Saturday, January 21, 2012

Three Prayers...

Maybe prayer is a way to self induce a sense of connectedness (even if just for a split second)  that (somewhat paradoxically) transcends self absorption (if there even is such a thing, really). 

Here are three poems that I like in that vein. In Witness, Denise Levertov's  "mountain"  may be hidden in veils of inattention, apathy and fatigue but despite refusal or forgetting the mountain remains just a few yards away, there for the seeing.

And in The Wild Geese, Wendell Berry, similarly wants to be released from the clutter in his head. To be led by "abandon" the way we are in love or sleep, that, like it does to Geese on migration, would hold us to our way clear to what we need, to "here" (Does he mean what we need is here (geographically) or does he mean "here" as a noun - like we might need a hammer or a bell - in this case what we need is "here-ness")?  (The sheer abandon of the geese as they pass - in a way its own kind of "faith").

Both Levertov and Berry evoke the far away.. the mountain... the Geese high above us as the sky bring us to the not very far away at all; to ... here...or to a few yards up the road. It's like CS Lewis's wardrobe, you open the door to enter a new universe that is actually in your own living room all along. Or like Ram Das's simple suggestion about where and how to find the mountain: Be Here Now. Or what Marie Howe tells us in What The Living Do is "the everyday we speak of "when we feel a "cherishing so deep" it renders us speechless (or as Berry says "quiet in heart, and in eye, clear.") 

I like these poems a lot. They seem like prayers to me.


Sometimes the mountain

is hidden from me in veils

of cloud, sometimes

I am hidden from the mountain

in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,

when I forget or refuse to go

down to the shore or a few yards

up the road, on a clear day,

to reconfirm

that witnessing presence.

~ Denise Levertov ~

The Wild Geese

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

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

~ Marie Howe ~

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