Sept 12 – This Year’s Poet at “Celebrate Spirit” – Fatemeh Keshavarz

Friday, September 12    “My city is that cup of sunshine. . .”

The most powerful moment in ”Celebrate Spirit” for me?  The entrance procession.  We prepare a raised space on the gym floor.  Six UDM men and women carry 12 foot banners with matching streamers and large medallions where cross bars meet carrying poles.  The medallions carry symbols of six great world religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  The bearers fit the banners in anchor stands to create a visual frame at the back of the platform.  The Mass of the Holy Spirit begins, a tradition at Catholic Universities for hundreds of years blessing the academic year.   This choreography moves me year after year:  ”This is who we are.  We claim our Catholic faith.  We claim our identity as welcoming citizens of the wide world in all its beauty and depth of purpose.”    Doesn’t get any better than that for me.  Dr. Achmat Salie, Director of UDM’s Islamic Studies Program, introduced Professor Fatemeh Keshavarz, this year’s speaker.

Professor Keshavarz, University of Maryland’s Roshan Chair of Persian Studies, is a poet and a scholar.  She welcomed us into our academic year by reading a poem she wrote a few days before September 11, 2001 — before she or we knew about the 9-11 attacks on New York, Washington DC and a field in western Pennsylvania.   On this year’s anniversary of 9-11 “Before the Cosmic Blast…and After” locates that violence in a vast universe of creative intensity and serenity.    If you were not there yesterday, and even if you were, it’s worth reading again (http://danmurano.com/poetry/fatemeh-keshavarz) out loud.

This week began for the Jesuits with the burial of Fr. Mike Evans, sj and changed tone with yesterday’s blessing mass.

Besides, the sun has come out to play with us on the last work day of the week, pretty sweet.

Have a great weekend.

 

john sj

Today’s Post

Here is another of Fatema Keshavarz’s poems; she celebrates her love for her home city in Iran.   Shiraz has lived as a center for art and beauty for c. 4000 years.  In her poem by the same name, Professor Keshavarz exults in the beauty of her ancient home.  Wikipedia tells me that “The oldest sample of wine in the world, dating to approximately 7,000 years ago, was discovered on clay jars recovered outside of Shiraz.”  Detroit is only 313 years old but I am using the poem to celebrate Motown today.  Lift a glass when you get off work.

“Shiraz”
Held up to gods
In the palm of a giant’s hands
A rare handcrafted marble cup
Brimming with sunshine
Defined at the outer edges
With tall cypress trees
That line up at dawn reverently
To interpret the horizons
In their meticulous green thoughts
***
My city is
That cup of sunshine
I can drink to the last drop
And be thirsty for more.

Shiraz, Dec.21, 2000

 

The altar for Celebrate Spirit, Callahan Hall

CelebrateSpirit

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Sept 10 — Belize in 1931

Wednesday September 10 —  11 Teachers in a Storm

On this day in 1931, two hurricanes struck Belize where Jesuits taught students in St. John’s College.   The pattern of the two storms created an out-bound surge that then reversed direction and pounded Belize City and the school.   I learned about the storm because it created an anomaly in the Midwest Jesuits’ “Necrology”  (a paperback chronology of the Midwest Jesuits who died on each day of the year with ages and the year of death.  I usually check it in the morning, mostly to remember friends who died on the day.  A couple of years back, though,  I noticed that 11 Jesuits all died on September 10, 1931.    V Deodato I. Burn was the youngest, 24;  Francis J Kemphues the oldest, 67; most were in their 20s and 30s.  I emailed the Midwest Jesuit archivist asking what happened on that day.  He sent several articles with sketches of the teachers who’d died trying to rescue terrified students or, at least, to be with them as they drowned, some trapped at the ceiling of school rooms as the storm surge rose.  The stories came from people who survived; they are earthy and eloquent and brave.

Were those teachers more brave that the c. 1300 UDM employees who will work today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow to engage and challenge and comfort UDM students, and sustain the health of a university on Six Mile Road in 2013?   No way to answer such questions.  Teaching requires courage and hope . . . and persistence.   We do that every day here.

