poetry

POETRY: Adventures In New Testament Greek—Nous by Scott Cairns

August 19, 2017

You could almost think the word synonymous with mind, given our so far narrow history, and the excessive esteem in which we have been led to hold what is, in this case, our rightly designated nervous systems. Little wonder then that some presume the mind itself both part and parcel of the person, the very seat of soul and, lately, crucible for a host of chemical incentives—combinations of which can pretty much answer for most of our habits and for our affections. When even the handy lexicon cannot quite place the nous as anything beyond one rustic ancestor of reason, you might be satisfied to trouble the odd term no further—and so would fail to find your way to it, most fruitful faculty untried. Dormant in its roaring cave, the [...]

POETRY: On A Day In August by Thomas Merton

August 18, 2017

These woods are too impersonal. The deaf-and-dumb fields, waiting to be shaved of hay Suffer the hours like an unexpected sea While locusts fry their music in the sycamores. But from the curdled places of the sky (Where a brown wing hovers for carrion) We have not seen the heaven-people come. The clean, white saints, have they forgotten us? Here we lie upon the earth In the air of our dead grove Dreaming some wind may come and kiss ourselves in the red eyes With a pennyworth of mercy for our pepper shoulders. And so we take into our hands the ruins Of the words our minds have rent. It is enough. Our souls are trying to crawl out of our pores. Our lives are seeping through each part of us like vinegar. A sad sour death is eating the roots [...]

POETRY: Re-Rooting by Denise Levertov

August 16, 2017

We were trying to put the roots back, wild and erratic straying root-limbs, trying to fit them into the hole that was cleancut in clay, deep but not wide enough; or wide but too square—trying to get the roots back into earth before they dried out and died. Ineptly we pulled and pushed striving to encompass so many rivers of wood and fiber in one confinement without snapping the arteries of sap, the force of life springing in them that made them spring away from our hands— we knew our own life was tied to that strength, that strength we knew would ebb away if we could not find within us the blessed guile to tempt its energy back into earth, into the quiet depths from which we had rashly torn it, and now clumsily struggled to thrust it [...]

POETRY: The Morning Watch by Henry Vaughn

August 16, 2017

O joys! Infinite sweetness! With what flowers And shoots of glory, my soul breaks and buds! All the long hours Of night and rest, Through the still shrouds Of sleep, and clouds, This dew fell on my breast; O how it bloods, And spirits all my earth! Hark! In what rings And hymning circulations the quick world Awakes, and sings! The rising winds, And falling springs, Birds, beasts, all things Adore Him in their kinds. Thus all is hurled In sacred hymns and order; the great chime And symphony of Nature. Prayer is The world in tune, A spirit-voice, And vocal joys, Whose echo is heaven’s bliss. O let me climb When I lie down! The pious soul by night Is like a clouded star, whose beams, though said To shed their light Under some cloud, Yet are [...]

POETRY: Complaining by George Herbert

August 15, 2017

But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is. Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation. (Psalm 38:19-22) Do not beguile my heart, Because thou art My power and wisdom. Put me not to shame, Because I am Thy clay that weeps, thy dust that calls. Thou art the Lord of glory: The deed and story Are both thy due: but I a silly fly That live or die According as the weather falls. Art thou all justice, Lord? Shows not thy word More attributes? Am I all throat or eye, To weep or cry? Have I no parts but those of grief? Let not thy wrathful [...]

POETRY: A Recuperation Of Sin by Scott Cairns

August 13, 2017

I suppose we might do away with words like sin. They are at least archaic, not to mention rude, and late generations have been pretty well-schooled against the presumption of holding anything to be absolutely so, universally applicable, especially anything like sin which is, to put it more neatly, unpleasant, not the sort of thing one brings up. Besides, so much of what ignorance may have once attributed to sin has been more justly shown to be the end result of bad information, genetic flaw, or, most often, an honest misunderstanding. And I suppose sin’s old usefulness may have paled somewhat through many centuries of overuse by corrupt clergy pointing fingers, by faithless men and women who have longed more than anything for a more [...]

POETRY: Wanting The Moon by Denise Levertov

August 12, 2017

Not the moon. A flower on the other side of the water. The water sweeps past in flood, dragging a whole tree by the hair, a barn, a bridge. The flower sings on the far bank. Not a flower, a bird calling hidden among the darkest trees, music over the water, making a silence out of the brown folds of the river’s cloak. The moon. No, a young man walking under the trees. There are lanterns among the leaves. Tender, wise, merry, his face is awake with its own light, I see it across the water as if close up. A jester. The music rings from his bells, gravely, a tune of sorrow, I dance to it on my [...]

