Pathway Poem #13

“Requiem for the Homeless Man” by Philip C. Kolin, Reading God’s Handwriting: Poems, Kaufmann Publishing, 2012.

He died of an overdose
of neglect; who cares
that he was one of the hidden
people exiled from smiles.

His sores were so heavy he had to lean them
against a wall, a bench, or a gate,
or let them fall
into the gutter where he belonged
who cares?

What’s left in his pockets is scarce
a few dollops of lint,
two or three mustard seeds,
a browning lily folded in two
like his life

His obituary made the evening winds
flying his soul to the bosom of God
who cares.

If you’ve read it only once, you might want to return to the beginning and read it again, aloud, slowly. Let the images sink into you heart and mind.

It is possible that Kolin was inspired by a parable that Jesus told in Luke 16:19-31 usually entitled “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. However, the genesis of the poem could just as easily have been in any American city from New York to San Francisco.

How can we be united with God. It sounds simple, i.e., care about what God cares about. Unfortunately, God’s name is used far too often, to justify what we and others care about. I find great help in the life of Jesus, where over and over again, it is the poor, the outcast, the suffering who attract his attention and care.

Kolin’s poem can remind us that caring for the homeless, is God-like care. We touch the divine when we care for the poor.

A haiku from several years ago:

remember this truth
voiceless poor are dear to God
seek their wellbeing

Peace,
LaMon

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Pathway Poem #12

Jane Kenyon was a wonderful poet. She died of leukemia at the age of 48. She wrote,

There are things in life that we must endure which are all but unendurable, and yet I feel that there is a great goodness. Why, when there could have been nothing, is there something? This is a great mystery. How, when there could have been nothing, does it happen that there is love, kindness, beauty?1

Among the many poems in Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon, I have chosen the following:

At the Feeder

First the Chickadees take
their share, then fly
to the bittersweet vine,
where they crack open the seeds,
excited, like poets
opening the day’s mail.

And the Evening Grosbeaks–
those large and prosperous
finches–resemble skiers
with the latest equipment, bright
yellow goggles on their faces.

Now the Bluejay comes in
for a landing, like a SAC bomber
returning to Plattsburgh
after a day patrolling the ozone.
Every teacup in the pantry rattles.

The solid and graceful bodies
of Nuthatches, perpetually
upside down, like Yogis . . .
and Slate-Colored Juncoes, feeding
on the ground, taking only
what falls to them.

The cats watch, one
from the lid of the breadbox,
another from the piano. A third
flexes its claws in sleep, dreaming
perhaps, of a chicken neck,
or of being worshiped as a god
at Bubastis, during
the XXIII dynasty.

What makes life worth living if not “love, kindness, beauty” and perhaps a bit of humor.

We have a beautiful Korat cat named Jinx. He too watches the birds at our feeders. And the beautiful birds come all 12 months of the year. Like Jinx, I too like to watch them, though perhaps with a different desire.

One of my Autumn haiku:

a beautiful morning:
just watching the birds feeding
and the leaves falling

May you all rejoice in the beauty around you–blessings of God. As always, feel free to share this blog with others. And comments are always welcomed–really! Peace, LaMon

1 Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor, p.314.

Pathway Poem #11

As I continue to work my way through my books of poetry, I have come the last J. It is A Night without Armor by the famous singer-songwriter, Jewel Kilcher. It contains poems from her journals as she grew up in Alaska. The poem that moved me most was next to the last one, so written, I imagine, in her twenties.

God Exists Quietly

God exists quietly.

When I sit still and contemplate
the breeze that moves upon me
I can hear Him.

For hours I would lay
flat upon the meadows
stare at the
endless field of blue sky
and revel in
the divine placement of all things.

I would walk alone
in the woods and let my mind wander
freely, stumble across theories
on the origins of myself
and all things.

In nature I knew all things had
their place. None supreme,
none insignificant and so
great peace would come to me
as I fit neatly in the folds
between dawn and twilight.
Living in sync with the rhythm
of the earth, eating what
we grew, warming
ourselves by the coal fire,
creating
myself in the vast silence that existed
between the wild mountains of Alaska
and our front porch.

I grew to love the
Nature of god.
I knew Him best not in churches, but
alone with the sun shining on me through the trees

It birthed a space in me
that would continue to
crave the sacred
and demand sanctity
as my life took flight
and lit out to travel
the world.