More rain today Weather.com tells us — between 3:00 and 7:00 they are using red letters for the words  “Strong Storms” (winds between 15 and 19 mph).  Rain is predicted to continue well into the night but, apparently, not at the red letter strong storm level.  I hope we get through this without too much more wear on our homes and streets, our bodies and spirits.

 

john sj

Here’s an eloquent prayer that comes from the heart of Ireland, another place not unfamiliar with pain.

Today’s Post – St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay,
GTod’s ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
God’s hand to guide, God’s shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
God’s heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in the hearts of all that love me,
Christ in the mouth of friend or stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same,
the Three in One, the One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word,
Praise tothe Lord of my salvation;
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

1931 short articles about the Storm in Belize

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Sept 8 – ” . . the dearest freshness deep down things . . . “

Monday  September 8  -  Gerard Manley Hopkins –  ”The Holy Ghost over the bent world…”

Last evening I had two poems queued up for this week,  both good ones and new to me.  This morning I found myself hankering for Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj.   Like any great poet, Hopkins  takes the reader deep into beauty and the wear of living, using strong words to connect our imaginations to both realities.

A reminder:  Hopkins prefers the Anglo-Saxon side of English and comes to it with respect for hard edged language.  I’m including his explanation, writing to friend and later England’s Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, of how difficult his poetry can be. Actually, his explanation of the difficulty makes for demanding reading itself — “. . . a subtle and recondite thought . . . ”

Have a good day.

 

john sj

Today’s Post

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

“God’s Grandeur”

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

post-note;

Hopkins’ poems are [in]famous for the density of their vocabulary.  If you want to catch all the descriptive meaning packed in these 16 sonnet lines, bring your dictionary.  Hopkins’ life-long friend Robert Bridges often ground his aesthetic teeth at what seemed to him to be unnecessary complexity.    On November 6, 1887 Hopkins wrote Bridges, attempting to explain the density of his poetic language;  Try reading GMH’s explanation out loud, for that matter, try reading The Windhover out loud as the poet intended.

“Plainly if it is possible to express a subtle and recondite thought on a subtle and recondite subject in a subtle and recondite way and with great felicity and perfection in the end, something must be sacrificed, with so trying a task, in the process, and this may be the being at once, nay perhaps even the being without explanation at all, intelligible.”

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September 5 – a toad singing

Friday September 5  -   happiness old as water

An out of the ordinary week for these posts.  Monday Labor Day; Tuesday one of the weekly days off that I’ve slipped into the 5 day work week rhythm;  Wednesday a goodbye for Mike Evans who lived 30 feet from me in Lansing Reilly,  and Thursday when I stayed with grief and loss with the help of a soul friend from Sweden.

Today’s 3 line poem might make a good reminder that all these poems and occasional sacred passages are intended to help our imaginations during the wear and labor of our adult commitments, which make us generous and beautiful but also worn and edgy.   On day one of the posts, September 25, 2013, appears a statement of purpose for all the posts that follow:

“In easy times you don’t have to be so careful about your language;  you will spontaneously find playful words, wise with kindness.  In hard times it helps
to pay attention to word choices lest we slide into cynical, frightened, or bitter language that biases our imaginations.  The poems or sacred texts in these posts
are beautiful, just the thing to pay attention to in hard times.”

Today’s poem is so short you could sing it 5 times and even breathe a little in between.   Have a good weekend.

 

john st sj

“By the Front Door”

toad

 

Rain through the morning
and in the long pool a toad singing
happiness old as water

W.S. Merwin

W.S.Merwin

“By the Front Door” by W. S. Merwin, from The Moon Before Morning. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.
Art credit: Detail from “Common Frog Croaking,” photograph by © Chris Grady (originally color).

