Sunday, March 31, 2013

For Easter Sunday, a poem from e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

 e.e. cummings (1894–1962)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Poem by R.S. Thomas

 "Twilight"  painting by Jaime Best

The Answer

by R.S. Thomas

Not darkness but twilight
In which even the best
of minds must make its way
now. And slowly the questions
occur, vague but formidable
for all that. We pass our hands
over their surface like blind
men feeling for the mechanism
that will swing them aside. They
yield, but only to re-form
as new problems; and one
does not even do that
but towers immovable
before us.
Is there no way
of other thought of answering
its challenge? There is an anticipation
of it to the point of
dying. There have been times
when, after long on my knees
in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled
from my mind, and I have looked
in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the piled
graveclothes of love’s risen body.

Source: “The Answer” from Frequencies by R.S. Thomas.

Friday, March 29, 2013

we call this Friday good.

"Praying"  painting by Alex Grey

from "East Coker" from Four Quartets   by T.S.Eliot:

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That quesions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Poem from Thomas Merton

 ( photograph by William Aronson)

The Vine

by Thomas Merton

When wind and winter turn our vineyard
To a bitter Calvary,
What hands come out and crucify us
Like the innocent vine?

How long will starlight weep as sharp as thorns
In the night of our desolate life?
How long will moonlight fear to free the naked prisoner?
Or is there no deliverer?

A mob of winds, on Holy Thursday, come like murderers
And batter the walls of our locked and terrified souls.
Our doors are down, and our defense is done.
Good Friday’s rains, in Roman order,
March, with sharpest lances, up our vineyard hill.

More dreadful than St. Peter’s cry
When he was being swallowed in the sea,
Cries out our anguish: “O! We are abandoned!”
When in our life we see the ruined vine
Cut open by the cruel spring,
Ploughed by the furious season!

As if we had forgotten how the whips of winter
And the cross of April
Would all be lost in one bright miracle.
For look! The vine on Calvary is bright with branches!
See how the leaves laugh in the light,
And how the whole hill smiles with flowers:
And know how all our numbered veins must run
With life, like the sweet vine, when it is full of sun.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spy Wednesday

( detail from painting by Giotto)

Today is traditionally known as Spy Wednesday; the designated gospel passage for this day is the account of Judas' betraying Jesus.  The priest at this morning's Mass said that maybe the reason Judas , who was a member of the Zealots, did it was because he thought Jesus would fight back and start a battle with the Roman occupiers, and when Jesus didn't fight back, Judas was so devastated with his own betrayal that he decided to commit suicide.

The poet James Wright has another take on Judas:

Saint Judas
When I went out to kill myself, I caught
A pack of hoodlums beating up a man.
Running to spare his suffering, I forgot
My name, my number, how my day began,
How soldiers milled around the garden stone
And sang amusing songs; how all that day
Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone
Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away.

Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten,
Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope
Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms:
Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten,
The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Snow

This is not the first time in my memory it has snowed on March 25, but it has been quite a while. This time last year, Spring was very much more advanced.

We had a delayed opening at school. As I went out to clean off the car, the temperature was 34 degrees, and it was still snowing, but not much of an accumulation:

Teaching Saint Catherine of Siena in the Women of Faith class today.

She said this:

"Be who you were created to be, and you  will set the world on fire."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

It doesn't feel like Spring, and snow is once again in the forecast, but still, it is Palm Sunday, and Holy Week begins.

Here's a poem from Denise Levertov.  For some reason, it calls to me today:

To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
before ribs of shelter
To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.
And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.
To float, upheld,
as salt water
would hold you,
once you dared.
To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
flung on resistance.

 Source: “To Live in the Mercy of God” from Sands from the Well, by Denise
Levertov. New York: New Directions, 1996.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


This morning, a chilly Saturday, I slept late -  all the way until 8:30, when I had the luxury of waking up without an alarm clock.  So I am not mawmsey this morning, though I like the word very much.

I was leafing through my most recent acquisition:  The Word Museum  by Jeffrey Kacirk.
It's a collection of what he calls "the most remarkable English words ever forgotten."  I like to write poems using such words, spinning images from them, playing with them. So this book is a goldmine. He lists his sources in the back of the book, and he found  mawmsey  in
Georgina Jackson's  Shropshire Word-Book  which was published in London in 1879-81.

 Mawmsey  Sleepy;stupid, as from want of rest or over-drinking. 
 I have certainly experienced that! To be so tired that one feels drunk without having been drinking.

I'm not ready to write a poem using mawmsey this morning, but I think I might try to use that book as a springboard for my writing a poem a day during April.

 I also very much like this painting :

Woman Sleeping   by Mary Ferris Kelly



Thursday, March 21, 2013

O sweet spontaneous earth

e e cummings wrote many Spring poems.  This one is not the most well-known, but I love it because it's a love song to earth, to, as Hopkins said the "deepest freshness deep down things."

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
          fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
      beauty      .how
oftn have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and
buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy
          thou answerest

them only with

e.e. cummings

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Poets I Love

    The Monosyllable     by Josephine Jacobsen

One day
she fell
in love with its
heft and speed.
Tough, lean,

fast as light
as a cloud.
It took care
of rain, short

noon, long dark.
It had rough kin;
did not stall.
With it, she said,
I may,

if I can,
sleep; since I must,
Some say,

Then, some words on poetry by Jane Hirschfield:


A poem’s music affects us whether or not we make it conscious; still, to study sound’s workings reawakens bother ear and poem. Generalization cannot teach this alertness. It is learned only by saying one poem at a time aloud, completely. Voicing it repeatedly feeling its weights and measures sounding its vowels; noticing where in the body each syllable comes to rest; tasting the consonant’ motion through lips and tongue…”  (9)

Jane Hirschfield   from “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration” in Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry