On aging

The writer must create from one, or both, of two places: intention, the rhythmic pounding of chain gang-style word production, regardless of circumstance or existential readiness and/or secondly, inspiration, generally obtained through the navigations of a life-lived and sopping up the genius of creators much greater than oneself. The clear lack of words posted to this site in recent months is evidence that I fail miserably in the former. This one, however, comes from having read some of the collected poems in the posthumous collection: “100 Poems” of Seamus Heaney.

The best writers write much using little. They say fundamental things with brevity, economy, exactitude, and a settled, but discerned, relationship with their environment. Seamus Heaney is such a one.

This is brief, but I hope, settled in its own way. I pray it pokes at something in you that, like for me, has lain dormant. Maybe, together, we can reawaken to all the beauty still out there, waiting to be discovered and toyed with.

On aging

Candles, late and long of light,

ligamented now with downward

pour, its waxen tears

the reminders of tender’d space.

Still, there sticks a certainty

of return, innocence untethered,

released from her superlatives

of age; a perambulation of

secondary narratives, like barb’d

wire sunk deep into the

many-ring’d trunk.

Hands, purpled-shanks,

quiver through their tasks,

once the domain of domestic

industry; now but memories,

forgotten, a casual anxiety.

How can the same bird

recall the song, left on the

sill so ready of purpose?

She can but smile at its reticent timbre –

and start again.

Picture found here

An old poem for a new year

“Church Bell” by Georgia O’Keefe

We climb over the short wall from one three hundred sixty-five day journey to begin another, hoping against hope that it is somehow better than the one before. We’ll be just a bit happier, thinner, better looking, less anxious, more of this and less of that. Ever an admirer of Romantic era poets, I give you the following as a poem to ring in the new year.

And, because Wikipedia is where all things are quickly found…

“Ring Out, Wild Bells” is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson’s elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister’s fiancé who died at the age of 22.

According to a story widely held in Waltham Abbey, the ‘wild bells’ in question were the bells of the Abbey Church. According to the local story, Tennyson was staying at High Beach in the vicinity and heard the bells being rung on New Year’s Eve.

Ring Out, Wild Bells (from In Memoriam)

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Adventia, days 19/20

For both today and tomorrow I am posting one of the most remarkable, strangely comforting, but deeply subversive prophetic passages in the entire Scripture. These words, from the mouth of a young, pregnant Mary are as powerful now as they ever were. For those who think the Gospel nothing more than one’s personal ticket to heaven with little social impact, these words easily challenge such erroneous assumptions.

Today, I give you –

“The Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55 NRSV)

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Um, wow.