Poetry Matters

Alethea Eason:

A friend sent this to me. I found myself nodding my English major head as I read it.

Originally posted on Rosemary's Blog:

“. . . when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle class, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy.  A tough life needs a tough language — and that is what poetry is.  That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place.  It’s a finding place.” —  Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Crossed tulips Crossed tulips

I graduated in 1976 with a liberal arts degree in English literature, and pretty much all of my adult life the value of this degree has eroded.  It seemed to me that the 1980s began…

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7 Minutes: This is About Imperfection

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This is all about imperfection, and being free with our hungry selves, the parts of us that will grow old, when our papery skin will break open from being too thin, when our blood barely flows and we’ll need blankets on a hot day, when getting to a toilet to shit is a triumph.  If we’re lucky, we’ll become this old, and hope that there will be someone who will love us when we ramble our stories, spread lotion on our legs, and tuck us in.

This is all about imperfection, of not doing art well enough.  Of the uninspired pieces done because art and poetry has become the nagging monkey on our backs.  The monkey who loves us and who knows that someday we will lose our best friend, and that the world is constantly passing away and constantly reborn.

This is all about imperfection, of writing what we can, and coming to accept that all the words will be dust, but maybe one person will read one poem and be touched before it is forgotten.

This is all about imperfection, of our desires and peculiar addictions of spirit, of our wanting something so badly it makes the ethereal flowers bloom, lotus paths of imagination and longing.  Of wanting the kiss beneath the palms in the park.  Of wanting the brisk taste of lemons and sugar.

This is all about imperfection, of not knowing what to say and yet still being loved.  Somehow.  Imperfectly we offer our love , and we are gifted in our sweat, our bodies secrets of loss and memories.

The text in the collage…not that it can be read in this picture… is from the article Designed to Yearn by Justine Dawson from Inquiring Minds Magazine .  I’m hurriedly typing and not editing this as I need to get back to my mother, 94 years-old, a trooper, who lives life in her small apartment, but living it as fully as she can.

Doubts Pull Us Toward Eternity

saint thomas

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

Our passages today intertwine examples of faith and doubt, emphasizing how God works with us even when our minds and our hearts cast shadows on the absolute reality of the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. God is with us even when we doubt that the power of God’s love is a tangible thing. We look forward to our resurrection after death, life eternal, but right now, here in the flesh, journeying through our lives, we are…or we can be if we allow ourselves in both truth and love…resurrected from our sorrows, our dysfunctions, our feelings of resentment, and even when we fail one another, because we will fail one another. The great love of God that sparked Jesus’ transcendence into the Eternal Christ touches us individually and collectively. We will cycle through times of flourishing in our lives and in our church, toward descent and problems, the deaths of our egos and ways of doing things, and then through the grace of the Holy Spirit, rise again with love stronger than ever.

Please think of two things right now. One, to possibly share in a few minutes…only if you feel moved to do so…of how God’s grace has touched you. Second, to meditate on a doubt that may be nagging you about God, the church, a relationship, yourself. These we will keep private.

The first Christian communities took to heart Jesus’ words to share possessions, to look after the needy, to hold things in common with the love found in Jesus’ words to guide them. As our passage from Acts states, “They were of one heart and one soul.” But as time passed, as the church grew and factions took sides, and power consolidated to make the church imperial and hierarchical, the simplicity of these first believers seemed to have been forgotten, except by a few rare individuals and communities, as only memories preserved in early documents.

I would love to go back in time and spend a day with this community where “great grace was upon them all” and “there was not a needy person among them.” How wonderful it would be to see how this systematic way of loving neighbors actually worked. This isn’t to say that large churches or foundations don’t work in providing help, subsistence, and hope, and do vital work that makes lives of thousands, if not millions of people, better. The Episcopal Relief and Development Foundation is a case in point. They’re necessary and can respond to global needs in an organized and powerful fashion. But, I do believe there is strength in smallness, in knowing our brothers and sisters intimately, in responding to the personal needs rather than the global.

I also believe our parish has many of the same attributes that the early Christian communities held. We simply are family, and right now great grace is upon us as it was for them. Can you feel it? It’s here with us today. Think of all the generations who have worshiped in this sanctuary and encountered this foundation of love. Grace is the underpinning of our liturgy, of the work we do in the food pantry as we respond to our greater family in the Lakeport community, of the work done in the thrift store, of all the different ministries that the Holy Spirit is calling us to fulfill.

The epistle today says, “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” I found grace in Fr. Leo’s presence and in his great love of God and Jesus. When I feel my light growing dim, his memory helps to rekindle it. I find grace at St. John’s where I touch this light most strongly. This church is the bank of hope I pull from as I deal with the challenges I’ve created for myself during the the week. I meet God’s grace in our prayers, in the stories each of you share, and being heard and accepted for who I am by all of you.

You are my family, and as all families, we sometimes have problems, but our mission to love and serve the Lord, and to forgive from our hearts and begin anew, keeps sustaining us. Last week I was up here without kleenex. The first two hymns we sang had been a part of Fr. Leo’s memorial. I lost it, forgot to take the crucifix up for the gospel, could not stop crying during the whole service no matter how I tried to breathe. I felt I was in the Easter garden with Jesus, with Mary Magdalen, and I felt God’s great grace and love housed within our beautiful church and the beautiful souls of all of you.

I’d like to open up to a conversation. I’m wondering, how have you encountered the grace of God at St. Johns or elsewhere in your lives? If anyone feels comfortable to share I’d like to open this time up to you.