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September 4 – Goodbyes

Thursday, September 4 –     “She left us in the early morning”

For someone dear who dies too young, grief brings with it deep fatigue.   Some of us find ourselves saying goodbye, learning how long it takes and how hard it wears on us.  A close friend and fellow scholar from Stockholm, Nina Wormbs, wrote this contemplative poem early this August, finding words for a different goodbye, with her grandmother and soul friend.

Have a blest day.

 

john sj

Today’s Post  

When?

I woke up at 7.15,

rose after 20 odd minutes,

had tea and a simple toast,

prepared to visit her again.

But the phone rang.

 

She left us in the early morning.

No one knows precisely when,

because she died alone.

It was her wish, her only wish

to die at home.

Even though the care she needed

could not be given there.

 

I think about those last hours,

having left her late the night before.

Was she in pain, was she asleep?

Why do I plague myself with wondering.

Is it even possible not to meet death alone.

 

She had longed for it.

The end was welcome.

After 102 years, she was ready.

 

As time will pass, these hours will fade,

and years and lives will step in front.

She gave me her time, and I gave her mine.

But her place in me is timeless.

 

Her belly jumped whenever she laughed,

just like mine.

I miss her.

 

Nina Wormbs, —  August 10th 2014

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Mike Evans, S.J. — “When Death Comes” September 1, 2014 r.i.p.

Wednesday August 20  -  Losing one of your own

Mike Evans moved into Lansing Reilly to join our Jesuit community in mid-summer.  Mike is a native Detroiter and he and the Jesuit midwest leadership decided that UDM’s campus, where he studied (BA – English & History; MA Philosophy), would be a good place for him to get substantial medical treatment for a major cyst.   We Jesuits at Six Mile Road welcomed him and his vibrant presence among us — we told one another stories, many of his related to the decades he lived and worked in Africa with the Jesuit Refugee Service and as treasurer of The African Assistancy (Jesuit-language for a large region).   He also served 4 years  as president of Loyola High School on 5 Mile Road, one of the two Jesuit high schools in Detroit.

He had surgery on August 25 and in the week that followed he emerged from and was moved back into Intensive Care several times.  We were all waiting through this tedious recuperation process with him.   Until this Labor Day Monday when an ICU intervention failed to control hemorrhaging.  He died about 8:00 pm.  He had just turned 60.  (N.b., You can find his wake, funeral and burial information at the end of this post).

In mid-August I posted a new Mary Oliver poem, “When Death Comes.”  A number of the readers of the Work Day list wrote to tell me how the poem moved them.   I’m posting it again to honor Mike who, I like to think, lived as a warrior, mostly in and about Africa and about inner city Detroit.  Best to read the poem out loud.

We miss Mike.

 

john staudenmaier sj

Today’s Post

“When Death Comes”

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

 

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox

 

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

 

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

 

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

 

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

 

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

 

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

 

When it’s over, I want to say:  all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

 

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

Mary Oliver   New and Selected Poems, Vol.1

 

Mike will be buried from Gesu Parish, just across McNichols Road.

Mike-Evans

Wake:
Friday, September 5, 2014
2:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Prayer Service at 3:00 p.m.
and
6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Prayer Service at 7:00 p.m.
Gesu Parish
17180 Oak Drive
Detroit, MI 48221

Funeral Mass:
Saturday, September 6, 2014
10:00 a.m.
Gesu Parish
17180 Oak Drive
Detroit, MI 48221

Burial:
Saturday, September 6, 2014
3:00 p.m.
Colombiere Center
9075 Big Lake Road
Clarkston, MI 48346

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Aug 29 – Joy Harjo & Julie Morse

Friday August 29  — Joy Harjo “She had some horses”

I came across this essay about teaching young students and falling in love with Joy Harjo’s poem, “She Had Some Horses.”   That makes today’s an unusual post,  a great poet breathing life and hope into a great teacher’s inner city class room.   It’s also longer than most workday posts.   Worth it, I think;  I hope you find it so too.

