Viral Dailies, Day 20

Our National Poetry Month/#poetryinisolation initiative continues apace. Today belongs to Christine Valters-Paintner. Christine is our online abbess at Abbey of the Arts. 

On the Abbey website (which you are hitherto strongly urged to frequent and muck about in!) we read the following:

“The Abbey is a virtual global online monastery offering pilgrimages, online classes & retreats, reflections, and resources which integrate contemplative spiritual practice and creative expression with monastic spirituality. We support you in becoming a monk in the world and an artist in everyday life. We believe in nourishing an earth-cherishing consciousness. We are an open and affirming community and strive to be radically inclusive.”

What follows is a most encouraging piece that gives full-throated praise to those who deserve it most, those who have stood in the gap, and the God whose expansive grace envelopes all, especially during suffering.

Watch. Listen. Pause. Pray. Rinse. Repeat…

Praise Song for the Pandemic

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Get to know Christine through the many rich spiritual resources available on her virtual monastery page, including prayer resources for the pandemic.

She has two books out this year. This one.

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And a collection of poems.

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Thanks for all you do among us, Christine, to help shape the artist monk within!

Viral Dailies, Easter…

Easter morning. A triptych of Easter poems I’ve composed over the years, “Morning, breath”, “After the tomb”, and “Death’s death.”

Most of us have heard the story. Now, we must learn again how to breath…

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Morning, breath

As morning reaches where only night had been,

dew once more settles on the brittle earth

and breath returns to one,

so all can breathe again.

 

After the tomb

When blood, still damp, soaked through

the sleeves of shrug-shoulder’d men,

did you cry for their laughter?

 

Were your accusers held in sleep

when Mary’s shaking hands

held fast your plundered feet?

 

How long before bewildered men

and doting women find again

their reasons for remonstrance?

 

Will a miracle suffice

to fill the gaps in minds too young

not to lust for proof?

 

Were the angels surprised

to find their silenced songs

reignited for their fittest subject?

 

Did you know these walls would

only remind you of this one, unending breath?

This one effortless act for one so bored of death?

 

Death’s death

Live! Live! Not one minute

more to solemnize the squaring truths

of the dark, exasperating. Exsanguinating.

The probing luminant, juggernaut

of dawn brought down as a quickening

shade of brilliance over the tar-black,

songless night – now gasping out

its own greying reminiscence.

Kicking against the goads, a denouement

of despair, decay’s quietus comes to mock.

But its voice is too dry now for anything more

than the androgynous whisper of a skeleton.

The bones rattle and try in vain to spark, to scare,

to survive the day, already here.

Death, this needy after-thought, this choking

wheeze of duskish, tight-lipp’d groaning –

it can no longer hunt, its legs are

broken, a dislocated shoulder no longer

suited to hefting hopelessness.

Spring! Spring! O antediluvian Spring! How

many are your salted children, lined up

outside your garden wall. Someone

has unchink’d the tangled gate and trodden new

footprints – fresh, ancient and deep – in the Virgin soil.

We come too, having hid ourselves in

the wisp of your blood-colour’d sleeves.

Droughted, now, a tomb and the perfect surprise:

breaths in lungs once shut, re-sighted eyes,

and in the first of all new hours,

Someone has made light work of death.

Viral Dailies, Day 11

Holy Saturday. A day of inexpressible anguish and loss. Far too often, contemporary Christianity seeks to gloss over this day in a mad rush to the Alleluias of Easter. This is unfortunate and weak theology. There is no resurrection without a tomb. There is no tomb without death. In Jesus’ case, an ignominious death. Unceremonial. Reprehensible. 

If ever there was a poem more suited to the dark hopelessness of this day it is the famous “Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden.

Read. Sit. Ponder. Enter. Weep. Repeat. cc3c814bbf7430dd989d215c30770cb8.jpg

Viral Dailies, Day 5

Today, National Poetry Month, my Viral Dailies poetry features and Holy Week converge. As such, this entire week will feature poetry that helps us turn our attentions in that direction. Palm Sunday of course recognizes that day when Jesus enters Jerusalem, riding the back of a donkey. It was an act of subversion, reversal, theology; it was, ultimately, an act of peace. On Palm Sunday, God in Jesus says ‘no’ to empire and ‘yes’ to the communion of the lost-and-found. In this act, Jesus pictures himself ruling not as dictator or caesar, but as Prince of Peace.

