Poetry

The Dance

I have sent you my invitation, the note inscribed on the palm of my hand by the fire of living. Don’t jump up and shout, “Yes, this is what I want! Let’s do it!” Just stand up quietly and dance with me.

Show me how you follow your deepest desires, spiraling down into the ache within the ache, and I will show you how I reach inward and open outward to feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, every day.

Don’t tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart. Show me how you turn away from making another wrong without abandoning yourself when you are hurt and afraid of being unloved.

Tell me a story of who you are, and see who I am in the stories I live. And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.

Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be . . . some day. Show me you can risk being completely at peace, truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment, and again in the next and the next and the next. . .

I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring. Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall, the place you cannot go beyond by the strength of your own will. What carries you to the other side of that wall, to the fragile beauty of your own humanness?

And after we have shown each other how we have set and kept the clear, healthy boundaries that help us live side by side with each other, let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving those we once loved out loud.

Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance, the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart. And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.

Show me how you take care of business without letting business determine who you are. When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us shout that soul’s desires have too high a price, let us remind each other that it is never about the money.

Show me how you offer to your people and the world the stories and the songs you want our children’s children to remember. And I will show you how I struggle not to change the world, but to love it.

Sit beside me in long moments of shared solitude, knowing both our absolute aloneness and our undeniable belonging. Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words, holding neither against me at the end of the day.

And when the sound of all the declarations of our sincerest intentions has died away on the wind, dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale of the breath that is breathing us all into being, not filling the emptiness from the outside or from within.

Don’t say, “Yes!” Just take my hand and dance with me.

© Oriah Mountain Dreamer, from the book The Dance, HarperONE, SanFrancisco, 2001


Elodie Armstrong

Thou shalt not worry,
for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.

Thou shalt not be fearful,
for most of the things we fear never come to pass.

Thou shalt not cross bridges before you get to them,
for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.

Thou shalt face each problem as it comes,
you can handle only one at a time anyway.

Thou shalt not take problems to bed with you
for they make very poor bedfellows.

Thou shalt not borrow other people’s problems,
they can take better care of them than you can.

Thou shalt not try to relive yesterday
for good or ill, it is gone
concentrate on what is happening in your life today.

Thou shalt count thy blessings,
never overlooking the small ones
for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.

Thou shalt be a good listener,
for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own,
it’s very hard to learn something new when you’re talking.

Thou shalt not become bogged down by frustration,
for ninety percent of it is rooted in self-pity
and it will only interfere with positive action.


Here in the forest
I know a presence
bigger than myself,
stronger than the ponderosa pines

Here in the whispering forest
I hear a voice
softer than the sighing of swaying branches

Here in the dark forest
I see a truth
shining through the boughs,
telling me I am not alone.

Rupp


Content we are,
the two of us,
to sit inside each other’s heart.

Glad for the time
to visit our lives
and tell our stories.

We laugh.
We dream.
We sometimes cry.

As always
we listen
with amazement
to the singing
in each other’s souls.

Rupp


Grief

by Simone Campbell

A sudden onset of grief seeps into all the crevices
of life. Like humidity, it hampers
lungs, constricts the heart, acts
as a barrier to rapid movement.
Humidity, sultry humidity, envelops
all of life, wilting the crisp edges
into human messiness. Humidity
like grief, eventually congeals,
coagulates, precipitates and weeps.
In clearing sorrow, life meanders
to the aching edges and waits
for promised dryer air, while treasuring
the all enveloping steamy incapacity
of grief.


Small Change

by Simone Campbell

Dropped from the counter of globalization
In the midst of globalization in the midst
of economic transactions.
These human coins, illegal tender get swept up
into the dust pan of national identity and border security.
These small coins of labor fall through the cracks of caring,
ending up in dank dark pens-smaller than pennies-
into the global wealth, taken as too small to matter,
mere annoyances of possible threat to a sovereign nation.
These small coins are tossed into cages of fifty, sixty,
jumbled together on the floor, in corners along barred walls.
They do not fit into the ATMs.  They will not be received for
deposit in the world economy. They are spare change tossed
on the counter of globalization – and forgotten.


Pueblo Blessing

by Simone Campbell

Hold onto what is good
Even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
Even if it is a tree that stands by itself.
Hold onto what you must do
Even if it is a long way from here.
Hold onto life
Even if it seems easier to let go.
Hold onto my hand
Even if I have gone away from you.


The House Of The Gathering

by Mary Sarton

We have been ripening
to a greater ease,
learning to accept
that all hungers cannot be fed,
that saving the world
may be a matter
of sowing a seed
not overthrowing a tyrant,
that we do what we can.

The moment of vision,
the seizure still makes
its relentless demands:
Work, Love, Be silent,
Speak.


The Uses Of Sorrow

by Mary Oliver

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.


A Poem For Autumn

by Gladys Harp

I am rich today with autumn’s gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!