Have a great weekend.

john sj

 

THE LAST POEM I LOVED: SHE HAD SOME HORSES BY JOY HARJO

BY JULIE MORSE

December 28th, 2012

Reading my own poetry feels like looking into a blurred old mirror at an antique shop. I can’t tell if I look good or pale and pasty. I can’t figure out if it’s my writing or my self-criticism that is falling flat. But lately that’s been changing. I’ve been writing poems that aren’t cast in a massive shroud of self-judgment and I think it’s because I found Joy Harjo.

I discovered “She Had Some Horses” while preparing for the poetry class I teach at an elementary school in San Francisco. Harjo’s poems ache with grit, grief and nature. They feel like that moment of insomnia when twilight breaks. Her lines are curt and heavy but they construct delicate stories. I thought She Had Some Horses would be perfect for kids this young, whose imaginations are still lush and wild. To them, horses are still spirited creatures, not farm workers.

My students are eight through eleven years old. Some of them are at their grade reading-level, some are above and a few still can’t spell. My students don’t have the compulsion to analyze or to second-guess themselves. They’re quick to voice their instincts. But at the same time, they’re terrified of being wrong. Some days I feel like I’m a teacher, and others I feel like I’m just a referee hopelessly demanding that kids stop teasing, stop yelling, stop throwing pens.

At many schools, teachers have to adhere to a curriculum predesigned by a corporate education company. I am lucky that I get to make my own lesson plans. We’ve read Carl Sandburg, Rita Dove, Pablo Neruda and Luisa Valenzuela untranslated. Every kid in my class speaks Spanish at home and English in school; their brains are racing to simultaneously master two languages. Their poems are often a composite of Spanglish.

I can’t teach poems that have words with too many syllables, or poems about sex or violence or drugs. Although most of these kids already know about that stuff, and the meanings of the words they’re not supposed to hear or say. I must pretend that they don’t and that their minds are wholesome and pure.

She had horses with eyes of trains.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

We only read the first half of part one of the poem, and I ask if anybody has any thoughts about it.

“The horses are magical,” says Silvia, a fourth-grader.
“The horses are supposed to be something else,” says Emanuel, a fifth-grader.
“Yes, perfect!” I say, this is probably the most in-depth analysis the class has made about any poem we’ve read.

I tell the class the horses mean more to Native Americans than they do to us. I explain that they are supposed to be a feeling, that they’ re something important to her, they’re her community. The repetition of “she had horses” is to express their significance.

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their
bodies shone and burned like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet
in stalls of their own making.

“I don’t get it,” mumble a few students. I falter. I realize I was being too conceptual. Then I tell them these horses are horses but they’re also everything and everybody that she loves or make her feel sad or happy.

I could say more but I’m always afraid of saying too much. The poem is a gorgeous chant that swims laps in my mind. It’s about horses and it’s not. It’s something that I read over and over again just to bury myself deeper into its staggering meaning.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.
These were the same horses.

It’s time to write. I put on Stevie Wonder and a few kids rock in their seats to the music. I instruct them to write about something or someone that is important to them, and define them using Harjo’s style of repetition. But instead of “she had horses…”, to say, “my sister…” or “my dog…”. Some of the students almost get it, but really just end up writing physical descriptions, “my turtle is small, my turtle has a hard shell…”

But, Kimberly, a fourth grader has got it:

My sister when she uses a red marker she thinks about blood.
My sister is plenty of books.
My sister people thinks she is my aunt.
My sister she loves to study
My sister her eyes sparkle like a star.
My sister she sings like a jazz singer.

Kimberly’s is an ode to her sister just like Harjo’s is an ode. The repetition in both is a comforting reinforcement.

In the introduction to her book, She Had Some Horses, Harjo says, “it’s not about what the poem means, it’s ‘how’ the poem means.” And maybe that’s what helped turn poetry around for me. A poem is just the flight of colors and the collision of stories. No scrutiny needed.

Everybody raises their hand to read first. I declare every poem “awesome”, “beautiful”, “amazing”. I dole out compliments like the guy who hands out flyers that say “COMPRAMOS ORO” down the street. Sometimes I am surprised by my own generosity, but to me it is perfect, beautiful and amazing when anybody can be this vulnerable and proud.

