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Poetry read in the August 2017 Roots of Compassion Retreat

14 Sep 2017 11:18 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

Naomi Shihab Nye - Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

 

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

 

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and

     purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where

like a shadow or a friend.

 

Mary Oliver - Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mary Oliver - The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice

though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations

though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
nthe stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do

determined to save
the only life you could save.

Martha Postlewaite - Clearing

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there

patiently,

until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself

to this world

so worth of rescue.

Leonard Cohen - Ring The Bells

Ring the bells that can still ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

Rosemerry Trommer - One Morning

 One morning

 we will wake up

 and forget to build

that wall we’ve been building,

 

 the one between us

the one we’ve been building

 for years, perhaps

 out of some sense

 of right and boundary,

 perhaps out of habit.

 

 One morning

 we will wake up

 and let our empty hands

 hang empty at our sides.

 

 Perhaps they will rise,

 as empty things

 sometimes do

 when blown

 by the wind.

 

 Perhaps they simply

will not remember

 how to grasp, how to rage.

 

 We will wake up

 that morning

 and we will have

 misplaced all our theories

about why and how

 and who did what

 to whom, we will have mislaid

 all our timelines

 of when and plans of what

and we will not scramble

to write the plans and theories anew.

 

 On that morning,

not much else

 will have changed.

 

Whatever is blooming

will still be in bloom.

 

 Whatever is wilting

 will wilt. There will be fields

to plow and trains

 to load and children

 to feed and work to do.

 

 And in every moment,

 in every action, we will

 feel the urge to say thank you,

 we will follow the urge to bow.

Alison Luterman - At the Corner Store

He was a new old man behind the counter, skinny, brown and eager.

He greeted me like a long-lost daughter,

as if we both came from the same world,

someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city.

I was thirsty and alone. Sick at heart, grief-soiled

and his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning,

coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register

which were still and always filled

with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.

Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,

these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips,

Stacked – up beer boxes and immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water

and he returned my change, beaming

as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees,

as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,

and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime

over the counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips.

This old man who didn’t speak English

beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death

so that when I emerged from his store

my whole cock-eyed life  -

what a beautiful failure ! -

glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards,

mad with passion behind their chain-link fences,

and in the driveway of a peeling-paint house

A woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae.

Praise Allah!  Jah!  The Buddha!  Kwan Yin,

Jesus, Mary, and even jealous old Jehovah!

For eyes, hands, of the divine, everywhere.

Rumi - The Guest House

This being human is like a guest house,

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

 

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,   translation by Coleman Barks 

A Lyric from Beth's Mind

All things are impermanent

They arise and they pass away

To be in harmony with this truth

Brings great happiness.

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