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Poems I Love

Does time, as it passes, really destroy?

Rilke Favorites

Part Two, Sonnet XXVII

Does Time, as it passes, really destroy?
It may rip the fortress from its rock;
but can this heart, that belongs to God,
be torn from Him by circumstance?

Are we as fearfully fragile
as fate would have us believe?
Can we ever be severed
from childhood's deep promise?

Ah, the knowledge of impermanence
that haunts our days
is their very fragrance.

We in our striving think we should last forever,
but could we be used by the Divine
if we were not ephemeral?

 

Quiet friend who has come so far

Rilke Favorites

Part Two, Sonnet XXIX

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.


 

 

Erect no gravestones

Rilke Favorites

Part One, Sonnet V

Erect no gravestone. Just let the rose
bloom every year for him.
For this is Orpheus: metamorphosis
into one thing, then another.

We need not search for other names.
It is Orpheus in the singing, once and for all time.
He comes and goes. Is it not enough
that sometimes he outlasts a bowl of roses?

Oh, if you could understand -- he has no choice but to disappear,
even should he long to stay. As his song
exceeds the present moment,

so he is already gone where we cannot follow.
The lyre's strings do not constrain his hands.
It is in moving farther on that he obeys.

 

9th Duino Elegy

Rilke Favorites
9th Duino Elegy

Why, if it's possible to come into existence
as laurel, say, a little darker green
than other trees, with ripples edging each
leaf (like a wind, smiling): why then
do we have to be human, and keep running from the fate
we are made for and long for?

Oh, not because of Happiness --
that fleeting gift before the loss begins.
Not from curiosity, or to exercise the heart,
which the laurel could do too....

But because simply to be here is so much
and because what is here seems to need us,
this vanishing world that concerns us strangely --
us, the most vanishing of all. Once
for each, only once. Once and no more.
And we, too: just once. Never again. But
to have lived this once, even if only this once,
to have been of earth -- that cannot be taken from us.

Read more...

 

Light

Frequently Used in Workshops
I want to write of the light
but I do not know
whether words can illuminate
the way it hangs
upon branches and bird wings
and broken things
returning beings to beauty.
Can words spin substance
from sunshine and decay?
Can words cajole
celebration from night-weary
birds?
Can words warm surfaces
of stones and sorrows?
Can words reveal richness
in mundane
and battered
things?
I do not know.
But if we would write
a tomorrow
which is wider than wounds
we have worn,
we might wield words
like benedictions
and remember
blessings
within brokenness,
beginnings
within endings,
and beauty
within all things.
-Bernadette Miller
 

Work Song, Part 2: A Vision (Wendell Berry)

Frequently Used in Workshops

If we will have the wisdom to survive,

to stand like slow growing trees

on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it...
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
here, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides...
The river will run
clear, as we will never know it...
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields...
Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.

- Wendell Berry
 

Unconditional (Jennifer Welwood)

Frequently Used in Workshops
Unconditional

Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game.
To play it is purest delight;
To honor its form--true devotion.

- Jennifer Welwood
 

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing

Rilke Favorites

Part One, Sonnet IV

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

 

The machine endangers all we have made

Rilke Favorites

Part Two, Sonnet X

The Machine endangers all we have made.

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver's hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it's alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that -- when you feel it -- brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

 

Be ahead of all parting

Rilke Favorites

Part Two, Sonnet XIII

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened.
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praying as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be.
The non-being inside you allows you to vibrate
in full resonance with your world. Use it for once.

To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

 

8th Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke Favorites
8th Duino Elegy - Rainer Maria Rilke

With their whole gaze the creatures behold what is. Only our eyes
are as though reversed, and set like traps around themselves,
keeping us inside. That there is something out there
we know only from the animals' countenance,
for we turn even the young child, forcing her
to look backwards at the shapes we make,
not outwards into the open, which is reflected
in the animals' eyes.

Free from death. We alone see that.
For the animals, their death is, as it were, completed.
What's ahead is God. And when they move,
they move in timelessness, as fountains do.

Never, not for a single day, do we let
the space before us be so unbounded
that the blooming of one flower is forever.
We are always making it into a world
and never letting it be nothing: the pure,
the unconstructed, which we breathe
and endlessly know, and need not crave.

Read more...

 

Belonging

Frequently Used in Workshops
Belonging is a river
not a goal.
Every point is holy--
but you cannot linger there
without losing yourself
for you are the motion
of your journey.
No idea,
no attainment,
no goal,
can encompass
the truth
which lives only as it dies
into new life.
Your are the pain--
let it go.
Your are the joy--
let it go.
You are actions taken and not taken--
let them go.
Your are the dream--
let it go.
Move with the mark
of the unknown upon you
and life will enter your blood like a river.
This world was always holy
and you were always a rising flame
upon its altar.
-Bernadette Miller
 

Two Threnodies and a Psalm

Frequently Used in Workshops
Two Threnodies and a Psalm

I

It is not approaching.
It has arrived.
We are not circumventing it.

It is happening.
It is happening now.
We are not preventing it.
We are within it.

The sound of its happening
is splitting other ears.
The sight of its happening
is searing other eyes.
The grip of its happening
is strangling other throats.

Without intermissions it spins,
without cessation we circle its edge
as leaf or crumb will float circling
a long time at the other rim
before centripetal force
tugs it down.

Read more...

 

Prayer for the Great Turning

Frequently Used in Workshops
May the turning of the Earth save us.

May the turning of the seasons & the turning of the leaves save us.
May we be saved by the worms, the beetles & the microbes turning the soil.
May we be saved by the turning of vegetation into compost
& the turning of compost into rich soil.
May the turning of seeds into plants & the turning of flowers
into fruits save us.
May the grasses & weeds, the vines & mosses all conspire to save us.
May we be saved by the turning of sprouts into saplings, of saplings into trees,
& the trees into forests.
May the scurrying, foraging, pouncing & lumbering of the animals save us.

May the breath of heaven in the breezes & the stormy winds save us.
May the dance of the butterflies, & the musical flight & return
of the birds save us.
May we be saved by vapors turning into clouds & by the turning of
the ever-changing clouds into rain.
May the waters flowing from springs into the lakes save us.
May the streams flowing into rivers, the rivers into seas,
& the great heaving of the oceans save us.
May we be saved by the patient turning of the rocks, the hills,
the mountains, & the volcanoes.
May the metabolism of the climates of the Earth save us.
May the turnings of all Beings great & small move us to find wisdom in our own turnings.

May we be saved by our waking & sleeping, by the rhythms of our blood
& our appetites, by the cycles of birthing & nurturing, injury & healing,
mating & nesting, loss & discovery, joy & mourning.
May we find in time the grace to turn to one another, & may this turning
also become our salvation.
May we learn to benefit the life of Earth with peace, humble in our needs,
& generous in our giving.
May we learn to celebrate the abundance of life with gratitude, & to embrace
the Earth with our bodies in return.

-- Joanne Sunshower

 
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