Song For Autumn

by Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how

comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the

nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think

the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear

the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first

tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which

the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its

bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,

longing to be on its way.


“November Evening”

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.
Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.
Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.
Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.
Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes ­rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.
Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the homelight is gleaming.


Winter Approaching

by Gretchen Daggett

How can I have a child who is 43
When I am only 32?!
How did I reach this age
Of almost seven decades?!

I am scared…terrified at times,
Wondering “is this all there is”?
What will be my legacy
To my children, to the world?

I am not afraid of death,
Or even of dying.
I often look forward to
The peace of this ending.

To stop having to try,
To relax into just being.
What more am I to do
With 10 or 20 more years?

And yet, I miss what I never had.
The PhD not achieved, nor he paintings displayed,
The elusive book not written, nor the programs never run,
the coaching never given, the love withheld.

Will I miss the countries never experienced
Or the adventures left for others?
The friends never made,
The grandchildren never met?

When can I feel truly that
I have done enough, that
I am complete, that my
Life has been good?

I wish I could let go of what
I thought was expected of me,
Of more good works to do,
More compassionate service to give.

Autumn has passed and
Winter is arriving.
I pray to continue to do

God’s work in gratitude and love.


God Is In The Process

by Gretchen Daggett

We came together,
As women, of a certain age,
As almost strangers.

Seeking a deeper connection,
Desiring to explore your life
And my own.

We were hesitant, gentle,
Unsure, yearning.
Would I be heard?
Would I be judged?

Slowly, carefully,
We spoke about ourselves,
Our thoughts, our feelings,
Our hopes, our fears.

Using a book as a safe springboard,
To react to, to reflect on.
What touched us, stirred us?
What made sense, what didn’t?

We learned that tears
Express a deeply felt Truth.
We saw ourselves in
Each other’s lives.

So many years of growing,
Learning, searching, sowing.
So fertile the soil that
Nurture our roots.

We gradually learned
To listen with a compassionate, open heart.
No need to ‘fix’ the pain.

Feeling totally accepted,
Knowing we were not alone
In this business of living.

How tender we became,
How vulnerable.
How wise we were!
We learned from each other.

What a rare gift these circles became,
What comfort they brought.
What love was given and received!

God was there all along,
Never hiding.
We just had to feel God’s grace,
To realize God is in the process,

All the time, all along.


The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.


Let Your God Love You

by Edwina Gateley

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone.
Empty
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Quiet.
Still.
Be.

Let your God—
Love you.


Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.


Music

by Anne Porter from Living Things: Collected Poems

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams
And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.


Everything Has A Deep Dream

by Rachel Naomi Remen (redone as a poem by Meg Wheatley).

I’ve spent many years learning
how to fix life, only to discover
at the end of the day
that life is not broken

There is a hidden seed of greater wholeness
in everyone and everything.
We serve life best
when we water it
and befriend it.
When we listen before we act.

In befriending life,
we do not make things happen
according to our own design.
We uncover something that is already happening
in us and around us and
create conditions that enable it.

Everything is moving toward its place of wholeness
always struggling against the odds.

Everything has a deep dream of itself and its fulfillment.


Praying

by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones;
just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.


Untitled Selection

from the writings of Jack Kerouac

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent. They imagine.
They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.


Out Of The Mouths Of A Thousand Birds

by: Hafiz

Listen –
Listen more carefully to what is around you
Right now.

In my world
There are the bells from the clanks
Of the morning milk drums,

And a wagon wheel outside my window
Just hit a bump

Which turned into an ecstatic chorus
Of the Beloved’s Name.
There is the Prayer Call
Rising up like the sun
Out of the mouths of a thousand birds.

There is an astonishing vastness
Of movement and Life

Emanating sound and light
From my folded hands

And my even quieter simple being and heart.

My dear,
Is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering
Ram

Running all through the city,
Shouting so madly inside and out

About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, too,
For many years beat his head in youth

And thought himself at a great distance,
Far from an armistice
With God.

But that is why this scarred old pilgrim
Has now become such a sweet rare vintage
Who weeps and sings for you.

O listen –
Listen more carefully
To what is inside of you right now.

In my world
All that remains is the wondrous call to
Dance and prayer

Rising up like a thousand suns
Out of the mouth of a
Single bird.


The Way It Is

by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.


A Few Words On The Soul

by Wislawa Szymborska

We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

Wislawa Szymborska was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.


The Sound Of Silence

by Tawnicia Ferguson Rowan

Listen…
To the contented melodies of a free bird,
to spring raindrops communing with the earth,
to the trees dancing in a summer breeze,
to the flowing stream, hastening to reunite with its source,
to the rhythmic cadence of a baby’s breath,
to the synchronized footsteps of strolling lovers,
to the burning desires of your heart,
It is the sound of silence,
It is the voice of God.


In Passing

by Lisel Mueller

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious.


Live The Questions

By Rainer Maria Rilke

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves. . . .
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live long some distant day into the answer.

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