Viral Dailies, Day 16

For National Poetry Month in isolation, we’re going old school. Interesting Literature has this to say about our offering today –

‘I Hear America Singing’ was added to Whitman’s landmark poetry volume, Leaves of Grass, when it was reprinted in 1860 (the original edition had appeared in 1855). The poem offers a chance to observe and analyze Whitmanian free verse in microcosm. In eleven lines, Whitman offers a hymn of praise to the many different people in his nation and the various songs they sing.

Let’s enjoy a few deep breaths of the inimitable Walt Whitman.

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I hear America singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Viral Dailies, Day 15

Alas, we reach the midpoint of our celebration of National Poetry Month and communal endurance of responsible isolation. So, the poetry posts continue with added gusto and a hope that clings. Today, we’re hunkering down with America’s greatest poet eco-prophet, Wendell Berry.

This short, concise work at once thrives and pulsates in its minimal affect. Perfect for those of us trying to do the same!

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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.

 

Viral Dailies, Day 13

We’re already at day 13 in our daily postings for National Poetry Month! Time passes quickly when one’s mind isn’t just on its passing. 

Here are three more fridge magnet poems by good friend and fellow poet, extraordinaire, Lesley-Anne Evans. You can also follow her on Instagram.

This installment is titled, “Small Prayers.”

Enjoy!

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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 10

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Good Friday.

Well, not so good for someone. Especially so for the rest of us. This day in history, God absorbed all the hatred, shame, pain, violence, discrimination, sin, and division into himself. Jesus became the great black hole out of which could escape nothing other than love, redemption, hope, and all things new.

As we lean, by faith, into this cosmic narrative, what once was dark can become light again. What once promised fear and undoing, now has potential to unlock a billion answered prayers.

This poem isn’t specifically a Good Friday poem. It is however, in the context of night and sleep, a promise therefrom. 

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nighttime songs our fears erase

a story lived, now story told

we, early young, now later, old

see stranger things than daytime held

but not without our sorrows quelled

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we fluff and tuck and yawn and brush

pray God remove all sinning blush

the air now cool in silver glow

what dreams may come we do not know

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divested now of time and chance

we bid adieu and leave the dance

till thricely woven round with grace

the nighttime songs our fears erase

 

(c)Robert Alan Rife, 2013

Viral Dailies, Day 9

Today is Maundy Thursday.

Maundatum. Mandate. Commandment, from Jesus’ own words, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). It seems a little strange that such an ‘obvious’ thing should need a mention at all and that he calls it ‘new.’ 

But, there it is.

It was also the day when Jesus, through a shared meal, instituted the great theological metaphor of The Lord’s Supper, Communion, Eucharist. The sacrament. In it, the holy and profane kiss in one simple act.

Jesus, himself a living sacrament, brings a constant source of spiritual nourishment by means of something we do every day.

In celebration of this holy day, in the context of National Poetry Month, I give you this powerful sonnet by the ever-brilliant, Malcolm Guite.

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Maundy Thursday

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

Viral Dailies, Day 8

The reasons to post and to celebrate continue to grow.

It is National Poetry Month. Celebration.

It is a global pandemic. Recognize, endure, pray, art.

Holy Week. Celebrate, remember, humility, transformation.

April 8 – my wife’s birthday. Definitely celebrate! And what better day than to post a love poem from the master himself? Today’s offering is from Uncle Bill. I give you a favourite Shakespeare love sonnet.

If I should think of love
I’d think of you, your arms uplifted,
Tying your hair in plaits above,
The lyre shape of your arms and shoulders,
The soft curve of your winding head.
No melody is sweeter, nor could Orpheus
So have bewitched. I think of this,
And all my universe becomes perfection.
But were you in my arms, dear love,
The happiness would take my breath away,
No thought could match that ecstasy,
No song encompass it, no other worlds.
If I should think of love,
I’d think of you.

Viral Dailies, Day 7

National Poetry Month.

Holy Tuesday.

COVID-19.

Social Distancing.

Kinda writes itself, doesn’t it?

Nah, we can do better. Instead, here’s a glorious piece by everyone’s favourite poet, Mary Oliver, God rest her. In this poem, she uses the ever-changing image of a swan to indicate the changes life imposes, coaxes, and expects from us. Who will we become as we drift and swim and soar through its days?

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The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?

Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –

An armful of white blossoms,

A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned

into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,

Biting the air with its black beak?

Did you hear it, fluting and whistling

A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall

Knifing down the black ledges?

And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –

A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet

Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

And have you changed your life?