Thursday, April 30, 2015

NPM: Luci Shaw one more time

The chair without distinction by Luci Shaw

This, in praise of inanimate objects, 
of the piece I brought home last year 
from the church rummage sale. 
A useful color in basic fabric, 
a button missing among its worn tufts. 
Sturdy, not graceful. Dependable,
not particularly easy. In a corner of 
the room, out of the way, people sit on it 
when the space gets crowded. They chat 
with friends, coffee cups in hand, 
then rise and move on without
noticing. Why should they notice. 

Blessed are those who simply sit 
and wait for people who need 
to take the weight off their feet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NPM: Luci Shaw again

Mary Considers Her Situation by Luci Shaw

What next, she wonders,
with the angel disappearing, and her room
suddenly gone dark.

The loneliness of her news
possesses her. She ponders
how to tell her mother.

Still, the secret at her heart burns like
a sun rising. How to hold it in—
that which cannot be contained.

She nestles into herself, half-convinced
it was some kind of good dream,
she its visionary.

But then, part dazzled, part prescient—
she hugs her body, a pod with a seed
that will split her.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Ben (and one of his poems for NPM)

Today, my eldest son, Ben, turns 31.  Wow. How do such things happen?

My golden-haired boy has the heart of a poet, and since it's still National Poetry Month, I'll post a little favorite of mine by him.

Happy birthday, sweet boy.  We love you forever!

If impossibly Somehow by Ben Finnegan

If impossibly somehow
I have impressed a something
of myself upon you,
knowing or un- or even
if sometimes, then let me be
the way you see the moonlight,
let me be your blink
at the far too brightly sunshine,
or if you will allow
me to be the toss of your hair
in the gently midnight wind,
or perhaps the sweetest twitch
of your smile when you see the stars;
if ever impossibly then,
let me be your voice,
let me be your forever
melody or harmony or simply
song.  Let me be one
and so shall you, and we
shall be two and be together.

Monday, April 27, 2015

NPM: Luci Shaw

I love the poetry of Luci Shaw.  Here is a practical little poem that I relate to so very well...

Sonnet for my left hip by Luci Shaw

I felt an ache that sleeping could not drown.
It ran from my left hip joint to my mind—
nagged at my thinking as I drove to town.

All night I’d shifted in my thin nightgown
to find a pose to rest in. Now I find
pain stabs me climbing up or reaching down.

Why does this symptom, heavy as a stone,
quicken to a darkness for my mind
to niggle at? It’s likely just a bone

That calcified and brought my mind around
to fears of diminution. We’re all destined
for aching as the world is round,

Though I can’t find the words to tell you how
it hurts, or why it came, or what it feels like now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A psalm and a story

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selahrefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The psalms contain some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.  And this gorgeous psalm is no exception.  because it is the Word of God as well as poetry, it empowers us as we meditate on it: helps us to trust such a God, long for such a river, and still our hearts.

It's been a long week, and as I reflect on it at home this morning (dealing with a virus of some kind, so laying low and not infecting anyone at church) I love thinking on this psalm and its words of comfort and direction.

We began last week in Arizona, helping Ben and Elsa settle into a new apartment and helping Tim and Nikki move into a rental as they wait for their new house to be built.  We arrived home late Tuesday evening, and I had my infusion on Wednesday, taught in the afternoon on Thursday, and headed to Santa Fe to run some needed errands on Friday.  I only had a few scheduled stops left as I loaded a couple of bags of groceries into the back of my car in the Trader Joe's parking lot.

I had the back of our Honda Pilot open, had set my two bags of groceries on the ground behind it, and had set my purse on the back of the open car right next to me.  As I rearranged items in my cooler to make room for my new purchases, I caught movement peripherally to my right.  My purse was moving.

I grabbed for my purse, and realized a small car had pulled up close behind me, and a woman was leaning out the passenger-side window and taking my purse.  I pulled on my end of the purse, began to yell something like, "No!  That's my purse!", and spun around to face the car.  My hand was being pulled inside the car as the woman pulled the purse inside the car, and the car began to pull away.

For a split second, as I watched my strawberries and other groceries lay in bright contrast to the black of the parking lot pavement, I considered holding on to the window; but I knew I would only get hurt, and they would still get away with my purse. My hand slammed into the back of the open window, and I continued to yell and point as the car sped away across the parking lot, "She has my purse!  She took my purse!"

Several sweet strangers, and one acquaintance from Curves in Los Alamos, rallied to write down the make, model and license plate number of the car, call 911, and pick up my strew produce. After talking to the police and getting some shaking under control, I headed for home, sans purse, wallet, all credit cards, check book, tablet, two pair of sunglasses, and a new large container of Crabtree and Evelyn Lavendar Hand Therapy, among other things.