It has grounded me
and held me steady
in the strong winds
that have caried me
so far from
where I have been.

Prayer is the greatest
swiftest
ship my heart could sail upon.

I am presently reading a book that I think the Jewel who wrote this poem would resonate with. It is The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature by David George Haskell. It is written in beautiful poetic prose. He would agree with Jewel that “all things had their place.”

Jewel’s experience of what some of us might call the divine in nature created in her a craving for the sacred and a demand for sanctity. It does not happen to everyone, but for many it has. So, again, I am encouraged to spend time immersed in the world of nature.

The title of this poem, so impressed me that I too wrote a poem in 2002. I have written other non-haiku poems, but trust me, none deserve printing! I share this one only because Jewel’s poem inspired it.

Unhurried, unharried, God exists quietly
Impassible Silence weaving improbable dreams
into the fabric of life lightly.

As always I welcome comments and encourage you, that if you find this blog helpful, you share it with others, welcoming them to follow it as also.

Peace,
LaMon

Pathway Poem #10

I have been working through my poetry books alphabetically, with one or two exceptions. I came to poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I was sorely tempted to pull one of my favorites from his poems. I did not, primarily because I would have had to spend way too much time trying to explain obscure words and phrases. Plus, reading his poetry aloud can be challenging because he has a unique rhythm scheme. If you want to take a look at my favorites, you can find them online; “God’s Grandeur”, “Pied Beauty”, and “As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire, Dragonflies, Draw Flame”.

Today’ poem is by Rod Jellema in A Slender Grace: Poems. One critic noted that Jellema “is a mystic…[but] he never loses touch with the earth. He is a poet of deep and humane good sense who’s infused with an abiding awareness of the holy.” [Andrew Hudgins, from a blurb on the back of the book.]

I have read this poem several times and will read it again. It seems full of meaning and mystery. Read it aloud slowly a couple of times and see if you agree.

We Used to Grade God’s Sunsets
from the Lost Valley Beach

Why we really watched we never said.
The play of spectral light, but maybe also
the coming dark, and the need to trust
that the fire dying down before us
into Lake Michigan’s cold waves
would rise again behind us.
Our arch and witty critiques
covered our failures to say what we saw.

The madcap mockery of grading God as though
He were a struggling student artist
(Cut loose, strip it down, study Matisse
and risk something, something unseen–
C-plus, keep trying–that sort of thing)
only hid our fear of His weather
howling through the galaxies. We humored
a terrible truth: that nature gives us hope
only in flashes, split seconds, one
at a time, fired in a blaze of beauty.

Picking apart those merely actual sunsets
we stumbled into knowing the artist’s job:
to sort out, then to seize and work an insight
until its transformed into permanence.
And God, brushing in for us the business
of clouds and sky, really is a hawker
of cliches, a sentimental hack as a painter.
He means to be. He leaves it to us
to catch and revise, to find the forms
of how and who in this world we really are
and would be, to see how much promise there is
on a hurtling planet, swung on a thread
and saved by nothing but grace.

If like me, you got to the startling end and thought, “wow”–and then went back to read it again. The poem just keeps growing on me and hope it will on you as well.

source of all being
plants mystery in the world–
survey the garden

As always, feel free to share this blog and encourage others to follow.

Peace,
LaMon

Pathway Poem #9

According to the Anglican calendar, today is the day that Evelyn Underhill is to be remembered. Perhaps more than any other person, Evelyn Underhill has helped me to learn about and appreciate the path of mysticism. I have over 25 of her books. She was one of the three persons about whom I wrote in my dissertation.

Though she published two books of poetry, it was not her primary writing style. Nevertheless, since I am presently sharing poems that point to a pathway to God, here is one that you mind find helpful. It is found in Immanence: A Book of Verses by Evelyn Underhill. This is the first poem in the book and it is entitled “Immanence”.

I come in the little things
Saith the Lord:
Not borne on morning wings
Of majesty, but I have set My Feet
Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat
That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod,
There do I dwell, in weakness and in power;
Not broken or divided, saith our God!
In your strait garden plot I come to flower:
Above your porch My Vine
Meek, fruitful, doth entwine;
Wait, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour.

I come in little things
Saith the Lord:
Yea! on the glancing wings
Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet
Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet
Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes
That peep from out the brake, I stand confest.
On every nest
Where feathery Patience is content to brood
And leaves her pleasure for the high emprize
Of motherhood–
There doth My Godhead rest.

