This is actually Pathway Poem #22, but I decided to use a title instead. The poem today is by Paul Quenon, a Trappist monk whose novice master and spiritual director at the abbey of Gethsemani was Thomas Merton. The poem is found in Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems published by Paraclete Press.
In the poem there is an italicized quote from Prayers of a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, published by Paraclete Press.
Now to the poem, that I hope you will read aloud and maybe twice.
Swallows wheel below me
seated high on a window sill
as I read Rilke this rainy evening.
In chorus they sweep close to me,
curious and much amused at this aerial man
perched two stories up.
The make clipped remarks with swift wing beats
as the sail past my window.
Well–the delight is mutual.
I return to the page and read:
I am! You anxious One, don’t You hear me
with my soft senses surging toward You?
My feelings, which have found wings,
circle around Your face innocently.
How strange! How did they know? Am I God to these
Or be they God wooing me?
They befriended me briefly in their god-like play,
then passed beyond to loftier freedom.
The reference to “god-like play” reminded me of the line in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins entitled As Kingfishers Catch Fire, i.e., “Christ plays in ten thousand places” which is also the title of a brilliant book by Eugene H. Peterson.
The poem also called to mind an older woman in the church where I grew up. She talked about going to a window in her kitchen every morning to hear what God might tell her through the two birds who regularly showed up. What she might have heard, I have no idea.
Just as there seem to be “thin places” where this world and another reality seem to meet, I think some beings bring this thinness to us. Birds did that for Paul Quenon that day and apparently did it often for the elderly church lady.
I hope you will return to the poem now and read it a second time. And I hope that you will take time to pay attention to life around you through which another life might shine through just for a moment.
trinity of chickadees
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