Poetry Read at the April 2018 Weekend Retreat

15 Apr 2018 11:53 AM | Tim Burnett (Administrator)

Holly Hughes - Mind Wanting More

Only a beige slat of sun

above the horizon, like a shade pulled

not quite down.  Otherwise,

clouds.  Sea rippled here and

there.  Birds reluctant to fly.

The mind wants a shaft of sun to

stir the grey porridge of clouds,

an osprey to stitch sea to sky

with its barred wings, some dramatic

music: a symphony, perhaps

a Chinese gong.


But the mind always

wants more than it has --

one more bright day of sun,

one more clear night in bed

with the moon; one more hour

to get the words right; one

more chance for the heart in hiding

to emerge from its thicket

in dried grasses -- as if this quiet day

with its tentative light weren't enough,

as if joy weren't strewn all around.

Mary Oliver - The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-‐

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should l have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver - Mornings at Blackwater

For years, every morning, I drank

from Blackwater Pond.

It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,

the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me

from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is

that the past is the past,

and the present is what your life is,

and you are capable 

of choosing what will be, darling citizen.

So come to the pond,

or the river of your imagination,

or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.

And live

your life.

Mary Oliver - The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.

‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
nthe stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver - Mindful

Every day

     I see or I hear


               that more or less

kills me

     with delight,

          that leaves me 

               like a needle


in the haystack 

     of light.

          it is what I was born for -

                to look, to listen,


to lose myself

     inside this soft world‐

          to instruct myself

               over and over


in joy,

     and acclamation.

          Nor am I talking

               about the exceptional.

the fearful, the dreadful, 

     the very extravagant‐

               but of the ordinary.

                    the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations. 

     Oh, good scholar.

          l say to myself,

               how can you help

but grow wise

     with such teachings

          as these—-

                    the untrimmable light

of the world

     the ocean’s shine,

               the prayers that are made 

               out of grass? 

David Budbill - Bugs in a Bowl

Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:

We're just like bugs in a bowl. All day going around never leaving their bowl.

I say, That's right! Every day climbing up 

the steep sides, sliding back.

Over and over again. Around and around.

Up and back down.

Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,

cry, moan, feel sorry for yourself.

Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.

Walk around.

Say, Hey, how you doin'?

Say, Nice Bowl!

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