Monday, November 3, 2008

November 2008 poems

The Patience of Ordinary Things

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?


by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez

Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

Giving Thanks
Based on a prayer by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

Holy and gracious God, we give thanks for the gift of this gathering; for the food before us; the loving hands that have prepared it; and the blessings we share together. Kindle our hearts and awaken hope, that we may know you always as our companion along the way. Forgive us where we have fallen short with each other and with ourselves; heal our wounds, restore our health, strengthen our souls, and help us to be ever mindful the needs of those near us who have so little. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen.

A Brief for the Defense

By Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.

After the Rain

by Anthony Hecht


The barbed-wire fences rust

As their cedar uprights blacken

After a night of rain.

Some early, innocent lust

Gets me outdoors to smell

The teasle, the pelted bracken,

The cold, mossed-over well,

Rank with its iron chain,


And takes me off for a stroll.

Wetness has taken over.

From drain and creeper twine

It’s runnelled and trenched and edged

A pebbled serpentine

Secretly, as though pledged

To attain a difficult goal

And join some important river.


The air is a smear of ashes

With a cool taste of coins.

Stiff among misty washes,

The trees are as black as wicks,

Silent, detached and old.

A pallor undermines

Some damp and swollen sticks.

The woods are rich with mould.


How even and pure this light!

All things stand on their own,

Equal and shadowless,

In a world gone pale and neuter,

Yet riddled with fresh delight.

The heart of every stone

Conceals a toad, and the grass

Shines with a douse of pewter.


Somewhere a branch rustles

With the life of squirrels or birds,

Some life that is quick and right.

This queer, delicious bareness,

This plain, uniform light,

In which both elms and thistles,

Grass, boulders, even words,

Speak for a Spartan fairness,


Might, as I think it over,

Speak in a form of signs,

If only one could know

All of its hidden tricks,

Saying that I must go

With a cool taste of coins

To join some important river,

Some damp and swollen Styx .


Yet what puzzles me the most

Is my unwavering taste

For these dim, weathery ghosts,

And how, from the very first,

An early, innocent lust

Delighted in such wastes,

Sought with a reckless thirst

A light so pure and just.


By Birago Diop

Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees,

It is our forefathers breathing.

The dead are not gone forever.

They are in the paling shadows,

And in the darkening shadows.

The dead are not beneath the ground,

They are in the rustling tree,

In the murmuring wood,

In the flowing water,

In the still water,

In the lonely place, in the crowd:

The dead are not dead.


Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.

It is the breathing of our forefathers,

Who are not gone, not beneath the ground,

Not dead.


The dead are not gone for ever.

They are in a woman's breast,

A child's crying, a glowing ember.

The dead are not beneath the earth,

They are in the flickering fire,

In the weeping plant, the groaning rock,

The wooded place, the home.

The dead are not dead.


Listen more often to things rather than beings.

Hear the fire's voice,

Hear the voice of water.

In the wind hear the sobbing of the trees.

It is the breathing of our forefathers.

That Lives in Us

by Rumi

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they would no longer lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land –
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours space;
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer’s rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear – to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

For an Election

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of United States in the election of a President, and other officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For those in the Armed Services of our Country

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Social Justice

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us many crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.