i thank You God for most this amazing day

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(photo by Devin Pedde)

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings

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Why the Novel Is Necessary

My husband showed me this poem the other night and I couldn’t get over how perfectly captured it was.

Why the Novel Is Necessary but Sometimes Hard to Read
by Marie Howe, from her book The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

 

It happens in time.  Years passed until the old woman,
one snowy morning, realized she had never loved her daughter . . . 

Or, Five years later she answered the door, and her suitor had returned
almost unrecognizable from his journeys . . .

But before you get to that part you have to learn the names
you have to suffer not knowing anything about anyone

and slowly come to understand who each of them is, or who each of them
imagines him or her self to be–

and then, because you are the reader, you must try to understand who
you think each of them is because of who you believe yourself to be

in relation to their situation

or to your memory of one very much like it.

Oh it happens in time and time is hard to live through.
I can’t read anything anymore, my dying brother said one afternoon,
not even letters. Come on, Come on, he said, waving his hand in the air,
What am I interested in–plot? 

You come upon the person the author put there
as if you’d been pushed into a room and told to watch the dancing–

pushed into pantries, into basements, across moors, into
the great drawing rooms of great cities, into the small cold cabin, or

to here, beside the small running river where a boy is weeping,
and no one comes,

and you have to watch without saying anything he can hear.

One by one the readers come and watch him weeping by the running river,
and he never knows,

unless he too has read the story where a boy feels himself all alone.

This is the life you have written, the novel tells us. What happens next?

 

On Love

Is it possible to write freshly about the oldest topic since the beginning of humankind? I have spent my meager 27 years of existence trying to wrap my head around it- trying to chase it, to hold it in a jar, wondering how to let it illuminate me, how to let it transform me and those around me.

 

We think we understand it. The majority of all songs try to capture its nuances in some form, whether decrying it or extolling it. We’ve heard about it from every medium, and we have certainly received it in certain forms. There were many times in my past where I was sure I felt it. Looking back, it’s hard to say, because I now contrast everything in my past to the present I am living.

 

Love.

 

It is the driving force behind everything, whether or not we acknowledge that fact. It transforms everything it touches. Everything we do comes from the love we choose to share or withhold.

 

It is so easy to sound cliché when talking about love, because it seems that everything about it has been said. Language falls short in describing this most unique of all emotions. We say the same things, not because we cannot think of anything else to say, but because those clichéd phrases hold a deep truth that we have simply taken for granted. Gustave Flaubert famously wrote in his breathtaking novel Madame Bovary that “none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” Language, while beautiful and meaningful, has its limitations, and love seems to be beyond its capacity, hard as we try.

 

Love, like much else in this world, changes and evolves. We are unaware of the forms and the strength it can take until we are deep in its throes. When we are children, we feel the safe, unconditionally love of our parents. When we are teenagers, we experience our first tantalizing taste of passion (and naivety) and we are convinced we have found The One (every time). As we get older, we experience the painful side of love and the devastation of broken trust and forgotten feelings. And after all this trial and error, we still hope for a kind of love everyone says exists, even if we may feel slightly unconvinced that it does. And then…we find it. We find this deeper, truer feeling than we knew we could experience. It’s better than what we could imagine. It’s heaven, it’s perfection. And even later, as all parents (even the surprised or unsure ones) will tell you, the love you have for your children is like nothing you have ever experienced.

 

And so love comes full circle.

 

I think we are so fascinated by love because it contains so much more than just amorous feelings. It contains trust, instinct, validity, safety, nurturing, listening, encouragement, challenge, and friendship. We search for it because we search for all of these things. Love makes people act with more grace, more compassion, and more kindness. What we receive, or what we’ve forgotten we’ve received impacts the way we treat our fellow human beings. The sting of lost or betrayed love can fertilize bitterness and anger, but the force of a deep, unconditional love cannot be contained and blossoms to show its face wherever it goes.

 

They say love is blind, because many times we are unable to see (or deliberately ignore) the flaws in other people, many times to the detriment of a relationship and personal health. But we do this because we love that person- in light of love, we are able- and willing!- to look past certain flaws and shortcomings with grace, because we love them. My question is, what if we took the healthy part of that- the grace and acceptance of others and others’ humanness- and applied it to everyone we meet? How different would the world look? I think this is the question that so many poets and songwriters have tried to answer. If we truly put love at the forefront of our minds, and at the foundation of all we do, perhaps we can make our lives, and the lives of those around us, more beautiful. I’m all for trying.

 

 

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

-John O’Donohue 

The Time Came

The time came when all that is merely human failed,
And the best efforts of medics and wise men with all the tools of two thousand years of trying
Came to nought. I was cut adrift from myself, destined to wither
If I could not salvage a suitable reason to live,
Finally cut off from the omnipotence of parental help,
Finally segregated from the abundant generosity of friends,
Finally having exhausted the relief that the centuries had garnered from the vials and occult theories of civilization’s finest minds.
There were no relieving drugs or miracles, no soothing words enough or clever theorems.
Only the simple words I heard as a child of a God
Who cared
And could make a blind man see for no reason save love.
So I sought Him in simplicity and fear, perhaps in desperation,
More in doubt than faith, more in faltering words than bold eloquence.
I offered Him my energies all the days of my life if He would but attend my pleading, bring back the joy of morning, the serenity of the trees, the soothing resonance of sunset.
I asked not fame or power, security or success, only the wholeness that every other recourse had denied me.
Softly He spoke, not in Sinai’s thunder or Noe’s rain, not in transcending light upon a mountain, nor even in a whispered call along the shores of Galilee.
He only spoke of patience and enough time, of listening to the day and attending the night,
That wholeness would come when my heart was pure again,
And my aspirations were those of a child grown to manhood.