Julie Morse lives in San Francisco and is a poetry teacher. She can be found@JulieMorse16. More from this author 

 

pps.  Here’s the whole poem.

 

She Had Some Horses

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses who were bodies of sand.

She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.

She had horses who were skins of ocean water.

She had horses who were the blue air of sky.

She had horses who were fur and teeth.

She had horses who were clay and would break.

She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses with long, pointed breasts.

She had horses full, brown thighs.

She had horses who laughed too much.

She had horses threw rocks at glass houses.

She had horses who licked razor blades.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses who danced in their mothers’ arms.

She had horses who thought they were the sun and their

bodies shone and burned like stars.

She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.

She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet

in stalls of their own making.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses liked creek Stomp Dance songs.

She had horses who cried in their beer.

She had horses who spit at male queens who made

them afraid of themselves.

She had horses who said they weren’t afraid.

She had horses who lied.

She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped

bare of their tongues.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses who called themselves, “horse”.

She had horses who called themselves “spirit”; and kept

their voices secret and to themselves.

She had horses who had no names.

She had horses who had books of names.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.

She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who

carried knives to protect themselves from ghosts.

She had horses who waited for destruction.

She had horses who waited for resurrection.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses who got down on their knees for any saviour.

She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.

She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her

bed at night and prayed as they raped her.

 

She had some horses.

 

She had horses she loved.

She had horses she hated.

 

These were the same horses.

 

Joy Harjo, from the book of the same title

cd performance version  of 12 poems from the book available on itunes

Joy-Harjo-Horses

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August 28 — A Parable for Teachers at Year’s Beginning

Thursday  August 28   Denise Levertov  “Uncertain Oneiomancy”

This Denise Levertov poem stretches me.  It’s a challenge to stay with her metaphors, follow each turn without being too distracted by what she, the poet, is up to.  At this stage, my 5th or 6th reading over a couple years, I think she writes a parable for teachers beginning a Semester, aware of the burdens students bring with them before they get into the course’s rhythm of work and challenge and discovery and, sometimes, the exultation of discovery.  Teachers can fret about all that students might miss if we teachers can’t open worlds to their imaginations.

Lots of teachers I know, myself too in the years I taught regularly, come to trust the pace of teacher-student work and the rhythms of learning.  It’s a challenge to trust our abilities as guides in perilous journeys and at the same time trust the power and depth of the students we try to mentor.

The work week is nearly over.  Have a blest day.

john sj

Today’s Post

Uncertain Oneiromancy

I spent the entire night leading a blind man
through an immense museum
so that (by internal bridges, or tunnels?
somehow!) he could avoid the streets,
the most dangerous avenues, all the swift
chaotic traffic . . . I persuaded him
to allow my guidance, through to the other
distant doors, though once inside, labyrinthine corridors,
steps, jutting chests and chairs and stone arches
bewildered him as I named them at each swerve,
and were hard for me to manoeuver him
around and between. As he could perceive nothing,
I too saw only the obstacles, the objects
with sharp corners; not one painting, not one carved
credenza or limestone martyr. We did at last
emerge, however, into that part of the city
he had been headed for when I took over;
he raised his hat in farewell, and went on, uphill,
tapping his stick. I stood looking after him,
watching as the street enfolded him, wondering
if he would make it, and after I woke, wondering still
what in me he was, and who
the I was that took the long short-cut with him
through room after room of beauty his blindness
hid from me as if it had never been.

