When our own words feel so thin and brittle that we fear they may break for lack of meaning the moment we speak them, then it may be wise to turn to the poets. The poets are the brave ones, unafraid to pen their hearts down to paper for the world to poke and prod, looking for signs of life and searching line by line for love. The poets whose imaginations forever outsmart the intimidations of the “this is how it will be, because this is how it has always been” brigade. The poets who so beautifully voice our questions that we are no longer tempted to have a quick fling with an answer. The poets who so intricately and intimately describe our wounds, that we are healed by their understanding of them, and are able to wait less anxiously for a cure, or even surrender to there being no cure.
Here are four poems for you. The first poem makes a case for poems (well, “certain poems”). I hope the others prove the case.
“Not many of them, it’s true” ~ by Gregory Orr
Not many of them, it’s true,
But certain poems
In an uncertain world—
The ones we cling to:
They bring us back
Always to the beloved
Whom we thought we’d lost.
As surely as if the words
Led her by the hand,
Brought him before us.
In an uncertain world.
A Blessing for one who is exhausted ~ by John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laboursome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out,
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the rush of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit,
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
The World Has Need of You ~ by Ellen Bass
seems to need us ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and the twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much.
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.