Poems flying around the farm

Poems often fly around the farm, but lately we’ve received especially a- propos pieces, including Marge Piercy’s To Be of Use, and,  The Common Living Dirt, which so much describes our conversations and feelings.  We’ve also been sharing a series of poems of Wislawa Szmborska which take down the impossible-to-resist anthropomorphizing of nature.

I admire the sisters who continually work on themselves: their inner life, behavior, attitudes, ways of being in relationship, social skills, even household and working skills.  I can’t think of another situation in which I’ve lived where the people around me truly worked continually on themselves for the benefit of the others (or, for that matter, for the glory of God.)  Inspiring!  [ definition:  1. animating; cheering; moving; exhilarating; 2. to draw in breath.]  All those things.

One of the tasks of self-improvement and inner healing is to turn the traumas, mistakes, disappointments, tragedies of life “to good account.”  That is, to co-operate with the Spirit in separating the dross from the gold, for “gold is assayed by fire” (Ecclesiasticus 2:1-6) and looking at your life, using the painful materials of a broken heart, a rough personality, regrets, things you’ve done, things done to you, to create a work of art out of life, to create true compassion, goodness.

Well, we try. 

This poem by Wendell Berry has been on my study door all year.

I would not have been a poet

except that I have been in love

alive in this mortal world,

or an essayist except that I

have been bewildered and afraid,

or a storyteller had I not heart

stories passing to me through the air,

or a writer at all except

I have been wakeful at night

and words have come to me

out of their deep caves

needing to be remembered.

But on the days I am lucky

or blessed, I am silent.

I go into the one body

that two make in making marriage

that for all our trying, all

our deaf-and-dumb of speech,

has no tongue.  Or I give myself

to gravity, light, and air

and am carried back

to solitary work in fields

and woods, where my hands

rest upon a world unnamed,

complete, unanswerable, and final

as our daily bread and meat.

The way of love leads all ways

to life beyond words, silent

and secret.  To serve that triumph

I have done all the rest.

“VII” from the poem “1994” A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Peoms 1979-1997

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