Poetry and prose that connect us
Sometimes it can be difficult to express the emotions we are feeling. At times like this we can often find others who have expressed it for us, through painting, sculpture, poetry or prose. On this page we will regularly add a poem or piece of prose that might express our experience, give us pause for reflection, or simply share in how words can bring us together.
As we enter 2021, we have hope for an end to the Covid Crisis, a return to meeting, embracing, living more fully, in whatever way we can.
Our new One Day at a Time Facebook Group is exclusively for people that North Devon Hospice are currently supporting. If you would like to join CLICK HERE or you can find the group by visiting the North Devon Hospice Facebook page.
This month we feature two poems by the same poet, Danna Faulds, who credits her practice of meditation for the gift of her creative voice.
BREATH OF LIFE By Danna Faulds
I breathe in All That Is-
to take everything in,
as if my heart beats
the world into being.
From the unnamed vastness beneath the mind,
I breathe my way into wholeness and healing.
Each Breath a “yes,”
and a letting go, a journey, and a coming home.
BIRTHRIGHT By Danna Faulds
Despite illness of body or mind, in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief, who you are is whole.
Let nothing keep you separate from the truth.
The soul, illumined from within, longs to be known for what it is.
Undying, untouched by fire or the storms of life,
there is a place inside where stillness and abiding peace reside.
You can ride the breath to go there.
Despite doubt or hopeless turns of mind, you are not broken.
Spirit surrounds, embraces, fills you from the inside out.
Release everything that isn’t your true nature.
What’s left, the fullness, light and shadow, claim all that as your birthright
As we reach the deepest part of winter, it may not be the obvious choice to find a poem about being in nature, but even if we are going out less, maybe we can close our eyes and remember the feeling of being among the trees, in open fields or overlooking the sea, wherever you find stillness and peace. Here's Wendell Berry's meditative response to nature.
A Timbered Choir by Wendell Berry
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Wendell Berry has written many poems that communicate his deep love for the natural world, and the solace he finds there. In this poem he describes what happens when he ‘goes among trees’, which is not so different from what happens when we are mindful or take time to meditate.
We sit down, we make peace with not attending to any of the things on our to-do list and our mind settles. And then, sooner or later, often stuff surfaces that we hadn’t attended to yet – ‘what I am afraid of comes’. Some unexpected feeling, an uncomfortable thought, sensations that we'd rather not experience… followed by that momentary impulse to get up and do something ‘useful’, the temptation to get lost in thought or drift off. But for me, when I manage to stay, to ‘live for a while in its sight’, something shifts or changes.
What does this poem touch upon for you? Do you have a fear you are avoiding?
This is the second time we have featured Rūmī, in full Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, the thirteenth century Sufi mystic and poet. He is possibly most known for his lyrics and for his didactic epic Mas̄navī-yi Maʿnavī (“Spiritual Couplets”), which widely influenced mystical thought and literature throughout the Muslim world. However the mystical theologian, author, and teacher became a global phenomenon during the twentieth century, as Europeans and Americans discovered his work. The simplicity of his verse giving we the reader, pause for contemplation in our search for peace and harmony.
This simple stanza feels very apt for right now. It invites us to come together; at a time when the world appears to be paying more attention to our differences than to what we share in common; perhaps this month we can come together spiritually, if not physically.
I'll Meet You there, by Rumi ...
You may like to revisit The Guesthouse by Rumi, on this page.
A mindful poem today...
Awareness By John Austin
her gaze is so constant,
our every move
with such affection,
a ceaseless vigil
unrelenting in her
There is endless room in
the heart of this lover,
infinite space for whatever
foolishness we may
toss her way.
But she is also
crafty, this one-
a thief who will steal away
everything we ever cherished,
all our beliefs,
all our ideas,
all our philosophies,
until nothing is left
but her shimmering
this simple love
for what is.
Well, Autumn is upon us and the nights are drawing in, it's enough to make us all feel like hibernating. So today we are sharing a poem that makes us want to go out and have fun, live every moment. At the same time, this poet's reflection points out how we are prone to play it safe; so let's not be hard on ourselves for all the times we've missed the moment. Just remember there are always moments ahead, that we can choose to fully experience.
I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.
And if I had it to do over again,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
This week's poem feels familiar, the adults give their attention to a world they can control, in the form of a puzzle, where there is a place for every piece, "backs turned for a few hours to a world that is crumbling..."while youth is "impatient with her blossoming".
Have you ever simply wanted to focus all your attention here, on a game, a film, a book, a poem; where it's simple and you know what it is and what to do, rather than continue looking at all the difficulty around you? Is it wrong to take a break? or do we see the world with new perspective when we stop looking directly at the problem and move our focus to the periphery?
Break Dorianne Laux
We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.
Allow By Danna Faulds
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes
By Roger Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
In this week's poem Mary Oliver challenges how we rewrite the world to be more palatable. Do we avoid looking at the difficulty of life? or feel obliged to make things prettier? How would it be to accept and embrace it all?
Singapore By Mary Oliver
In Singapore, in the airport,
a darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women’s restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something in the white bowl.
Disgust argued in my stomach
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket.
A poem should always have birds in it.
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings.
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees.
A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain rising and falling.
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and neither could win.
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this?
Everybody needs a job.
Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor, which is dull enough.
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as hubcaps, with a blue rag.
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing.
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.
I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life.
And I want her to rise up from the crust and the slop and fly down to the river.
This probably won’t happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
Of course, it isn’t.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
the way her smile was only for my sake; I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.
R.S. Thomas is considered one of the leading modern Welsh poets, although his style has been compared with the country's harsh and rugged terrain. Thomas stated he sought to demonstrate man's spirituality in his poetry, he was a Christian priest who often experienced God more as absence than as presence, but longed for assurance. Louis Sasso wrote of him "Thomas's poems are sturdy, worldly creations filled with compassion, love, doubt and irony. They make one feel joy in being part of the human raise."
In Threshold he couldn’t have imagined the coronavirus pandemic we are living through today, and yet his words (which, okay, refer to bacteria) seem very much ‘of the moment’. How very poignant the longing for ‘reciprocating touch’ has become! How would it feel to write down your own experience during this time – perhaps especially about being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of touch? See what you think?
I emerge from the mind’s
cave into the worse darkness
outside, where things pass and
the Lord is in none of them.
and it was that of the bacteria
demolishing my cosmos. I
have lingered too long on
To look back is to lose the soul
I was leading upwards towards
the light. To look forward? Ah,
the edges of such an abyss.
I am alone on the surface
of a turning planet. What
Adam, put my hand
out into unknown space,
hoping for the reciprocating touch?
This week's poem feels like a response to the events of 2020. It offers us all an invitation to look within, but also recognise each other, as we find our way through these times together.
(Painting: Brave Soup by Matthew Dibble)
Invitation to Brave Space
by Micky Scottbey-Jones (published in Little Spaces of Hope)
Together we will create brave space.
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world.
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be.
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side.
Taking time to remember
Taking time to remember those we love with words and images offering comfort in this time of social isolation
Mindfulness with Miranda
Paying attention to the present moment may help with anxiety, stress and exhaustion