POETRY: From The Legend Of St. Clement by Thomas Merton

August 11, 2017

I have seen the sun Spilling its copper petals on the Black Sea By the base of the prisoners’ cliff Where, from the acts of martyrs, Tall poems grow up like buildings. Deep in the wall of the wounded mountain (Where seas no longer frown) The songs of the martyrs come up like cities or buildings. Their chains shine with hymns And their hands cut down the giant blocks of stone. Poetry, psalms Flower with a huge architecture Raising their grandeur on the gashed cape. Words of God blaze like a disaster In the windows of their prophetic cathedral. But the sighs of the deep multitude Grow out of the mountain’s heart as clean as vines. O martyrs! O tremendous prisoners! Burying your murder in this marble hill! The Lamb shall soon [...]

POETRY: A Clock Stopped by Emily Dickinson

August 9, 2017

A Clock stopped— Not the Mantel’s— Geneva’s farthest skill Can’t put the puppet bowing— That just now dangled still— An awe came on the Trinket! the Figures hunched, with pain— Then quivered out of Decimals— Into Degreeless Noon— It will not stir for Doctors— This Pendulum of snow— This Shopman importunes it— While cool—concernless No— Nods from the Gilded pointers— Nods from the Seconds slim— Decades of Arrogance between The Dial life— And [...]

POETRY: Paradox And Promise by Clare of Assisi

August 9, 2017

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and— if you choose— follow His way, becoming contemptible to the world, so long as you do so for Him. More lovely than all things, He became the lowest, despised, struck, scourged countless times and raked across His perfect Body. And then, amid the sufferings of the horrid Cross, He died. For you. If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him. Weep with Him and you shall rejoice with Him. Die with Him upon the cross of wretchedness, and life is yours, And, yes, your dwelling forever in [...]

POETRY: Psalm 23 by Richard Crashaw

August 8, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23) Happy me! O happy sheep! Whom my God, even he it is, That points me to these ways of bliss; On whose pastures cheerful spring, All the [...]

POETRY: This Day by Denise Levertov

August 6, 2017

i Dry wafer, sour wine. This day I see God’s in the dust, not sifted out from confusion. ii Perhaps, I thought, passing the duckpond, perhaps—seeing the brilliantly somber water deranged by lost feathers and bits of drowning bread—perhaps these imperfections (the ducklings practised their diving, stylized feet vigorously cycling among débris) are part of perfection, a pristine nuance? our eyes our lives, too close to the canvas, enmeshed within the turning dance, to see it? iii In so many Dutch 17th-century paintings one perceives a visible quietness, to which the concord of lute and harpsichord contribute, in which a smiling conversation reposes; ‘calme, luxe,” and—in auburn or mercurial sheen of vessels, autumnal [...]

POETRY: Wisdom by Thomas Merton

August 4, 2017

I studied it and it taught me nothing. I learned it and soon forgot everything else: Having forgotten, I was burdened with knowledge— The insupportable knowledge of nothing. How sweet my life would be, if I were wise! Wisdom is well known When it is no longer seen or thought of. Only then is understanding [...]

POETRY: Reason by Scott Cairns

August 2, 2017

It could be a late night phone call, or a note you find troubling the bed. It could be a telegram you can’t help going back to, but something has died, or has left you, and you can’t remember which. You do know that you sit alone, that you have ten strange fingers, and that something whistles in your lungs. Odd, the way a face hangs so heavily, and can seem to pull you over, can seem to pull you down. If your hand were to change, become something altogether different, say, a grip of flowers, or a club of dirt, you might understand the strangeness, might say out loud, There, now that’s the problem; something’s changed my hand to [...]

POETRY: The Sacraments by Francis of Assisi

August 2, 2017

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments— he got so excited and ran into a hollow in his tree and came back holding some acorns, an owl feather, and a ribbon he had found. And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear, you understand: everything imparts His [...]

POETRY: Flying Fowl, And Creeping Things, Praise Ye The Lord by Isaac Watts

August 1, 2017

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl. (Psalm 148:9-10) Sweet flocks, whose soft enamel’s wing Swift and gently cleaves the sky; Whose charming notes address the spring With an artless harmony. Lovely minstrels of the field, Who in leafy shadows sit, And your wondrous structures build, Awake your tuneful voices with the dawning light; To nature’s God your first devotions pay, E’er you salute the rising day, ‘Tis he calls up the sun, and gives him every ray. Serpents who o’er the meadows slide, And wear upon your shining back Numerous ranks of gaudy pride, Which thousand mingling colors make Let the fierce glances of your eyes Rebate [...]

POETRY: Stars by Louise Glück

July 30, 2017

I’m awake; I am in the world— I expect no further assurance. No protection, no promise. Solace of the night sky, the hardly moving face of the clock. I’m alone—all my riches surround me. I have a bed, a vase of flowers beside it. And a nightlight, a book. I’m awake; I am safe. The darkness like a shield, the dreams put off, maybe vanished forever. And the day— the unsatisfying morning that says I am your future, here is your cargo of sorrow: Do you reject me? Do you mean to send me away because I am not full, in your word, because you see the black shape already implicit? I will never be banished. I am the light, your personal anguish and humiliation. Do you dare send me away as though you were waiting for something [...]

