It’s Easter, April Fool’s, Sunday.
It’s one of the few “forced” days of rest. For the most part, you couldn’t go to work, hit the gym, or the local mall.
How did you receive this day?
With joy and relief, or with dread for the too-many-hours set aside for something “special” that maybe didn’t even happen?
However you spent your day, it’s also the beginning of National Poetry Month.
Last year, I joined the poetry experience half way through and shared a poem a day and reflection on Facebook, but this year, I thought I’d celebrate NPM with all of you.
Welcome to Day One.
I have always loved poetry, as a reader, student and teacher.
I am captivated by the diversity, musicality, and creativity of poets across the ages. I love the turns of phrase that surprise, enlighten me and sometimes confound me. It doesn’t bother me to think, “What in the world does that mean?” I actually enjoy the surgical precision it takes to dissect a difficult poem, line by line.
I realize that puts me in the minority when it comes to casual poetry readers, but that’s part of what National Poetry Month is about: spreading the “good news” about poetry far and wide, just like the Apostles did during Easter. (I’m taking the confluence of the two events as a happy accident.)
So for the next thirty days, you’ll receive a “Poem of the Day” from me in your inbox. I know it’s a heavy reading load, so feel free to delete if you aren’t interested, or enjoying them, but please don’t unsubscribe! I’ll be back to my infrequent posting schedule soon enough. And if you find a poem that strikes your fancy, feel free to share it by email or on Facebook, using the links below.
More Love = More Poetry
And without further ado, here is our first poem.
“The Last Supper”
They are assembled around him, troubled and confused.
He seems withdrawn,
as if, strangely, he were flowing past
those to whom he had belonged.
The old aloneness comes over him.
It had prepared him for his deep work.
Now once again he will go out to the olive groves.
Now those who love him will flee from him.
He had bid them come to this last meal.
Their hands on the bread
tremble now at the words he speaks,
tremble in sudden silence
as a forest does when a gun is fired.
They long to leave, and they will.
But they will find him everywhere.
–Book of Images, Ranier Maria Rilke
With Easter landing on the first day of National Poetry Month, this poem by Ranier Maria Rilke seemed an obvious choice. It spans the last few days of Jesus’ life from the Last Supper to the Resurrection (though that event is referenced only obliquely in the last line.) On Holy Saturday, we read the poem aloud as family a few times and I asked them what metaphor, or turn of phrase they noticed, or if there was a line that confused them.
One liked the metaphor of the gun in a forest. He knew exactly what that felt like, the eerie stillness that lingers after a shot, like everything is holding its breath, before it exhales in safety again. Another was struck by how sad it was to think that all the disciples were already on their way out the door, how they “long to leave” and will at the first sign of trouble. I was taken by the description of Jesus “flowing past/ those to whom he had belonged.” It’s a strange image, but one we can probably all relate to.
There have been times in all of our lives where we experience a “dislocation” from our peers. It’s almost a universal experience and it could be anything really – a medical diagnosis, a depression, deep grief after a loss, a shameful mistake we’re not sure we will be forgiven for. Though we try to participate in our communal life, it’s as if a barrier has been set between us, unseeable, but impenetrable nonetheless. I’ve never liked the experience, but rereading this poem, it is revealed as a holy space too, where deep work can be done.
And finally, Easter. Though the disciples were fleeing Jesus, they will “find him everywhere,” just as I do to this day, sometimes where I’m looking, but most of the time, where I’m not. This poem doesn’t offer the big “Alleluia” we’re used to on Easter Sunday, but ecstasy like that never lasts for long anyway. It’s the showing up time and time again that ultimately counts.