Building Our Poem

Posted this recently to my Innerwoven blog. But, it’s just as timely and appropriate here. I hope you enjoy. Peace, friends…

innerwoven

“…in thy voice I catch

The language of my former heart…”*

“The Bud,” 1987

I love poetry. I love its exactitude, its wide-eyed innocence wed to unflinching honesty. The unforced rhythms of perfection, like Grandma’s gaze over well-worn glasses. It is the art of lovers, the science of thinkers, the wisdom of doers.

Poetry gives up her secrets cautiously, altruistically, slowly. Every word, like every note of a great symphony, is fully intended, placed unequivocally in its place with an eye, and ear, to building something remarkable out of simple things, something well beyond the sum of its parts.

In a thousand ways, we are the amalgam of our carefully written words; each one added to the emerging poem of our lives. In this process, there are no real mistakes. There is only the discernment asked of us in the changing turn of phrase that will ultimately become…

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Found

Another good one by fellow poet and all round great human being, Kelly Belmonte. Check out everything on her page (https://allninemuses.wordpress.com). Well worth your time.

All Nine

Are not all poems found poems?

Are not all poets failed poets

failing in a form fated to fail?

Poetry is not truth, but the last

gasp of revelation after hearing

the truest word. The poet

speaks in tongues to a world

that cannot bear truth, whose words

are woodpeckers at the rotting beam,

wind rattling against the eaves.

The poet is found a poet

as a poem is found in the ruins

of a dying language, the last breath

of truth in a truth-famished land.

Find me in these ruins.

*****

Photo by Jiannis Tsiliakis on Unsplash

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Prayer

We press the world between pointed palms,

where the weary stretch for heaven’s notice.

Our best vision, through closed eyes – steps

weightless

on scabbed knees, waiting.

Wine-soaked, bread-fed words squeeze

themselves through parched lips to

arrange with dancing in mind. But first,

they must learn the art of walking naked, blindfolded

through haunted alleys,

danger-gripped, clammy with doubt.

We stretch out long necks, seeking only glimpses, emancipation.

But, the lecherous bully of shame spends all his time

butchering the still,

small voices of light that sneak

in through backdoors where hope still keeps

windows open.

Tragic, is it not, how shades pull tight against wayward shards

of sun, the down-payment for our breath?

Like running in snow, our legs just get heavier –

too much weight tossed about over time.

A leering fatigue replaces what’s left of inadequate strength –

thickness filling muscles too weak to move past their own demise.

Still, hope is what came, long after our tight-

cinched belt of faith lost its grip

and hungry shame gave way to

garden surrender.

Only then does our Amen make sense.

Lines from a French Train

Composed on a train somewhere between Paris and Montpellier, October, 2019

Sometimes, it is easier to find the whimsy

when there is no memory of a place.

Sharp jagged edges can polish themselves

out in conversations with fellow travellers.

Their questions are better than

my unqualified answers.

Laughter jumbles out, jostling about in

the accidental chaos of shared days –

days made strong in the looking

away from the timekeepers and toward

their owners. Remember,

we must all live our lives on our heels

sometimes. Then, we unburden our-

selves in the company of strangers.

I don’t assume the elbow room was mine.

This kicking straight of cramping

knees was not an action reserved for

my taxable legs.

I don’t pretend to know the steps to a dance

composed without my song, by other tribes.

Their rainbow isn’t signed by my god.

Nor is the stretching road built with

me in mind.

I don’t expect my expectations to equal

the readiness of others to serve them.

I don’t believe, even for a minute, the whisperings

of my inserted presence, that my voice

gets top billing, priority, and loudest.

My tongue is not the first or strongest, the purest,

or even necessary.

It is only,

mine.

8

Some of my favourite poetry is that which wrestles, dances with the rich imagery at work in the Bible. It doesn’t preach. It simply tells a story. It helps us picture what the original authors might have been aiming for. This is a poem written as part of a homework assignment for a theology course I’m taking.

It plays around a bit with Psalm 8. Let’s dance. It’s always God’s idea.

8

God, you have scattered your way

among stars, heaped about in the easy

wonders of your winking eye.

