The Long, Perfect Loveliness

St.-Francis-and-the-Sow
St. Francis and the Sow

Prayer

Whatever happens.  Whatever
what is is is what
I want.  Only that.  But that.

Galway Kinnell

Fair Flower

Thomas Gent (1693 – 1778)

Fair flower! that fall’n beneath the angry blast,
Which marks with wither’d sweets its fearful way,
I grieve to see thee on the low earth cast,
While beauty’s trembling tints fade fast away.
But who is she, that from the mountain’s head
Comes gaily on, cheering the child of earth;
The walks of woe bloom bright beneath her tread,
And nature smiles with renovated mirth?
‘Tis Health! she comes, and hark! the vallies ring.
And hark! the echoing hills repeat the sound;
She sheds the new-blown blossoms of the spring,
And all their fragrance floats her footsteps round.
And hark! she whispers in the zephyr’s voice,
Lift up thy head, fair flower! rejoice! rejoice!


The zombie apocalypse has begun.  At least it feels that way a bit with corona virus in the news 24/7.   All my plans for the next 30 days seem to have been reformed, rewritten or scrapped all together as the week progressed.  The picture changes by the day in terms of what does and doesn’t make sense in terms of travel, over reacting, under reacting – who knows? I am feeling second guessed (mostly by myself) for any decision I make regarding human contact.  The politically correct thing to do right now is stay home for the next 14 days, avoid all human contact, but that seems a little extreme given that we likely have barely even kicked this pandemic off yet.  We maybe only experiencing the pre-game ceremonies of the covid-19 games and just at the start of the first quarter.  It’s going to be a long, long game.  Hope you stocked up on toilet paper, nacho chips and salsa.

I enjoyed Stephen Fry’s tweet on Friday. Go team Fry!  Even if we aren’t related, Stephen and I, I am always glad to see my namesakes being compassionate and intelligent. I agree, kindness and civility need to rule the day right now.  It’s okay to be a rattled or even activated by all this crazy weirdness of COVID – 19. Reach out to friends and family and stay connected even if that means a little less face to face and a little more technology.  Ask for reassurance.  It is going to be okay, even though sadly, for some it probably won’t.  That was true before COVID – 19 and will be true after it. However,  faith in the benevolence of the universe is a better place to start this next global recession than grabby pessimism.

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St. Francis and the Sow

by Galway Kinnell (1927 – 2014)

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

 

Another Spring

rexroth
Kenneth Rexroth – self portrait

Another Spring

by Kenneth Rexroth

The seasons revolve and the years change
With no assistance or supervision.
The moon, without taking thought,
Moves in its cycle, full, crescent, and full.
The white moon enters the heart of the river;
The air is drugged with azalea blossoms;
Deep in the night a pine cone falls;
Our campfire dies out in the empty mountains.

The sharp stars flicker in the tremulous branches;
The lake is black, bottomless in the crystalline night;
High in the sky the Norther Crown
Is cut in half by the dim summit of a snow peak.

O heart, heart, so singularly
Intransigent and corruptible,
Here we lie entranced by the starlit water,
And moments that should each last forever

Slide unconsciously by like water.


There are days we are more attuned to the relentless march of time than others.   Sitting through another endless business meeting yesterday, trying to stay interested, I felt like the protagonist of Gary Snyder’s poem below.   White collar, blue collar and everything in between, any one of us who works a job long enough starts to wonder where time went.

It’s why Rexroth’s gorgeous poem about connecting with nature and the timeless quality such experiences can create in our life speaks to me. I had my first camp fire of the summer last weekend. Sitting beneath the stars with the embers twinkling I was connected to my past, present and future self in that simplicity of silence.  We all feel like there will be another spring, even if we are appreciating the one we have. Nina Simone voiced it honestly.   Living in the moment is easier said then done sometimes, but worth the effort.  Do you have plans for a campfire this summer?   Who will you enjoy its fiery presence with?

 

Hay For The Horses

by Gary Snyder

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
—The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds—
“I’m sixty-eight” he said,
“I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that’s just what
I’ve gone and done.

As Words Sometimes Do

Galway-Kinnell
Galway Kinnell

If This Night Is Other Than Night

by Galway Kinnell (1927 – 2014)

If this night is other than night,
Come back to life, distant beneficent voices, wake
The heaviest clay in which grain ever slept.
Speak: I was no more than craving earth,
Now at last have come the words of dawn and rain.
But speak, that I may be propitious earth,
Speak if it is still a buried day.


Rare is the poet that can speak with voices both human and inhuman. Galway Kinnell denied that he was a nature poet and certainly humanity takes center stage in his voluminous writing, but Kinnell’s writing is edged with all forces on earth, including animals and the world in which we and them inhabit.  Kinnell won the Pulitzer prize in 1980 for Selected Poems,  as much for his consistency in my opinion as for his seminal brilliance for specific poems. Kinnell, along with fellow Princeton classmate, M. S. Merwin, both had long and fruitful writing careers, neither stretching the boundaries of form much, rather developing distinctive styles and perspective.

I am currently visiting Durango, Colorado, having flown into Albuquerque, New Mexico and driven over through the deserts of the Southwest. We stopped and stretched our legs on a BLM nature preserve path and were struck by the abundance of flowers, a recent rain storm having coaxed forth blooms on perennials, succulents and annuals in the reddish, brownish clay of the desert. When I was researching this blog entry, my sister sat down and I read her the opening poem and asked her what she thought. She said, “I don’t understand it, what does it mean to you?”  I said, “I love this poem, and the key to my relating to it is the line; The heaviest clay in which grain ever slept.  It makes me think like a seed in the ground, lying for possibly decades in that dry clay, waiting to speak with the voices of rain, wind, night and sun to awaken my potential to grow.”  I had her close her eyes and stop thinking human and I read it to her again, twice.   She said, “my goodness, maybe I need to stop thinking human when I read poetry, more often.”

Exactly, you got it Sis!  But not too often.


Blackberry Eating

Galway Kinnell

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.