I come in little things,
Sayeth the Lord:
My starry wings
I do forsake,
Love’s highway of humility to take:
Meekly I fit my stature to your need,
In beggar’s part
About your gate I shall not cease to plead–
As man, to speak to man–
Till by such art
I shall achieve My Immemorial Plan
Pass the low lintel of the human heart.

This poem was published in 1912, so forgive her use of male language in the fourth line from the bottom! The point of the poem, which I have taken to heart, is that God creates various pathways by which we might find God and that God might fill us with divine love and joy and peace.

sitting with the trees
by a gently flowing stream–
patient rootedness

Now taken a moment and read the poem one more time. I would love to hear what your favorite line or image is in this poem. If you tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine!

As always, if you find this blog interesting or helpful, you may, if you
haven’t already, click the follow button and also share it with others.

Peace,
LaMon

Pathway Poem #6

This poem is found in Seamus Heaney: 100 Poems. It is about being awake.

Had I not been awake I would have missed it
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,

It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,

A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.

The wind or the leaves or both were like an extra-ordinary messenger. Was it a mystical experience or simply (!!) an inspiration for this poem? In some ways it does not matter. What is important is that he was awake to experience a once in a life time occurrence. Of course, he heard the wind again and the fall of leaves on his roof, but something underneath the ordinary happened this one time–when he was awake. I was reminded of a partial line from the writings of St. Paul, “Awake, o sleeper” (Ephesians 5:14). How easy it can be to sleepwalk through life, to trod the same ruts everyday with our senses unaware of life bursting around us.

Day and night may be filled with “courier(s) . . . lapsed ordinary.” To pay attention, to be awake, is our joyful work.

hillside one spring
four-foot weedy plant–
yellow blossom

As always, if you like this blog feel free to share it with others and encourage them to follow these occasional ramblings.

Peace,
LaMon

Pathway Poem #5

I continue to share poems from some of my favorite poets. I have found poetry a way of spiritual growth, so I share these that we might grow together.

Today’s poet is Malcolm Guite. The poem is entitled “What if …” It is found in The Singing Bowl: Collected Poems by Malcolm Guite. As always, I encourage you to read this poem aloud. This one is really fun to do so–unless you get tongue-tied.

What if every word we say
Never ends or fades away,
Gathers volume, gathers way,
Drums and dins us with dismay,
Surges on some dreadful day
When we cannot get away
Whelms us till we drown?

What if not a word is lost?
What if every word we cast;
Cruel, cunning, cold, accurst,
Every word we cut and paste,
Echoes to us from the past,
Fares and finds us first and last,
Haunts and hunts us down?

What if every murmuration,
Every otiose oration,
Every blogger’s obfuscation,
Every tweeted titivation,
Every oath and imprecation,
Insidious insinuation,
Every verbal aberration,
Unexamined asservation,
Idiotic iteration,
Every facile explanation,
Drags us to the ground?

What if each polite evasion,
Every word of defamation,
Insults made by implication,
Querulous prevarication,
Compromise in convocation,
Propaganda for the nation,
False or flattering persuasion,
Blackmail and manipulation,
Simulated desperation
Grows to such reverberation
That it shakes our own foundation,
Shakes and brings us down?

Better that some words be lost,
Better that they should not last,
Tongues of fire and violence.
Word through whom the world is blessed,
Word in whom all words are graced,
Do no bring us to the test,
Give our clamant voices rest,
And the rest is silence.

One word of explanation; in the final stanza lines four and five the term “Word” is a reference to the ancient Greek philosophical term logos. It was also used in the New Testament book the Gospel of John. In both contexts, The logos is the prism through which the world was created.

Guite reminds us of how the words we use are filled with destructive power. The poem closes with an affirmation that useful words are more likely to be spoken out of the background of silence. In calm silence, right words, helpful words, even holy words, can arise to bless all who will hear them. May we practice a little silence.

Peace to you all,
LaMon


Redwood Wisdom

Michael Guite in The Word in the Wilderness reminded me that poets are more than simply names on our bookshelves. The purpose of good poetry is to delight and instruct. First and foremost it delights,…and then it leads to truth, teaching us something worth knowing (p. 84).

