Presently the two mares and the two colts came over to see me and to take a drink. The colts looked like children with their big grave eyes, very humble…and they were tamer than I expected. They came over and nudged me with their soft muzzles and I talked to them a bit. – Thomas Merton
A Blessing – James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
(James Wright, “A Blessing” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose.Copyright 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.)
The blossoming plums are a comforting sight,
they understand I am heavy with wine
– Chiang K’uei
do you recall
when I planted plum trees
to the east of our home
the scent at dusk
promised a life still
as a Chinese scroll
later in darkness
I turned away
and seemed to sleep
so many winters
my head heavy
my plum trees gone
Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.
Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it. Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.
To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.
– Robert A. Johnson
1000 days sober last Friday. I thank God, who had to break my life into a million pieces and showed me the spiritual path to wholeness and freedom, relieved me of the bondage of self, and connected me to a supportive, loving community.
Today and every day, the word is: gratitude
(sketch: Paul Brahms)
The people you have loved deeply remain with you. – Henri Nouwen
Respect the elders.
Embrace the new.
Encourage the impractical and improbable,
– David Fricke
A man has been standing
in front of my house
for days. I peek at him
from the living room
window and at night,
unable to sleep,
I shine my flashlight
down on the lawn.
He is always there.
After a while
I open the front door
just a crack and order
him out of my yard.
He narrows his eyes
and moans. I slam
the door and dash back
to the kitchen, then up
to the bedroom, then down.
I weep like a child
and make obscene gestures
through the window. I
write large suicide notes
and place them so he
can read them easily.
I destroy the living
room furniture to prove
I own nothing of value.
When he seems unmoved
I decide to dig a tunnel
to a neighboring yard.
I seal the basement off
from the upstairs with
a brick wall. I dig hard
and in no time the tunnel
is done. Leaving my pick
and shovel below,
I come out in front of a house
and stand there too tired to
move or even speak, hoping
someone will help me.
I feel I’m being watched
and sometimes I hear
a man’s voice,
but nothing is done
and I have been waiting for days.
(from Collected Poems)
Richard Rohr –
Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing—that we must go down before we even know what up is. It is first an ordinary wound before it can become a sacred wound. Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to destabilize our arrogance and our ignorance. I would define suffering very simply as “whenever you are not in control.”
All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If your religion is not showing you how to transform your pain, it is junk religion. It is no surprise that a crucified man became the central symbol of Christianity.
If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter—because we will be wounded. That is a given. All suffering is potentially redemptive, all wounds are potentially sacred wounds. It depends on what you do with them. Can you find God in them or not?
If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down, and the second half of our lives will, quite frankly, be small and silly.
Charles Simic, from “The Necessity of Poetry”
The practice of lyric poetry – the most intense, the most condensed, the most purified form of language – must be centered in a genuine gift. The chances of getting away with pure fakery within it are very small. One cannot fib – it shows. One cannot manipulate – it spoils. One cannot apply decoration from the outside; or pretend that non-feeling is feeling; or indulge in any of the lower-grade emotions, such as self-pity. The truth: and we can look back and see that piece of paper, in Dante, burning in the way paper always burns; and feel the coolness of Shakespeare’s flowers; and the wet loops of Sabrina’s hair. All immortal and all true.
But it’s silly to suggest the writing of poetry is something ethereal, a sort of sou-crashing, devastating emotional experience that writes you. I have no fancy ideas about poetry. It’s not like embroidery or painting on silk. It doesn’t come to you on the wings of a dove. It’s something you have to work hard at.
The secure pulses of the heart
Drive and rock in dark precision,
Though life brings fever to the mouth
And the eyes vision.
Whatever joy the body takes,
Whatever sound the voice makes purer,
Will never cause their beat to faint
Or become surer.
These perfect chambers, and their springs,
So fitly sealed against remorse
That keep the lifting shaft of breath
To its cool course,
Cannot delay, and cannot dance –
Until, wrung out to the last drop,
The brain, knowing time and love, must die,
And they must stop.
(from Journey Around My Room, the autobiography of Louise Bogan)