POETRY: The Collar by George Herbert

July 29, 2017

I struck the board, and cry’d, No more. I will abroad. What? shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free; free as the rode, Loose as the winde, as large as store. Shall I be still in suit? Have I no harvest but a thorn To let me bloud, and not restore What I have lost with cordiall fruit? Sure there was wine Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn Before my tears did drown it. Is the yeare onely lost to me? Have I no bayes to crown it? No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted? All wasted? Not so, my heart: but there is fruit, And thou hast hands. Recover all thy sigh-blown age On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage, Thy rope of sands, Which pettie thoughts have made, and made [...]

POETRY: Wind And A Bobwhite by Thomas Merton

July 28, 2017

Wind and a bobwhite And the afternoon sun. By ceasing to question the sun I have become light, Bird and wind. My leaves sing. I am earth, earth All these lighted things Grow from my heart. A tall, spare pine Stands like the initial of my first Name when I had one. When I had a spirit, When I was on fire When this valley was Made out of fresh air You spoke my name In naming Your silence: O sweet, irrational worship! I am earth, earth My heart’s love Bursts with hay and flowers. I am a lake of blue air In which my own appointed place Field and valley Stand reflected. I am earth, earth Out of my grass heart Rises the bobwhite. Out of my nameless weeds His foolish [...]

POETRY: A Warning To My Readers by Wendell Berry

July 26, 2017

Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it [...]

MYSTICISM: The Living Flame Of Love — Stanza 2 by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

From The Living Flame of Love Stanza II O sweet burn! O delicious wound! O tender hand! O gentle touch That savors of eternal life, And pays every debt! In slaying you have changed death into life. EXPOSITION We learn here that it is the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who accomplish the divine work of union in the soul.  The “hand,” the “burn,” and the “touch” are in substance one and the same; and the three terms are employed because they express effects peculiar to each.  The “burn” is the Holy Spirit; the “hand” is the Father, and the “touch” is the Son.  Thus the soul magnifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, [...]

POETRY: The Living Flame Of Love by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

1. O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate! if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter! 2. O sweet cautery, O delightful wound! O gentle hand! O delicate touch that tastes of eternal life and pays every debt! In killing you changed death to life. 3. O lamps of fire! in whose splendors the deep caverns of feeling, once obscure and blind, now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely, both warmth and light to their Beloved. 4. How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with [...]

POETRY: Hexameters by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

July 25, 2017

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the Earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the Earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the Earth. He [...]

POETRY: Hope by George Herbert

July 23, 2017

I gave to Hope a watch of mine: but he An anchor gave to me. Then an old prayer-book I did present: And he an optic sent. With that I gave a vial full of tears: But he a few green ears: Ah Loiterer! I’ll no more, no more I’ll bring: I did expect a [...]

POETRY: The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union by Wendell Berry

July 22, 2017

From the union of power and money From the union of power and secrecy, From the union of government and science, From the union of government and art, From the union of science and money, From the union of genius and war, From the union of outer space and inner vacuity, The Mad Farmer walks quietly away. There is only one of him, but he goes. He returns to the small country he calls home, His own nation small enough to walk across. He goes shadowy into the local woods, And brightly into the local meadows and croplands. He goes to the care of neighbors, He goes into the care of neighbors. He goes to the potluck supper, a dish From each house for the hunger of every house. He goes into the quiet of early mornings Of days when he is not going [...]

POETRY: Birdcage Walk by Thomas Merton

July 21, 2017

1 One royal afternoon When I was young and easily surprised By uncles coming from the park At the command of nurses and of guards, I wondered, over trees and ponds, At the sorry, rude walls And the white windows of the apartments. “These,” said my uncle, “are the tallest houses.” 2 Yes, in the spring of my joy When I was visibly affected by a gaitered bishop, Large and unsteady in the flagged yard, Guards, dogs and blackbirds fled on every hand. “He is an old one,” said uncle, “The gaiters are real.” 3 Rippled, fistfed windows of your Dun high houses! Then Come cages made of pretty willows Where they put the palace girls! Green ducks wade slowly from the marble water. One swan reproves a saucy daughter. I consider my own [...]

POETRY: Thrush by Louise Glück

July 19, 2017

Snow began falling, over the surface of the whole earth. That can’t be true. And yet it felt true, falling more and more thickly over everything I could see. The pines turned brittle with ice. This is the place I told you about, where I used to come at night to see the red-winged blackbirds, what we call thrush here— red flicker of the life that disappears— But for me—I think the guilt I feel must mean I haven’t lived very well. Someone like me doesn’t escape. I think you sleep awhile, then you descend into the terror of the next life except the soul is in some different form, more or less conscious than it was before, more or less covetous. After many lives, maybe something changes. I think in the end what you want [...]