Poetry

A secular liturgy

Crafted by no hand,
Self-designed,
Beyond all explanation;
The nameless will satisfy
Its laws and its exceptions.

Appearance and appetite,
Love and gravity,
Play under an endless sky.
Coalesce, divide, return,
Confound and amplify.

What can be established here?
What consolation, rest, or measure?
A view is taken, broken, taken,
Secured, then broken, taken.

Desire compels the world,
All scales, dimensions,
Matrices: shaped and carved
Precisely, mathematically incised.

Seekers suppose the pattern hides
In arcane details, an
Impenetrable microcosm.
Yet the supreme equation
Lies on the surface,
Coiling perfection on perfection.

The embrace suffices
All purposes, intents, and
Pins the participant to the act;
Couples motive and result
In heedless elegance.

Slipping sense or reasonable rhyme,
Unconcerned to balance or redress,
The tale spins out its tellers.
Each confabulates, in dialect
A song to fit the rest.

by Naturalism.org

Link: Naturalism.org

Tradition: Atheist spirituality

· poem · poetry · secular · humanist · liturgy · naturalism · atheism · agnostic · atheist · universe

An Improvisation For Angular Momentum

Walking is like
imagination, a
single step
dissolves the circle
into motion; the eye here
and there rests
on a leaf,
gap, or ledge,
everything flowing
except where
sight touches seen:
stop, though, and
reality snaps back
in, locked hard,
forms sharply
themselves, bushbank,
dentree, phoneline,
definite, fixed,
the self, too, then
caught real, clouds
and wind melting
into their directions,
breaking around and
over, down and out,
motions profound,
alive, musical!

 
Perhaps the death mother like the birth mother
does not desert us but comes to tend
and produce us, to make room for us
and bear us tenderly, considerately,
through the gates, to see us through,
to ease our pains, quell our cries,
to hover over and nestle us, to deliver
us into the greatest, most enduring
peace, all the way past the bother of
recollection,
beyond the finework of frailty,
the mishmash house of the coming & going,
creation's fringes,
the eddies and curlicues

by A.R. Ammons

Link: Panhala

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · change · life · death · universe

From the rising of the sun

 Praise be to the source of all life.
Praise, all beings who come from the source, praise the source of all life.
Blessed be the source of all life from this time forth and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun until its setting, praise the Name that cannot be named.
The source transcends nations and boundaries, and its glory is beyond the heavens.
Who is like unto the source of life, which dwells in the deep,
The source that becomes like the earth
to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!
The spirit of life raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dunghill;
And sets them with princes, even with the princes of their people.
The life wells up even in the barren, and makes them joyfully bring forth life.
Praise the source of all life.

(A NeoPlatonist / Taoist / Unitarian version of Psalm 113)

by Yvonne Aburrow

Link: Dance of the elements

Tradition: Eclectic spirituality

· psalm · poetry · poem · Yvonne Aburrow · Taoism · Kabbalah · Neo-Platonism

If we are not happy

If we are not happy and joyous at this season,
for what other season shall we wait and
for what other time shall we look?

by Abdul Baha

Link: Panhala

Tradition: Bahai

· poem · poetry · Abdul Baha · Bahai · happiness

Knowing

There once was a man who said, “Though
it seems that I know that I know,
what I would like to see
is the me that knows me
when I know that I know that I know.”

by David Mead

Link: Sujato's blog

Tradition: Buddhism

· poem · poetry · David Mead · knowledge · awareness

Mockingbirds

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

 

by Mary Oliver

Link: Modern American Poetry

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · Mary Oliver · Nature · mockingbird · bird · Baucis · Philemon · mythology · Greek

Not dawdling

Not dawdling
not doubting
intrepid all the way
walk toward clarity
with sharp eye
With sharpened sword
clearcut the path
to the lucent surprise
of enlightenment
At every crossroad
be prepared to bump into wonder

by James Broughton

Link: The Poetry Chaikhana

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · wonder · James Broughton

On life and death

look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life

why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think seperately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows
right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

by Rumi

Link: The poems of Rumi

Tradition: Sufism

· poem · poetry · Rumi · life · awareness · mindfulness · Nature · love · Sufi

Prayer

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

by Carol Ann Duffy

Tradition: Atheist spirituality

· prayer · poetry · poem · Carol Ann Duffy · atheism · agnosticism · agnostic · atheist · spirituality · Shipping Forecast

The Great Affair

The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

by Diane Ackerman

Tradition: Humanism

· poem · poetry · humanism · humanist · Diane Ackerman · life · love · mystery

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

by Mary Oliver

Link: Modern American Poetry

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · Mary Oliver · life

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?

by Mary Oliver

Link: Modern American Poetry

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · Mary Oliver · Nature · swan · bird · life · beauty

The Thunder, Perfect Mind

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, nor your hearing.
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time. Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am <the mother> and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.
I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in (due) time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.  

 

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by Anonymous, translated by George W. MacRae

Link: The Nag Hammadi Library

Tradition: Gnostic

· poem · poetry · Gnostic Gospels · Sophia · Goddess · paradox

To Savor the World or to Save it?

 I arise in the morning torn between the desire
To save the world and to savor it--
To serve life or to enjoy it--
To savor the world or save it?
The question beats in upon the waiting moment--
To savor the sweet taste of my own joy
Or to share the bitter cup of my neighbor;
To celebrate life with exuberant step
Or to struggle for the life of the heavy laden?

What am I to do--
When the guilt at my bounty
Clouds the sky of my vision;
When the glow which lights my every day
Illumines the hurting world around me?

To savor the world or save it?
God of justice, if such there be,
Take from me the burden of my question.
Let me praise my plenitude without limit;
Let me cast from my eyes all troubled folk!

No, you will not let me be.
You will not stop my ears
To the cries of the hurt and the hungry;
You will not close my eyes
To the sight of the afflicted.
No, you will not!

What is that you say?
To savor one must serve?
To savor one must save?
The one will not stand without the other?
Forgive me--
In my preoccupation with self,
In my concern for my own life
I had forgotten.
Forgive me, God of justice,
forgive me, and make me whole.

by Richard S Gilbert

Tradition: Unitarian Universalist

· poem · poetry · UU · Richard Gilbert · world · life · meaning

What hurts you, blesses you

 What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break
the glass cover on your heart,
and there's no fixing that.

by Rumi

Link: Belly Dance to the Music of Americanistan

Tradition: Sufism

· poem · poetry · Rumi · life · darkness · Sufi

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

by Mary Oliver

Link: Modern American Poetry

Tradition: None

· poem · poetry · Mary Oliver · life · wild geese · body · goodness · world

You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest

You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest,
and I smile, and am silent,
and even my soul remains quiet:
it lives in the other world
which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom,
The water flows.

 

 

English version by Sam Hamill

 

 

by Li Po

Link: Poetry Chaikhana

Tradition: Taoism

· forest · spirituality · Chinese · soul · silence