Denise Levertov   Sands of the Well

Oneiromancy (from the Greek Oneiros) is a form of divination based upon dreams; it is a system of dream interpretation that uses dreams to predict the future. Derived from the Greek words oneiros which means dream and the Greek word manteia that means prophecy.   {Wikipedia}

Denise-Levertov

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

“The crystalline and luminous poetry of her last years stands as final witness to a lifetime of searching for the mystery embedded in life itself. Through all the vagaries of life and art, her response was that of a “primary wonder.”       in   Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life, Dana Green  (Dean Emerita Oxford College Emory University)  U Illinois Press 2012

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Aug 25 “Fragment at the Beginning of Something”

Monday, August 25 – First day of class,

Writing these posts has got me  meeting new poets.   David Watts is another.  Here’s the first of his poems I’ve read.  About a son and his dad and a small stone and beginnings.   The university campus begins classes today.  Lots of confusion, trying to find classrooms,  forgetting to bring stuff along that you’ll need for teaching and learning,  pretty massive sticker shocks reading a whole semester’s work all at once, syllabus after syllabus.

Beginnings.  I think that’s why I like this poem.

happy new year

john st sj

p.s.       Over the last week or so I’ve been thinking about the pace of five posts each week and I decided to ease up a bit and only post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Right way I’ll break the new rule and, this week, post Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday morning I will be up early and driving the c. 4 hours back to Detroit from Guelph, in Canada.  Once every few months I drive there to talk with Bill Clarke, sj, my Spiritual Director for 30 + years.  One time at the Blue Water Bridge Customs booth, the man asked me where I was going and what I planned to do:  “I’m driving to Guelph to see a Jesuit priest about my inner life.”  “Aren’t there priests in Detroit?”   “Not this priest.”  “Must be some priest,” said the guy as he waved me through.  He’s right about that.  More on Thursday.

 

Today’s Post
My son brings me a stone and asks
which star it fell from. He is serious
and so I must be careful,
even though I know he will place it
among those things
that will leave him someday
and he will go on, gathering.
For this is one of those moments
that turns suddenly
toward you, opening as it turns,
as if for an instant we paused
on the edge of a heartbeat
and then pressed forward, conscious
of the fear that runs beside us
and how lovely it is to be with each other
in the long, resilient mornings.

stone

Posted on the list “Being There” by

David-Watts

“Fragment at the Beginning of Something…” by David Watts, from Bedside Manners: One Doctor’s Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer. © Random House/Harmony Books, 2005. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: ”Cloudy stone, rounded by the sea, on a palm of a child,” photograph uploaded by Profe (originally color).

 

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Aug 22 “or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage”

Friday  August 22 – G M Hopkins, sj  1844-1889

Gerard Manley Hopkins, sj,  a radical innovator among 19th century poets, chose Anglo-Saxon over Latinate English vocabulary and invented “Sprung Rhythm” to replace  classical traditions of rhyme and rhythm  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprung_rhythm).  Anglo-Saxon lives closer to the ground than the latinate vocabulary brought by Norman conquerers into English (e.g., the Saxons lost, the Normans won so word-sets like “cow” (Anglo Saxon & spoken in the barn yard by hired hands) contrasts with “beef” (from the French “boef”,  spoken at the table in the manor house).  Hopkins thought Norman influences eroded the power and energy of Anglo Saxon.   The power and sharp edges of his word choices inspired a host of more recent poets to run similar verbal risks.

Hopkins also paid attention to the toll the British Industrial Revolution took on ordinary working people.  In today’s poem, look for startling and inventive imagery, some of it bearing down on the agony of human living;  look for exquisite delicacy in his descriptions of beauty also.   Best to read out loud but, given the challenges of Sprung Rhythm and inventive vocabulary, you may want to set aside some time to read it aloud a few times until you figure out what he’s doing.

Last work day of week 1, and  Freshman Convocation brings one of my soul friends to campus as speaker.  Greg Boyle, sj founded and leads Homeboy Industries in the center of South LA’s gang territory.  It’s tag line is “Nothing Stops a Bullet Like a Job.”  Makes me smile to see him here.

Have a good weekend.

 

john sj

today’s post

The Caged Skylark

AS a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage
Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells—
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life’s age.

Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage,
Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.

Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest—
Why, hear him, hear him babble and drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.

Man’s spirit will be flesh-bound when found at best,
But uncumbered: meadow-down is not distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

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