Evening Poetry, December 21

Winter-Time

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintery sun a-bed,

A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;

Blinks but an hour or two; and then,

A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,

At morning in the dark I rise;

And shivering in my nakedness,

By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit

To warm my frozen bones a bit;

Or with a reindeer-sled, explore

The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap

Me in my comforter and cap;

The cold wind burns my face, and blows

Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;

Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;

And tree and house, and hill and lake,

Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

You can find this poem in ‘Tis the Season: A Classic Illustrated Christmas Treasury.

Evening Poetry, December 20

We Shake With Joy

by Mary Oliver

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

housed as they are in the same body.

You can find this poem in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, December 19

For The Unknown Self

by John O’ Donohue

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye’s affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light
Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness
And misjudge what you do and who you are.

It presides within like an evening freedom
That will often see you enchanted by twilight
Without ever recognizing the falling night,
It resembles the under-earth of your visible life:
All you do and say and think is fostered
Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.

It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.

Were it to break forth into day,
Its dark light might quench your mind,
For it knows how your primeval heart
Sisters every cell of your life
To all your known mind would avoid,

Thus it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.

At times, it will lead you strangely,
Magnetized by some resonance
That ambushes your vigilance.

It works most resolutely at night
As the poet who draws your dreams,
Creating for you many secret doors,
Decorated with pictures of your hunger;

It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want,
Where all your diverse strainings
Can come to wholesome ease.

You can find this poem in To Bless the Space Between Us.

Evening Poetry, December 18

Logos

by Mary Oliver

Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?

If you say the right words, the wine expands.

If you say them with love

and the felt ferocity of that love

and the felt necessity of that love,

the fish explode into many.

Imagine him, speaking,

and don’t worry about what is reality,

or what is plain, or what is mysterious.

If you were there, it was all those things.

If you can imagine it, it is all those things.

Eat, drink, be happy.

Accept the miracle.

Accept, too, each spoken word

spoken with love.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Evening Poetry, December 17

How We Move in Grace

by Rumi

Doing prayer and meditation at a particular time,

fasting, and going on pilgrimage

are outward statements of inner intention.

Giving to charity and giving up jealousy

are ways to say how it is inside us.

Serving food and welcoming guests into your house

are actions that mean, I feel close to you.

Any time you exert yourself by going somewhere,

giving money, or taking time to pray,

you are saying, There is a priceless jewel inside me.

Fasting says, I have not eaten

even what is permitted.  I must want no connection

to what is not.  Giving to the poor says,

I am distributing my own property.

Certainly, I will not steal from others.

There are, though, fowlers who throw out grain

to snare birds, and cats who pretend to fast,

fast-asleep, when really they are peeking

through eye-slits to ambush prey.

They give generosity a bad name.

But despite all crookedness,

water comes from the star Arcturus

to wash even the hypocrites.

When our water here

becomes saturated with pollution,

it gets led back to the original water, the ocean.

After a year of receiving starlight,

the water returns, sweeping new robes along.

Where have you been?  In the ocean of purity.

Now I’m ready for more cleaning work.

Give me your demons.  I’ll take them to sea.

If there were no impurity, what would water do?

It shows its glory in how it washes a face,’

and in other qualities as well,

the way it grows the grass

and how it lifts a ship across to another port.

Every medicinal ointment derives essence

from water, as every pearl and every seed.

A river is a shop of salves,

food for the abandoned, movement

for those who are stuck.

When the river slows with the weight of silt

and corruption, it grows sad and prays,

Lord, what you gave me I gave others.

Is there more?  Can you give more?

Clouds then draw up the riverwater,

and dissolve it in the ocean.

What this means is

we often need to be refreshed.

Mingling with surroundings, the soul falls ill.

It calls out to the first caller-out, Bilal,

revive us.  Beat the drum that glides us along.

As the body stands at prayer,

the soul says, Peace, my friend,

then leaves for a while.

When it comes back, you don’t have to do ablutions

with sand anymore or guess which way

to point the prayer rug.

Water is the story of how we are helped.

Hot baths prepare us to enter the fire.

Only salamanders can go directly in

without an intermediary, salamanders and Abraham.

The rest of us need guidance from water.

Satisfaction comes from God,

but to get there you need to eat bread.

Beauty comes from the presence,

but those of us in bodies

must walk in a garden to feel it.

When this body-medium goes, we will see directly

the light that lives in the chest.

The qualities of water show

how we move inside grace.

You can find this poem in The Essential Rumi.

Evening Poetry, December 16

Dreams

by Mary Oliver

All night

the dark buds of dreams

open

richly.

In the center

of every petal

is a letter,

and you imagine

if you could only remember

and string them all together

they would spell the answer.

It is a long night,

and not an easy one–

you have so many branches,

and there are diversions–

birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down

to sleep beneath you,

the moon staring

with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent

all the energy you can

and you drag from the ground

the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake

with two or three syllables

like water in your mouth

and a sense

of loss–a memory

not yet of a word,

certainly not yet the answer–

only how it feels

when deep in the tree

all the locks click open,

and the fire surges through the wood,

and the blossoms blossom.

You can find this in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, December 15

This Time of No Room

by Jane Tyson Clement

He who has come to men

dwells where we cannot tell

nor sight reveal him,

until the hour has struck

when the small heart does break

with hunger for him:

those who do merit least;

those whom no tongue does praise

the first to know him,

and on the face of the earth

the poorest village street

blossoming for him.

You can find this poem in No One Can Stem the Tide.

Evening Poetry, December 14

Where Dreams Meet Daily Life

by Freya Manfred

Sometimes I’m harsh with my family.

Beneath my harshness lie my tears.

Beneath my tears a woman filled with dreams,

who gave birth to words and children and gardens.

But now my children walk the earth

with bones that have finished growing,

and my husband read the newspaper until I speak,

then answers and calls it love.

My words seem irrevelant, like my dreams,

crowded with strangers at loud parties

where I can’t find anything to drink.

Did my dreams ripen because my rich life fed them?

Or did my hungry dreams feed my life?

The place where dreams meet daily life

must be blessed by what is unknown.

We move as a spirit flies, or as underground

water flows, the way stones still breathe

with the spirit that gave them birth.

You can find this poem in Swimming With a Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle.

Evening Poetry, December 13

White-Eyes

by Mary Oliver

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2002)

Evening Poetry, December 12

Hi, dear blog friends! I’m so sorry I’ve missed getting poetry out to you the past few evenings. Between holiday sip & shop events with my natural bodycare and aromatherapy business, and a music gig for our acoustic duo, life’s been busy. In the back of my mind, though, I’ve been thinking about poetry and the blog and how much I missed this.

The Darkling Thrush

By Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

You can find this poem in Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems.