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WHAT WE NEED IS HERE

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

– Wendell Berry –

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The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

– Stanley Kunitz –

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INVOCATION

Let us try what it is to be true to gravity,
to grace, to the given, faithful to our own voices,

to lines making the map of our furrowed tongue.
Turned toward the root of a single word, refusing

solemnity and slogans, let us honor what hides
and does not come easy to speech.  The pebbles

we hold in our mouths help us to practice song,
and we sing to the sea.  May the things of this world

be preserved to us, their beautiful secret
vocabularies.  We are dreaming it over and new,

the language of our tribe, music we hear
we can only acknowledge.  May the naming powers

be granted.  Our words are feathers that fly
on our breath.  Let them go in a holy direction.

– Jeanne Lohmann –

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I could take
two leaves
and give you one.

Would that not be
a kind of perfection?

But I prefer
one leaf
torn to give you half
showing

(after these years, simply)
love’s complexity in an act,
the tearing and
the unique edges —

one leaf (one word) from the two
imperfections that match.

– HAYDEN CARRUTH –

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FOR FAILURE

The will of color loves how light spreads
Through its diffusions, making textures subtle,
Clothing a landscape in concealment
For color to keep its mysteries
Hidden from the unready eye.

But the light that comes after rain
Is always fierce and clear,
And illuminates the face of everything
Through the transparency of rain.

Despite the initial darkening,
This is the light that failure casts.
Beholden no more to the promise
Of what dream and work would bring.
It shows where roots have withered
And where the source has gone dry.
The light of failure has no mercy
On the affections of the heart;
It emerges from beyond the personal,
A wiry, forthright light that likes to see crevices
Open in the shell of a controlled life.

Though cruel now, it serves a deeper kindness,
Wise to the larger call of growth.
It invites us to humility
And the painstaking work of acceptance

So that one day we may look back
In recognition and appreciation
At the disappointment we now endure.

– John O’Donohue –
From To Bless the Space Between Us

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DEMAND IT COURAGEOUSLY

Make some room for yourself, human animal.

Even a dog jostles about on his master’s lap to

improve his position. And when he needs space he

runs forward, without paying attention to commands

or calls.

If you didn’t manage to receive freedom as a gift,

demand it as courageously as bread and meat.

Make some room for yourself, human pride and

dignity.

The Czech writer Hrabal said:

I have as much freedom as I take.

by Julia Hartwig

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THE FALL ALMOST NOBODY SEES

Everybody’s gone away.
They think there’s nothing left to see.
The garish colors’ flashy show is over.
Now those of us who stay
hunker down in sweet silence,
blessed emptiness among

red-orange shadblow
purple-red blueberry
copper-brown beech
gold tamarack, a few
remaining pale yellow
popple leaves,
sedge and fern in shades
from beige to darkening red
to brown to almost black,
and all this in front of, below,
among blue-green spruce and fir
and white pine,

all of it under gray skies,
chill air, all of us waiting
in the somber dank and rain,
waiting here in quiet, chill
November,
waiting for the snow.

– David Budbill –

 

 

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