Category Archives: Poems

From “The Book of Monastic Life”, I. 16

Daraus, dass Einer dich einmal gewollt hat,
weiß ich, dass wir dich wollen dürfen.
Wenn wir auch alle Tiefen verwürfen:
wenn ein Gebirge Gold hat
und keiner mehr es ergaben mag,
trägt es einmal der Fluß zutage,
der in die Stille der Steine greift,
der vollen.

Auch wenn wir nicht wollen:
Gott reift.

–Rainier Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours: The Book of Monastic Life”, published 1905.

English translation

Because once someone dared
to want you,
I know that we, too, may want you.

When gold is in the mountain
and we’ve ravaged the depths
till we’ve given up digging,

it will be brought forth into day
by the river that mines
the silence of stone.

Even when we don’t desire it,
God is ripening.

–Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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In Stillness

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

–Thomas Merton (from “The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton)

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Herbsttag

Herr, es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten, voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin, und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

Translation:

Lord, it is time. The summer was so immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials,
and let loose the winds in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

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Excerpt from “The Book of Monastic Life”

Why am I reaching again for brushes?
When I paint your portrait, God,
nothing happens.

But I can choose to feel you.

At my senses’ horizon
you appear hesitantly,
like scattered islands.

Yet standing here, peering out,
I’m all the time seen by you.

The choruses of angels use up all of heaven.
There’s no more room for you
in all that glory. You’re living
in your very last house.

All creation holds its breath, listening within me,
because, to hear you, I keep silent.

–From “The Book of Monastic Life”, by Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Lenten Reflection – Day 21

A poem for reflection…

Are you saved?

All this talk of saving souls,
Souls weren’t meant to save,
Like Sunday clothes that
give out at the seams.

They’re made for wear;
they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Don’t save our soul.
Pour it out like rain
on cracked, parched earth.

Give your soul away,
or pass it like a candle flame.
Sing it out,
or laugh it up the wind.

Souls were meant for hearing
breaking hearts, for puzzling dreams,
remembering August flowers,
forgetting hurts.

These folk who talk of saving souls!
They have the look of bullies
who blow out candles before you
sing happy birthday,
and want the world to be in alphabetical order.

I will spend my soul,
Playing it out like sticky string
Into the world…
So I can catch every last thing I touch.

Next time someone asks, “Is your soul saved?”
Say, “No, it’s spent, spent, spent!”

–Linder Unders

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The Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

–By T.S. Eliot

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On the twelfth day of Christmas…

The Twelve Lights of Christmas

Light the first light of Christmas for thankfulness and prayer…
And everything you see and hear and feel and do.
Light the second light of Christmas for happiness and joy…
And be cheerful with everyday and everyone around.
Light the third light of Christmas for colors and music…
Gifts in people, gifts for people, gifts everywhere from God.
Light the fourth light of Christmas for thoughtfulness and love…
And be gentle and kind to all God’s people and animals.
Light the fifth light of Christmas for mercy…
So we can be forgiving and forgiving like our God.
Light the sixth light of Christmas for all miracles…
Like babies and Jesus and things
That happen like magic, but they’re not.
Light the seventh light of Christmas for understanding…
So we can have peace inside ourselves and all around the world.
Light the eighth light of Christmas for our Earth…
It’s the only planet where humans can survive.
Light the ninth light of Christmas for Heaven and Angels…
We can keep them all around us, everywhere, with goodness.
Light the tenth light of Christmas for life…
No matter how short or long it is,
It’s a wonderful blessing from God.
Light the eleventh light of Christmas for spirit…
The strongest part of us that rises out of death forever.
Light the twelfth light of Christmas for Heartsongs…
The glow inside of us that keeps the light of Christmas bright.
And when our hearts glow with the Lights of Christmas,
We will remember spirit and life and Heaven and Angels,
And Earth and understanding and miracles and mercy,
And thoughtfulness and love and colors and music,
And happiness and joy and thankfulness and prayer…
And become better people throughout the whole, entire year.

–Written by Mattie Stepanek, December 10, 1996. From the book Reflections of a Peacemaker, edited by Jennifer Smith Stepanek.

by Heidi Malott

by Heidi Malott

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