Today, I give you an older poem suitable to the day. Let’s have a blessed Holy Week together, sharing sacred thought and memory, and swallowing whole the hope it brings as we huddle in our homes, hiding from the COVID-19 scourge.

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search

the stones know something we do not

their tears now stain a palm-laden street

and cries reserved for a different day

burst out

unsettled

unstoppable

unreserved

for today only the stones understand

who rides upon them

 

(c)Robert Alan Rife, 4/13/14

Image found here

I could say that

I could say that this hour

is set apart for prayer, the obligations of my station.

My expected obedience.

A fitting praise.

A suitable gratitude.

A reasonable confession.

An obvious adoration.

A humble intercession made in proper posture.

I could say that.

 

I could say that this hour

is ours to do the business of heaven,

The diary of eternity.

The stuff of paradise,

changing sheets and fluffing pillows

for the angelic choir.

Making coffee for saints.

Cleaning up after holy gatherings

of those whose leisure time fills the eons.

I could say that.

 

I could say that this hour

is to learn the language of God.

Syntax of saints.

Songs of millennia of songs sung

and sung again.

Singing still.

Poets poeting.

Writers wording.

Artists arting.

Lovers longing.

So many people still laughing at old jokes,

funnier with each telling, always new.

Always the first time.

Constant punch line surprise.

I could say that.

 

I could say that this hour

is an exercise in self-discipline.

The prowess of patience.

the wages of praxis,

paid in full with each Doxology.

Invocations only please.

There is no need for Benedictions

to forever stories.

You don’t preach any sermons.

You are the sermon.

I am your words.

I could say that.

 

I could say that this hour

is the first of many just like it.

A rehearsal in minutes for what will

soon become lifetimes.

Epochs.

Never less.

Always more.

Without the constant threat of boredom,

the language of loneliness,

all sentences run on.

It doesn’t matter, if they all matter.

There’s no hurry for anyone

to make their point.

I could say that.

 

I could say that this hour

is mine alone.

These shoulders carrying

no burdens, since I never need to

look over them to see another.

A solid silence,

never morose.

No longitude of self-abasement.

No latitude for self-praise –

coordinates of old religion in the checkmate of grace.

I could say that.

 

I think I will.

After the tomb

National Poetry Month is almost over! Today, I leave aside my daily Haiku to offer this one. A meditation of post-resurrection curiosity.

After the tomb

When blood, still damp, soaked through

the sleeves of shrug-shoulder’d men,

did you cry for their laughter?

 

Were your accusers held in sleep

when Mary’s shaking hands

held fast your plundered feet?

 

How long before bewildered men

and doting women find again

their reasons for remonstrance?

 

Will a miracle suffice

to fill the gaps in minds too young

not to lust for proof?

 

Were the angels surprised

to find their silenced songs

reignited for their fittest subject?

 

Did you know these walls would

only remind you of this one, unending breath?

This one effortless act for one so bored of death?

Death’s death

Live! Live! Not one minute

more to solemnize the squaring truths

of the dark, exasperating. Exsanguinating.

The probing luminant, juggernaut

of dawn brought down as a quickening

shade of brilliance over the tar-black,

songless night – now gasping out

its own greying reminiscence.

Kicking against the goads, a denouement

of despair, decay’s quietus comes to mock.

But its voice is too dry now for anything more

than the androgynous whisper of a skeleton.

The bones rattle and try in vain to spark, to scare,

to survive the day, already here.

Death, this needy after-thought, this choking

wheeze of duskish, tight-lipp’d groaning –

it can no longer hunt, its legs are

broken, a dislocated shoulder no longer

suited to hefting hopelessness.

Spring! Spring! O antediluvian Spring! How

many are your salted children, lined up

outside your garden wall. Someone

has unchink’d the tangled gate and trodden new

footprints – fresh, ancient and deep – in the Virgin soil.

We come too, having hid ourselves in

the wisp of your blood-colour’d sleeves.

Droughted, now, a tomb and the perfect surprise:

breaths in lungs once shut, re-sighted eyes,

and in the first of all new hours,

Someone has made light work of death.