prisons within prisons within prisons

The voice of God is heard in Paradise: “What was vile has become precious. What is now precious was never vile. I have always known the vile as precious: for what is vile I know not at all. What was cruel has become merciful. What is now merciful was never cruel. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy and cruelty I know not at all. Have you had sight of Me, Jonas, My child? Mercy within mercy within mercy. I have forgiven the universe without end, because I have never known sin. What was poor has become infinite. What is infinite was never poor. I have always known poverty as infinite: riches I love not at all. Prisons within prisons within prisons. Do not lay up for yourselves ecstasies upon earth, where time and space corrupt, where the minutes break in and steal. No more lay hold on time, Jonas, My son, lest the rivers bear you away. What was fragile has become powerful. I loved what was most frail. I looked upon what was nothing. I touched what was without substance and within what was not I AM.”

Thomas Merton, epilogue to The Sign of Jonas

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From a letter to Theo

From a Letter to Theo*
Vincent Van Gogh, The Hague,
September 3, 1882

Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red soil,
is a sky very delicate, bluish-gray, warm, hardly blue,

all aglow – and against it all is a hazy border of green
and a network of little stems and yellowish leaves.

A few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around
like dark masses of mysterious shadows.

The white cap of a woman bending to reach a dry branch
stands out suddenly against the deep red-brown of the ground.

A skirt catches the light – a shadow is cast –
a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush.

A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman
molds itself against the sky. Those figures are large

and full of poetry – in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone
they appear as enormous terracottas being modeled in a studio.

     *from – Vincent Van Gogh: A Self Portrait, Letters Revealing
      His Life as a Painter, selected by W.H. Auden

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A Song On The End Of The World – Czeslaw Milosz

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

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Many will Come – Rachel Srubas

Today, may I walk in right paths, in God’s light. May peace prosper the steps of my family and friends, in city streets and buildings, and among all nations.
Today, may people stream from east and west to converge in God’s neighborhood. May nations labor to dismantle barricades. May our city be a just, peaceable center, united and vibrant. May my friends and relations strive for the good of each other, and may I remember I am neither higher nor lower than a servant.
Today, may east and west meet in my right and left hands, complementing, comprehending one another.
In my body, may north and south correspond, lifting my mind above worry, grounding my feet on the earth.
Today may I know what I am: created, not self-made, instructed to walk and work in God’s ways.
May I hammer old knives into new spoons, old enmities into love.
May I respect the least functional part of myself as surely as Jesus cherishes a paralytic slave and saves him with a word.
May the shriveled and disused part of my heart be bathed in God’s mercy today, that I might see sunlight for what it is: the gaze that beholds and heals us all.
In a banquet hall spacious enough for a whole world of nations, may I rest among neighbors and strangers, friends and relations.
May we feast among prophets on food grown in plowed mountain soil, reaped with weapons repurposed as tools.

silhouette of person walking on brown field

Photo by Airam Dato-on on Pexels.com

Power – Adrienne Rich

Living    in the earth-deposits    of our history

Today a backhoe divulged    out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle    amber    perfect    a hundred-year-old
cure for fever    or melancholy    a tonic
for living on this earth    in the winters of this climate

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered    from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years    by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin    of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold    a test-tube or a pencil

She died    a famous woman    denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds    came    from the same source as her power

A Cleared Site – Rumi

The presence rolling through again
clears the shelves and shuts down the shops.

Friend of the soul, enemy of the soul,
why do you want mine?

     Bring tribute from the village.
But the village is gone in your flood.

     That cleared site is what I want.
Live in the opening where there is no door
to hide behind. Be pure absence.
In that state everything is essential.

The rest of this must be said in silence
because of the enormous difference between light
and words that try to say light.