Our small and stuttered stance, hands

perched on brows, we squint against

the brilliance and tuck our ignorance

inside curiosity, piqu’d at your

grand and noble gesture.

We shine bright inside your shadow.

From there, at your behest, we are noblesse oblige.

It is in the suppler clay of faces you

do your best work –

the weary eyes of fawning mothers,

the stretching yawns of nipple-fed wains,

tossed high by fathers and friends,

and high school herds, stalwart tribes

trumpeting tales of borrowed conquest.

Foe, fallow-field, and fission –

all made from the same stuff.

What careless shrug dares dismiss so noble a kiss?

Who would think it wise to cork this wine

so ably poured from heaven’s fire?

God, you have scattered

my way among stars.

February 14, 2021 ©Robert A. Rife

I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes to the Hills…

innerwoven

A favourite Psalm of mine proclaims the following, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” The simple act of looking to the hills does not, of itself, bring promise. It is an act of desperation, the longing for salvation wrought of shared hopeful faith. In the end, our help doesn’t come from looking to the hills, but from the hand of God whose hills they are.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris will have their work cut out for them. We are in times of unprecedented division, delusion, decrepitude, and chaos. But, in all the good and hopeful things coming out of the Inauguration yesterday, none was so moving than this from young poet laureate, Amanda Gorman.

Normally I post poetry on my LitBits site. I felt it required…

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As you tell me

As you tell me

the woes of the world,

of all that is wrong and out of place,

the injustices, the unfair dues of your space

carved out of a world you help build;

as you tell me

how the air is now

too thin

to breathe,

the ground,

too heavy

to dig,

the people,

too deaf

to hear your valid cries,

too blind

to support

your team’s placards, your tribe’s war-paint,

those with the correct branding on your

well-vetted t-shirts;

as you tell me

of apocalypse and my need to

wake up, and see Jesus in your message

of #allthismatters and #allthatmatters and

#fuckyourmatters because #onlyImatter;

as you tell me

about all we’re losing

if that guys wins, or this guy wins,

or some guy wins, or we all win

if my guy wins; so, get on board

the happy train your bunch

is driving, with the right conductor

on the right track, going the right way,

for the right reasons, to make things right,

again, the way they were;

as you tell me

the world is going to hell-in-a-handbasket,

my neighbour hasn’t heard your news,

she cradles a dying child.

Viral Dailies: the end…Before and After (a poem)

My candidate for the last Viral Dailies National Poetry Month 2020 installment.

All Nine

Before and after

There’s this thing going around about
how we should not want to go back
to “normal” because what came before
should be – upon reflection – forsaken.
I don’t know what your normal looked like
before, but as for me, I can’t wait to
have a random unplanned conversation
with a colleague by the coffee machine
as we hover waiting our turn, stand on
the sidelines with the other soccer moms,
go to the Word Barn crowded with lovers
of poetry and listen elbow to elbow
in rapt attention to a local writer
rap about random shit, sip wine as we listen
fully and nod, walk miles back and forth
with the waves and a hundred other
beach walkers on Long Sands, browse
aimlessly in an indie bookshop – touch
every interesting cover, then wait
in the café for my husband, who will take
twice as long to…

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Viral Dailies, Penultimate

I skipped a day yesterday. A little lie to continue calling these Viral Dailies under those circumstances. But, alas, here we go all the same for National Poetry Month’s penultimate offering. Today’s comes from 2012 Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flennikan.

Kathleen Flenniken is the author of three poetry collections.  Plume (University of Washington Press, 2012) Her first book, Famous (University of Nebraska Press, 2006), won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association.  Her third poetry collection, Post Romantic, has been selected by Linda Bierds for the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series and will be published by University of Washington Press in Fall 2020.

Kathleen’s awards include a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Artist Trust. She served as Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014.

Kathleen teaches poetry in the schools through arts agencies like Writers in the Schools and Jack Straw. For 13 years she was an editor at Floating Bridge Press, a nonprofit press dedicated to publishing Washington State poets, and currently serves on the board of Jack Straw, an audio arts studio and cultural center. Kathleen holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. She lives in Seattle.

What follows is a gorgeous recitation of her poem, “Angel” in both English and Spanish.

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