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“Change”

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame

where everything shines as it disappears.

The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much

as the curve of the body as it turns away.

 

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.

Is is safer to be gray and numb?

What turns hard becomes rigid

and is easily shattered.

 

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking

finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

 

Every happiness is a child of a separation

it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, become a laurel,

dares you to become wind.

 

Rilke, from Songs to Orpheus II

I realize I’m on a bit of a Rilke jag this week and hope you don’t mind.  I wanted to post this poem in conjunction with Rumi’s poem, “Two Kinds of Intelligence.” They both tap into that same idea that there is a deep wisdom in staying flexible, and allowing things to flow through us and that for some reason, we always need that reminder. Most of us have settled into our comfort zone, and aren’t looking for change. Evolution and growth might be nice in theory, but in practice, we often resist them with all our might. I think we might even over-idealize concepts like “tradition,” “commitment,” and “the way things used to be,” as a way to avoid making healthy, necessary, albeit painful changes.

But nothing in the universe is static! So why would we think that our lives, beliefs, nations, or faith traditions should be?

The key to adopting this wisdom can be found in the final stanza.

Every happiness is a child of a separation

it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, become a laurel,

dares you to become wind.

Nothing good can ever come again if we do not expand and grow, personally, professionally, relationally. It is the resurrection mystery at the heart of the universe. Separation, loss, death – things we do not think we can survive – these are the roots of our future happiness. Even Daphne, who lost her idyllic life and became a stationary laurel tree, invites you to become like the never-still wind. It is always blowing somewhere, changing something. The rustle of her leaves is the only movement she will ever experience. Would you be willing to trade places with her?

 

 

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“Remembering”

And you wait. You wait for the one thing
that will change your life,
make it more than it is—
something wonderful, exceptional,
stones awakening, depths opening to you.

In the dusky bookstalls
old books glimmer gold and brown.
You think of lands you journeyed through,
of paintings and a dress once worn
by a woman you never found again.

And suddenly you know: that was enough.
You rise and there appears before you
in all its longings and hesitations
the shape of what you lived.

Rilke is one of the most widely celebrated poets of the 20th century. His life is fascinating and he kept up a wide correspondence with many women and men throughout his lifetime. His Letters to a Young Poet is classic wisdom text about living as an artist.

Last week, Molly asked me to french braid her hair before hockey practice.  It’s a little ritual we have; she shows up with her hair bands and a comb and sits between my legs and we chat about the day. But last week, instead of small talk, I handed her my copy of Rilke opened to this page and asked her to read it aloud. She did once, and then I asked her to read it again and tell me what she thought it was about.  I didn’t know if a fifteen-year-old would know, but she did.

It’s about wasting your life, waiting for your “real life,” your “better life” to begin. You think that what’s happening now is boring, or beneath you, so you’re “remembering.” You keep looking back at all the choices you didn’t make, and the ones that got away.  You’re afraid you might have missed your chance to be special, to have the life you want, but really, it’s like you just have to wake up to what’s going on right now in your life. Wherever you are, is exactly where you’re supposed to be.  You’re life can still be great; you just have to recognize it.

I won’t claim Molly said all those words, but that was the gist of it. Even at fifteen, she’s experienced the universal longing for things to be different than they are, for our lives to conform to the vision we set for them. I’m glad I tried the poetry experiment with her; maybe she heard Rilke’s message a little sooner than the rest of us. (As a bonus, she also asked to borrow my copy of A Year with Rilke. I don’t think she’ll stick with it, but I’m glad she’s curious!)

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.

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The Last Supper by Ivan Guaderrama

“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.