Today’s Pathway Poem is by Pamela Cranston in Searching for Nova Albion (Eugene, Oregon: Resource Publications, 2019)

Why Redwoods Grow So Tall

Watch a coastal redwood
long enough, you’ll catch it
listening. It rises so high,
at first you think it is star-pulled,
winched from outer space–
solitary, detached from the cares
of lowly earthworms and sparrow cries.

But no redwood ever grows alone.

Look with eyes closed and see
how wide its root-thrust extends.
Not from a single taproot,
but from an intricate, buried web
of sturdy thatch.
Redwoods march together,
a family of giants
with arms linked together,
sharing their stories.

And not just with each other
but with raven and deer,
cougar and salmon, with dragonfly
and inchworm–even stories
of you and me. Together
our storylines climb the rings
rising up the core, and carve
a thousand trenches
in weathered bark.

A redwood grows wise
by attending to its neighbors,
then takes each story
and offers it
with upstretched hands.

It has done this so long,
its fingers
touch the fringe of heaven.

Honestly, almost every time I read this poem (aloud, of course!), it seems that something new is learned. But the first thing that caught my attention earlier this year was that single line, “But no redwood ever grows alone”, coupled with images of intermingled roots and arms.

I was reminded of how much of the good in my life comes from my friends, both personal and literary. Choosing our friends is one of the most important things we can do, whether these friends are found in immediate relationships or are the authors of significant books.

redwoods’ lesson:
no one can grow strong alone
find a few good friends

As always, you may share this blog and encourage others to follow.

Peace,
LaMon


Following Circumstances into God’s Presence

This morning I read a story in The Celtic Book of Days by Ray Simpson. It is a reminder that experiencing the presence of the divine may be as simple as being faithful to the circumstances of our lives. Here is the story.

When St. Mungo grew up he became a priest. Perhaps he had dreams of being called to some glorious, sacrificial task. Instead, he was called to visit Fergus, an ailing, old priest who lived about seven miles upstream.

When he arrived, he was dismayed at the weakening condition of the old priest. Mungo stayed with him that night. He prepared supper for him and listened to his stories of his home on the river Clyde. A church had been established there many years earlier by the famous missionary, Ninian. Toward midnight, Fergus had a seizure and died in Mungo’s arms. His last words were, “Promise you will bury me at the church hallowed by Ninian.”

Faithful to his promise, Mungo put Fergus’s body in a wagon to be pulled by oxen. He traveled a day’s journey to the little church by the Clyde. He found the folks who lived there gathered at the church. They were very sad, for they had had no priest for several years.

At the funeral the next day, Mungo was moved by the despair of the people. He knew he could not return home. He believed that God was drawing him to stay and build up this little community. Soon his mother joined him. She called the community “Eglais Cu” (the loved church) because the people lived there as a family. Today, her name for the community is pronounced “Glasgow”.

Following the wooing of God will not always result in something that becomes significant to or remembered by the world, but it likely will result in something important to us as we experience the divine Presence in our lives.

eternal God
holy Presence wooing us
stay attentive

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Peace,
LaMon

Following Jesus Christ 3

This is the third post in this series. It contains what I am sending to my high school classmates as we celebrate 55 years as graduates. Although this is written for mostly Christians, its truth is available to all. The Spirit of Christ that I will refer to below is available to all. Gandhi was never a traditional Christian, but he certainly admired Jesus. Gandhi’s life was marked by some of the same characteristics that can be seen in Jesus–and one was the way of gentleness, which is a pathway into the presence of God.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the gentle; they shall
have the earth for their possession.”
(Matthew 5:5)

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn
from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
(Matthew 11:29)

In my teaching, I have insisted that way too many people “believe” in Jesus, but don’t “follow” him. And sometimes I fall into that crowd. But that does not mean we all can’t do better. We can learn gentleness and humility from Jesus. Again, I say—read the gospels.

The character of Jesus is marked by patience, colored with gentleness. Does Jesus ever get angry? Well, yes, we can see that from time to time. A gentle person can get angry when the situation calls for that kind of confrontation. But for followers of Jesus, Christ-like gentleness is never far beneath the surface.

In looking out at today’s America (and the world), I see that we are flooded with anger, violence, and hatred. Even some Christians, sadly, are more characterized by a bullishness and rage than they are Christ-like gentleness.

As followers of Jesus, our character should mirror Christ’s gentleness. That is possible because the Spirit of Christ lives in us. Listen to what characterizes the Spirit work in our lives (hint: it does not include aggression and hatred!) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)

Peace, LaMon