting
as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t.—I was blinded like that—and swam
in what shone at me
only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.
Where Everything is music - Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
Don’t worry about saving thee songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.
We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere and even if the whole world’s harp should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.
So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint and a spark.
This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.
Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.
Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest
and let the spirits fly in and out.
A Community of the Spirit – Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
There is a community of the spirit
Join it and feel the delight
Of walking in the noisy street
And being the noise
Drink all your passion and be a disgrace.
Close both eyes to see with the other eye
Open your hands if you want to be held
Sit down in this circle
Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
The shepherd’s love filling you
At night your beloved wanders
Don’t accept consolations
Close your mouth against food
Taste the lover’s mouth in yours
You moan, ”She left me”. “He left me.”
Twenty more will come.
Be empty of worrying
Think of who created thought.
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?
Move outside this tangle of fear thinking
Live in silence
Flow down and down in always
Widening rings of being.
Only Breath - Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.
The Guest House - Rumi - translated by Coleman Barks
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Kindness - Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Before the Beginning - R. M. Rilke
God speaks to each of us before we are made
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words, the numinous words,
we hear before we begin:
You, called forth by your senses,
Reach to the edge of your Longing:
Become my body.
Grow like a fire behind things
so their shadows spread out
and cover me completely
Let everything into you: Beauty and Terror.
Keep going: remember, no feeling is forever.
Don't lose touch with me.
Nearby is the land
they call Life.
You will recognize it
by its intensity.
Give me your hand.
Translated by Kim Rosen and Maria Krekler
Practice - Kim Rosen
Not the high mountain monastery
I had hoped for, the real
face of my spiritual practice
the sweat that pearls on my cheek
when I tell you the truth, my silent
cry in the night when I think
I’m alone, the trembling
in my own hand as I reach out
through the years of overcoming
to touch what I had hoped
I would never need again.
Postscript - Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
The Ghost of my Mother Comforts Me - Paula Meehan.
Do not fear daughter
when they lift their sticks, their stones,
when they hiss beneath their breaths
fallen woman, adulteress
breaker of marriage vows
made before a holy priest to an honourable man
for you daughter; there is no blame,
for you no portion of guilt,
for you're made in my likeness.
You can take the crucifixion from your voice.
I will stroke your forehead till you sleep,
Till you pass over into the dreamworld
where we can walk together in gardens wet with rain
or fly along old star roads
or sit quietly near running water.
And when you wake refreshed you'll be ready for their sticks their stones
their names that cannot hurt you
balance your gypsy soul
lodged in the body given you, my daughter
for your pleasure and as a tool for struggle
against the weight of the worlds troubles
take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone
there are many like you on the earth
and you will be numbered among the warriors
when the great book is written
because I am your mother I will protect you
as I promised you in childhood
you will walk freely on the planet, my beloved daughter
fear not the lightening bolts of a catholic god, or any other
for I have placed my body and my soul between you
and all harm
Love after Love – Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The Summer Day – Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What to Remember When Waking – David Whyte
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
Still furled – Pat Ingoldsby
If you listen really carefully
In Fairview Park this morning
You will hear the daffodils
The very nearly daffodils
All of a tremble
Whispering to one another
"Is it nearly time?
Is it nearly time?"
And one particularly anxious one
Whispering to her neighbour
"Remind me again!
Remind me again!"
Plums - Kathy D’Arcy
They give me plums,
But I leave them aside;
I leave them alone
They fill and darken
A sweetness this side of wrong,
I accept them
One by slithering one
Into my mouth,
Licking the liquid flesh from the bones,
Collecting the stones.
She brought home treasures,
found in local auctions, second hand shops,
treasures from trees, from walks the woods.
Statues, chipped teapots, bright vases, wild flowers,
gnarled and knotted pieces of wood.
Treasures carefully chosen and most often met with laughter,
and with subtle hints of mockery,
'more rubbish to capture the dust' we would say
an unspoken sign of female fancy and weakness.
Having had nothing of your own but the roles of dutiful daughter, wife, mother, cleaner, carer,
the role of self needed its own treasure to know that you were alive,
a fierce declaration that doesn't need approval,
a sign that you too have passion, desires and beauty.
I remember that piece of knotted wood, shaped by the curve of an old oak tree.
Brought home, carefully washed, varnished and placed unapologetically on the mantlepiece
Now worth more than a million pieces of fine crystal.
I see, now more than ever, that at 91 you still find treasures,
flowers and beautiful foliage from your garden,
beauty that I would walk by and not even see,
Now I see your being, your beauty, your passion
Your gift of seeing treasure in anything, in everything,
even in us, even in you, even in me.
How can it be possible
something you never had
to feel its loss so deep
in the marrow of your bones
inside the vacant but living womb
what happens to a woman
if she never gets used up
if her belly never swells
and the cry is never heard
and yet the rhythm goes on
regular as clockwork
bleeding and screaming
still my body is fit for life
still it remains silent and empty
all those things that you fill your life with
to keep going
if you don't, the pain comes back
the vacant, useless and empty vessel.
Two failed IVF cycles
And I give up - or give in
is this fate or fear?
medicine or miracle?
end of the road for my fertile body
let its fertility grow old and fade away
Can there be a death of
Something never living?
A hope, a wish of life
There is a death of that
and a loss
and a grief cry to resound its existence
I went skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean
Yes, last night, sometime around midnight
I went skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean
and, I wasn’t alone!
I had my women with me.
All of us with our bottoms gleaming in the moonlight
our breasts in glorious freedom
legs and hands and heads
vaginas, bellies and pubic hair
all went swimming, together
in the Atlantic ocean
sometime around midnight
and it didn’t hurt a bit.