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 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?

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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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

Viral Dailies, Day 4

Few poets have the ability to paint such big pictures economically and simply as does Pablo Neruda. My friend Nancy Kelly recently posted this to my Facebook wall and it was a reminder of the impact of well-conceived, well-sung verse to lift and illuminate and proclaim.

For today’s Viral Dailies in celebration of National Poetry Month in isolation, let’s read this together, and just…breathe.

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Poetry

And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.

I didn’t know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.

And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

Pablo Neruda
(1904—1973)