Adventia – day 2

In my first post in this series, I explained the origins of my strange, made up word. Adventia, as I see it, is our foray into the headwaters of Advent – waiting, hoping, and preparing, together with Fragmentia, those literary illuminations of God’s in-breaking into our world to which we may unite the former.

For most of these we’re taking our cue from a favourite Instagram site of mine – #realpoetsdaily Today, we’re blessed by this gem by T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker.”

"But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting..." T.S. Eliot

Adventia – Day 1

No, the above is not meant as some cheap attempt at a New Joizy accent with the word adventure. I see it more as the amalgamation of Advent and Fragmentia: a place where the illumination of God’s in-breaking into our world found in the Advent narratives unites with the fragments of literature and faith and life seeking to bring us to deeper understanding of it all.

Advent is upon us once more. With it comes a barrage of books and practices all aimed at helping us get the most from the experience. My choice this year is to ride someone else’s coattails. Am I just too lazy to think of anything original? Maybe. To be honest, I just like the approach taken by someone I follow on Instagram – #realpoetsdaily 

So then, that is what I am doing for Advent…what they’re doing. I’ll post here but redirect you always back to their site. I give you, Advent, day 1.

“It’s the first Sunday in Advent, and like last year I plan on posting a poem for every day of Advent, and then for ever day of Christmas. Here is “First Sunday” by Sally Thomas (@sallytnnc).

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

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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