To be of use

hopi vase.JPG

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of
seals bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo,
with massive patience, who strain in the mud and
the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done,
again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and
pass the bags along, who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm when the food must come in
or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums but you know
they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Marge Piercy

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Morning Poem

stones tom

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

 

Mary Oliver

First snow

snow

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

 

Mary Oliver

The Earth Says (after Hokusai Says)

red rockThe earth says
keep still
stay put & listen to the roar of silence
hold on & root deep for treasure
feel the sap rising through your bones
wait & see what happens

The river says
keep flowing
into the lochs swirling & swelling & swishing
keep floating down   down & down
falling & carving the mountains
down to the beautiful sea

The trees say
keep rooting
rooting & rising into sky –
spread out your arms to embrace everything
breathe deep   deeper with each falling leaf
gather fruit & nuts for winter

The sky says
keep looking
sniff the air & notice the small
changes moment by moment
breath by breath   cloud by cloud
watching your thoughts float by

The birds say
keep singing   sing from your heart
fly from branch to branch
stay curious   stay light   start fresh
each year with a new nest then be patient
& sit on your eggs till they hatch
The sun says
keep smiling
smile at your reflection on still water
from dawn to dusk go outside
out to play with light & shadow
in the day long dazzle leaping through thin air

The compost heap says
keep rotting
decomposing   turning   burning
digest everything that comes your way
keep returning to the earth
& the earth   returns   tenfold to you

the earth says keep still   stay put
wait & see what happens   next

Larry Butler

Hawks

hawkSurely, you too have longed for this —
to pour yourself out
on the rising circles of the air
to ride, unthinking,
on the flesh of emptiness.

Can you claim, in your civilized life,
that you have never leaned toward
the headlong dive, the snap of bones,
the chance to be so terrible,
so free from evil, beyond choice?

The air that they are riding
is the same breath as your own.
How could you not remember?
That same swift stillness binds
your cells in balance, rushes
through the pulsing circles of your blood.

Each breath proclaims it —
the flash of feathers, the chance to rest
on such a muscled quietness,
to be in that fierce presence,
wholly wind, wholly wild.
Lynn Ungar

New Year Blessing

spencer byles

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets in to you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

– John O’Donohue

There is a song…

song
There’s a song that wants to sing itself through us.
We just got to be available.
Maybe the song that is to be sung through us, is
the most beautiful requiem for an irreplaceable
planet or maybe it’s a song of joyous rebirth
as we create a new culture
that doesn’t destroy its world.
But in any case, there’s absolutely no excuse
for our making our passionate love for our world
dependent on what we think of its degree of health,
whether we think it’s going to go on forever.
Those are just thoughts anyway.
But this moment you’re alive,
so you can just dial up
the magic of that
at any time.

– Joanna Macy

Come, all you unloved creatures

wavesCome, all you unloved creatures,
All you homeless waves in life’s vast ocean,
Pain, doubt, shame, guilt,
All you frightened orphans of light,
Crawl out of your hiding places,
Shuffle out of the darkness,
You are invited to a great feast.

Come, uncertainty, sit by my side,
Come, despair, drink from my cup,
Come, fear, do not be afraid of me,
I will not turn away from you,
I will not deny you a place at this table,
Now that I know the truth of myself.

– Jeff Foster

Where everything is music

music-notes

Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
It doesn’t matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the centre of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.

– RUMI

Song for the Salmon

stones-river
For too many days now I have not
written of the sea, nor the rivers,
nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands.

For too many nights now I have not
imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams
of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn.

I have not given myself
to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water,
cold with salt, nor the enormous plains
of ocean swaying beneath the moon.

I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.

I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.

But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave this river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.

– David Whyte