—James Kavanaugh
 

Sabbaths, 2003: VII

This, then, is to be the way? Freedom’s candle will be

snuffed out by freedom’s sworn defenders, chanting

hourly the praise of freedom. Their praise

will console the free waking in their prisons

when the Bill of Rights has at last

dissolved in the indifference of the great Self

of force. When the strong have perfected their triumph

over the weak, great symphonies will still

be played in the concert halls and on the radio

to console the forgetful and the undisturbed; the doors

will still stand open at the art museus,

rewarding the oppressed for their oppression; poets

will still intone fluently their songs

of themselves, to reward the fearful for their fear. Oh,

the lofty artists of sound, of shape and color,

of words, will still accept proudly their jobs

in universities, their prizes, grants, and awards.

On the day that ugliness is perfected in rubble

and blood, beauty and the love of beauty will

still be praised by those well paid to praise it.

*

When they cannot speak freely in defiance

of wealthy self-elected to righteousness,

let the arts of pleasure and beauty cease.

Let every poet and singer of joy be dumb.

When those in power by owning all the words

have made them mean nothing, let silence

speak for us. When freedom’s light goes out, let color

drain from all paintings into gray puddles

on the museum floor. When every ear awaits only

the knock on the door in the dark midnight,

let all the orchestras sound just one long note of woe.

—Wendell Berry

My Easy God Is Gone

The first time I read this poem, I resonated with every word, every thought, every cynical, angry scream behind the carefully constructed beauty of it. And this was only a few months ago. But now, as I read this, I do not resonate with it quite so much. My own anger has lessened, my own cynicism reduced. I still find it overwhelmingly beautiful and soul-wrenching, but now, for a different reason. I still agree with his thoughts on the beauty of nature, and of the sentiment that my formerly easy God is gone, but I have not reached his same conclusion that insists that I have no God. Yes, my easy God is gone, but my God himself is not. 

My Easy God Is Gone

I have lost my easy God—the one whose name I knew since childhood.

I knew his temper, his sullen outrage, his ritual forgiveness.

I knew the strength of his arm, the sound of his insistent voice.

His beard bristling, his lips full and red with moisture at the moustache,

His eyes clear and piercing, too blue to understand all,

His face to unwrinkled to feel my child’s pain.

He was a good God—so he told me—a long suffering and manageable one.

I knelt at his feet and kissed them, I felt the smooth countenance of his forgiveness.

I never told him how he frightened me, How he followed me as a child

When I played with friends or begged for candy on Halloween.

He was a predictable God, I was the unpredictable one.

He was unchanging, omnipotent, all-seeing, I was volatile and helpless.

He taught me to thank him for the concern which gave me no chance to breathe,

For the love which demanded only love in return—and obedience.

He made pain sensible and patience possible and the future foreseeable.

He, the mysterious, took all mystery away, corroded my imagination,

Controlled the stars and would not let them speak for themselves.

Now he haunts me seldom: some fierce umbilical is broken,

I live with my own fragile hopes and sudden rising despair.

Now I do not weep for my sins; I have learned to love them

And to know that they are the wounds that make love real.

His face illudes me; his voice, with all its pity, does not ring in my ear.

His maxims memorized in boyhood do not make fruitless and pointless my experience.

I walk alone, but not so terrified as when he held my hand. 

I do not splash in the blood of his son nor hear the crunch of nails or thorns piercing protesting flesh.

I am a boy again—I whose boyhood was turned to manhood in a brutal myth.

Now wine is only wine with drops that do not taste of blood.

The bread I eat has too much pride for transubstantiation, I, too—and together the bread and I embrace,

Each grateful to be what we are, each loving from our own reality.

Now the bread is warm in my mouth and I am warm in its mouth as well.

Now my easy God is gone—he knew too much to be real,

He talked too much to listen, he knew my words before I spoke.

But I knew his answers as well—computerized and turned to dogma

His stamp was on my soul, his law locked cross-like on my heart,

His imperatives tatooed on my breast, his aloofness canonized in ritual.

Now he is gone—my easy, stuffy God—God, the father-master, the mother-whiner, the

Dull, whoring God who offered love bought by an infant’s fear.

Now the world is mine with all its pain and warmth, with its every color and sound;

The setting sun is my priest with the ocean for its altar.

The rising sun redeems me with the rolling waves warmed in its arms.

A dog barks and I weep to be alive, a cat studies me and my joy is boundless.

I lie on the grass and boy-like, search the sky. The clouds do not turn to angels, the winds do not whisper of heaven or hell.

Perhaps I have no Go—what does it matter? I have beauty and joy and transcending loneliness,

I have the beginning of love—as beautiful as it is feeble—as free as it is human.

I have the mountains that whisper secrets held before men could speak,

I have the ocean that belches life on the beach and caresses it in the sand. 

I have a friend who smiles he sees me, who weeps when he hears my pain,

I have a future full of surprises, a present full of wonder.

I have no past—the steps have disappeared the wind has blown them away.

I stand in the Heavens and on earth, I feel the breeze in my hair.

I can drink to the North Star and shout on a bar stool,

I can feel the teeth of a hangover, the joy of laziness,

The flush of my own rudeness, the surge of my own ineptitude.

And I can know my own gentleness as well, my wonder, my nobility.

I sense the call of creation, I feel its swelling in my hands.

I can lust and love, eat and drink, sleep and rise,

But my easy God is gone—and in his stead The mystery of loneliness and love!

—James Kavanaugh

VI

We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

—Wendell Berry, Given

THE ALIENS
from The Last Night Of The Earth Poems

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little 
friction of distress.
they dress well, sleep well.
they are contented with 
their family
life.
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy death, usually in their
sleep.

you may not believe 
it 
but such people do 
exist.

but i am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
them.
but they
are there

and I am
here.

—Charles Bukowski