The woman who took my bag looked haggard and worn, and to be so brazen, she must live in a desperate place.  Will you pray for her, Gentle Reader, and the other woman who drove the car?  Pray that they have food and safety, pray that they meet Jesus and find a way out of their desperation.  And pray that they don't use all my information to steal my identity, or sell my purse to someone who will.

And will you pray for me?  Ask the Lord to help me live in the reality of who God is, and be still.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NPM: Edna St. Vincent Millay

In middle school and high school, one of my favorite poets was Edna St. Vincent Millay.  While my tastes have grown perhaps less maudlin, she was a master wordsmith.

Pity Me Not by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.

This love I have known always: love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NPM: Peek a boo (with Ezra)

Peek-A-Boo by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The cunningest thing that a baby can do
Is the very first time it plays peek-a-boo;

When it hides its pink little face in its hands,
And crows, and shows that it understands

What nurse, and mamma and papa, too,
Mean when they hide and cry, "Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo."

Oh, what a wonderful thing it is,
When they find that baby can play like this;

And everyone listens, and thinks it true
That baby's gurgle means "Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo";

And over and over the changes are rung
On the marvelous infant who talks so young.

I wonder if any one ever knew
A baby that never played peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo.

'Tis old as the hills are. I believe
Cain was taught it by Mother Eve;

For Cain was an innocent baby, too,
And I am sure he played peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo.

And the whole world full of the children of men,
Have all of them played that game since then.

Kings and princes and beggars, too,
Everyone has played peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo.

Thief and robber and ruffian bold,
The crazy tramp and the drunkard old,

All have been babies who laughed and knew
How to hide, and play peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

NPM: George Herbert

[Sonnet (II)]              

Sure Lord, there is enough in thee to dry 
    Oceans of Ink ; for, as the Deluge did 
    Cover the Earth, so doth thy Majesty : 
Each Cloud distills thy praise, and doth forbid 
Poets to turn it to another use. 
    Roses and Lillies speak thee ; and to make 
    A pair of Cheeks of them, is thy abuse. 
Why should I Womens eyes for Chrystal take? 
Such poor invention burns in their low mind,
    Whose fire is wild, and doth not upward go 
    To praise, and on thee Lord, some Ink bestow. 
Open the bones, and you shall nothing find 
    In the best face but filth, when Lord, in thee 
    The beauty lies, in the discovery. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NPM: Christina Rosetti

The World by Christina Rosetti

By day she wooes me, soft, exceeding fair;
But all night as the moon so changeth she;
Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy
And subtle serpents gliding in her hair.
By day she wooes me to the outer air,
Ripe fruits, sweet flowers, and full satiety:
But thro' the night, a beast she grins at me,
A very monster void of love and prayer,
By day she stands a lie: by night she stands
In all the naked horror of the truth
With pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands.
Is this a friend indeed; that I should sell
My soul to her, give her my life and youth,
Till my feet, cloven too, take hold on hell?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wednesday without words (except a poem for National poetry Month)

Two Little Feet

Two little feet, ten little toes,
Leave their impressions today.
Soon they will wear two little shoes,
And be running and jumping at play.
Two little feet, too little time,
Before they are walking to school,
Kicking a rock, or skipping a rope,
Wading a puddle or jumping a pool.
Two little feet, One little child,
Will soon go their own way,
But footprints in my mind recall,
They stood here yesterday.

~ Author Unknown ~

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NPM: Robert Frost

This is another favorite poem from high school days.  As a matter of fact, my "motto" in my senior year book is the quote from this poem that, "Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense."
I still love it!

Mending Wall by Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
 Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'

Monday, April 13, 2015

NPM: Mary Oliver

My sister introduced me to the poetry of Mary Oliver a year or two ago.  Thanks, Jen!

Song of the Builders by Mary Oliver

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sabbath Songs

Come Thou Font by Robert Robinson

1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I'm come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

NPM: i am a little church

i am a little church by ee cummings

i am a little church(no great cathedral) – i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving (finding and losing and laughing and crying)children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature – i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness) 

Friday, April 10, 2015

NPM: Elizabeth Bishop

I was recently introduced to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop by a friend,
and I am enjoying her witty humor and the lovely rhythm of her words.

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

NPM: Anne Bradstreet

I love the poetry of American Anne Bradstreet (1612 - 1672).  She traveled to the colonies with her non-conformist father and her husband (both of whom would become governors of Massachusettes) on the same ship as John Winthrop. She had been classically educated, and she writes beautifully and winsomely and with humor.  I hope you will enjoy her also, Gentle Reader!

