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Between the Lines

Between the Lines

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.

Has something precious broken. Perhaps a favourite vase … perhaps an important relationship … perhaps your own body, or the body (or mind) of someone you love … perhaps a sense of your whole life being shattered. Is that brokenness the end of the story? 

Blessing for a Broken Vessel    by Jan Richardson

Do not despair.
You hold the memory
of what it was to be whole.
It lives deep
in your bones.
It abides
in your heart
that has been torn
and mended
a hundred times.
It persists
in your lungs
that know the mystery
of what it means
to be full,
to be empty,
to be full again.
I am not asking you
to give up your grip
on the shards you clasp
so close to you
but to wonder
what it would be like
for those jagged edges
to meet each other
in some new pattern
that you have never imagined,
that you have never dared
to dream.

How might what is broken live again, become something new? You might want to paint an image that comes to mind - or write about it.

To learn more about the Japanese Art, why not read Grief, Kintsugi and the art of precious scars, Can our grief shape us but also add to the beauty of who we are?

Rumi is a 13th century Sufi poet, who asks us to accept all our experiences and moods and feelings as opportunities, instead of pushing away the ones we don’t like. He uses the very powerful image of each person as a guesthouse, to which all comers are welcomed. This is a pretty tall order! We typically deny or distract ourselves from those bits of ourselves we don’t like, or from feelings we find uncomfortable.  Perhaps today is the day to take courage and write about the ‘guests’ we find it hard to welcome to our personal guesthouse. What would it take to befriend these bothersome visitors?

The Guest House    Jalal a-Din Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Sea Glass  by Bernadette Noll

I want to age like sea glass.
Smoothed by tides
but not broken.
I want my hard edges to soften.
I want to ride the waves
and go with the flow.
I want to catch a wave
and let it carry me
to where I belong.
I want to be picked up
and held gently by
those who delight in my
well-earned patina and
appreciate the changes I went
through to achieve the beauty.
I want to enjoy the journey
and always remember that if
you give the ocean something
breakable it will turn it into
something beautiful.
I want to age like sea glass.

How would you describe the process of ageing?
–  and how would you ideally like it to be?

Here's another well known poem about aging,  Is this more you?

Warning                       by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

There are times we all wake in the night, anxious, afraid.  Where do you go, either for real, or in your imagination, to calm yourself and find perspective? Can you picture that special place now? It may be outside, or it may be a room, or even something like an old rocking chair. Go there now to find peace. 

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.