To my Dear and loving Husband

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more we may live ever.

The Author to her Book

 Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Wednesday, but with words for National Poetry month

Colored Toys by Rabindranath Tagore

When I bring to you colored toys, my child,
I understand why there is such a play of colors on clouds, on water,
and why flowers are painted in tints
---when I give colored toys to you, my child.

When I sing to make you dance
I truly now why there is music in leaves,
and why waves send their chorus of voices to the heart of the listening earth
---when I sing to make you dance.

When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands
I know why there is honey in the cup of the flowers
and why fruits are secretly filled with sweet juice
---when I bring sweet things to your greedy hands.

When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling,
I surely understand what pleasure streams from the sky in morning light,
and what delight that is which the summer breeze brings to my body
---when I kiss you to make you smile.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

NPM: Dana Gioia yet again

OK, so I have been on a little Dana Gioia kick.  Who can blame me?

The Angel with the Broken Wing by Dana Gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadows up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the damned can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

Monday, April 06, 2015

NPM: Dana Gioia again

Litany by Dana Gioia

This is a litany of lost things,
a canon of possessions dispossessed,
a photograph, an old address, a key.
It is a list of words to memorize
or to forget–of amo, amas, amat,
the conjugations of a dead tongue
in which the final sentence has been spoken.
This is the liturgy of rain,
falling on mountain, field, and ocean–
indifferent, anonymous, complete–
of water infinitesimally slow,
sifting through rock, pooling in darkness,
gathering in springs, then rising without our agency,
only to dissolve in mist or cloud or dew.

This is a prayer to unbelief,
to candles guttering and darkness undivided,
to incense drifting into emptiness.
It is the smile of a stone Madonna
and the silent fury of the consecrated wine,
a benediction on the death of a young god,
brave and beautiful, rotting on a tree.

This is a litany to earth and ashes,
to the dust of roads and vacant rooms,
to the fine silt circling in a shaft of sun,
settling indifferently on books and beds.
This is a prayer to praise what we become,
"Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return."
Savor its taste–the bitterness of earth and ashes.

This is a prayer, inchoate and unfinished,
for you, my love, my loss, my lesion,
a rosary of words to count out time's
illusions, all the minutes, hours, days
the calendar compounds as if the past
existed somewhere–like an inheritance
still waiting to be claimed.

Until at last it is our litany, mon vieux,
my reader, my voyeur, as if the mist
steaming from the gorge, this pure paradox,
the shattered river rising as it falls–
splintering the light, swirling it skyward,
neither transparent nor opaque but luminous,
even as it vanishes–were not our life.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Resurrection Day

The Dawning. By George Herbert, 1633
Awake sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
       Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead gather’d into frowns:
       Thy Saviour comes, and with him mirth:
                                       Awake, awake;
And with a thankfull heart his comforts take.
       But thou dost still lament, and pine, and crie;
       And feel his death, but not his victorie.
Arise sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
       Christs resurrection thine may be:
Do not by hanging down break from the hand,
       Which as it riseth, raiseth thee:
                                       Arise, Arise;
And with his buriall-linen drie thine eyes:
       Christ left his grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
       Draws tears, or bloud, not want an handkerchief.

Friday, April 03, 2015

NPM: Ah, Holy Jesus

Ah, Holy Jesus by Johann Heermann, 1630; translated by Robert Seymor Bridges, 1897

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
God interceded.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

National Poetry Month: Dana Gioia

I am trying to post poetry several times a week (if not daily) for National Poetry Month.  I came across this beautiful poem recently, and both loved it and related to it.  But when I read it aloud to friends, it made me cry.  As one friend said, "That's because poetry cuts us to the quick."

Majority by Dana Gioia 
Now you’d be three,
I said to myself,
seeing a child born
the same summer as you. 
Now you’d be six,
or seven, or ten.
I watched you grow
in foreign bodies. 
Leaping into a pool, all laughter,
or frowning over a keyboard,
but mostly just standing,
taller each time. 
How splendid your most
mundane action seemed
in these joyful proxies.
I often held back tears. 
Now you are twenty-one.
Finally, it makes sense
that you have moved away
into your own afterlife.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Wednesday, but with words

In honor of National Poetry Month, I hope to share lots of poems in April.  Below is my regular Wednesday post of photos, but for this month, I will start by painting pictures with words.  Today, I offer a favorite: Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins. And to accompany are photos from our hike a couple of weeks ago, about 3 miles from my house.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        10
                  Praise him.