Shared thoughts: having cancer wreck health and income forcing a move to Lake County, and then finding St. John’s and a new life, feeling forgiven after stress meltdowns, and memories of living in a commune in Haight-Ashbery in the 60s.

The Gospel today also talks about doubts. I think it’s important to understand…and this is something that I have to stay open to…is that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but a part of it. Jesus isn’t rebuking Thomas when he says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet come to believe.” How fortunate we have this story. Thomas touched Jesus for allof us, so that we would all encounter the risen Christ through him. All of us have had doubts about God, or the meaning of the dark times in our lives, of our faith even in this church. We don’t have to be ashamed or hide; we can live in the ambiguity, and still experience a way to believe, to be guided by our heart’s experience. God will allow doubt to pull us toward Eternity and the certainty of God’s love.

Saint John’s has challenges, as all congregations do. But, just as in our relationship with the mystery of Christ, we don’t have to figure it all out. We can rest in the knowledge that no matter what happens in our future, the grace experienced here is real. The stories told today are part of our spiritual food. We can live in uncertainty, but actively listen to the still small voice that rests within each of us. How can we each continue to make this beautiful church reach out to heal, take care each of us, and toward the future to the unknown individuals who will someday find their home with us?

You were given a card as you entered today. I’d like for you to write one doubt inside of it and to carry it with you for the next week. Don’t feel you need to resolve it, but pray, as the poet Rilke said, to live in the question and see where God leads you.

We’ll end with a quiet moment. Let us breathe in God’s grace and the love that is present here with our family.

Many believe St. Thomas was an apostle to India and said to have died there December 21, 72. For an interesting look of the facts/myths about St. Thomas, here is a link to an article in Times Magazine.

Saint Thomas is believed by many to have been an apostle to India, dying there on December 21, 72.  Here is an article from Time Magazine about some beliefs about his life there: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,817710,00.html

Scriptures:

Acts 4: 32-35

Psalm 133

1 John 1:1-22

John 20: 19-31

Alethea Eason is a licensed lay minister at Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Lakeport, CA.

Be April Forever

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Be April forever because it’s the last young month.  Don’t let flowers make you ill.  Have courage.  Take a chance.  Wear the wedding dress you never put on.  Be beautiful in white and dance beneath the veils, especially if the world gets you angry.

Simply awaken and drink from the tilted cup.  Pray with your body. You may only speak to God with the syllables of your cells, and the redness of your blood, and that supernova in your belly screaming through starless nights.

You’re a gothic Madonna with Horus on your hip.  You are Buddha girl, the Superhero of Namaste squashing death. You have eight knowledgeable hands that hold knife, skull, and wisdom. The ultimate love.

A new sun rises on both the left and the right.  Be a multitude of flowers that bloom forever, when you are not the leaf ready to fall.

May the Light Always Find You

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May the light always find you in the depths of your dark sea,

and cast love toward the past when your sight became obscured.

May your rise and rise again with the sun and stars of spring,

May you hear the light’s ovation when your unwanted song is heard.

May each morning be an Easter, a spiral upon the Earth,

May your garden overflow with flowers of rebirth.

Good Friday

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We believe that what we lack is something outside ourselves, so we become hungry for external things. You were built by the world around you.  When the innermost layer is removed what is left? Dukka…suffering, hunger Anatta: not-self Haunted by a sense of unreality or insecurity.  There is nothing to cling too. 

 Notes from The Deep Hunger by David Loy and Changing Systems in a Hungry World: An Interview with Raj Patek by Barbara Gates, Wendy Johnson, Alisa Rudnick. Both articles found in Inquiring Minds Magazine Vol. 31/No.1/Fall 2014

Good Friday

Do not cling to me Jesus said in the garden,

but this was an eternity from the noon’s silence.

So many veils of white distraction the world wore,

so much hunger.  And what was left but death and mystery?

Their innermost selves stripped from them,

the women found their recess of hiding,

and worried about simple things.

When can we clean the body?

The ground unreal as they stepped on it,

The Sunday flowering in the trauma,

The innermost layer of light removed,

What was left? No thing but love to cling to.

In the Wildwood

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In the wildwood

I found my hidden treasure, the magic theater

of transparent flowers and goddesses of color and stone.

Angels dove into the everlasting sun, filtering through the vines

with webs silver strung, delicate laces my suitor spun.

In the wildwood I was kissed and made young, courted, married,

and born again and again. It was there that I was known,

my secret self, the petals pulled from my soul.  Come, my love,

in dreams dappled and merry. Pry open my wild treasure,

the magic theater, the sweet eternal rose.

Deliver Us

Scan 27Deliver us from wordlessness birthed from the dark night.

What shall I cry?

That the still waters wait,  the dove truly flies,

ancestors’ faces hover above warm candlelight,

and giddy pagans dance to resurrrect winter fields?

What restores our skeleton souls, our despair, our loss?

Postres laid on graves and flowers and Easter eggs?

Angels and colored windows and Eucharistic wounds?

Los muertos, todos de los muertos.

Silver cross risen in a star filled sky.

Deliver us from the shadows that words cannot define.

 

7 Minutes: Hidden Spaces

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I am lost in a garden at the end of the earth

sliding on its slippery mercury current,

the goddess just turned the dial back to zero

and there is absolutely nothing to do.

This is a place where people come to,

stuck all night, or maybe for eternity.

They carry crystals for cosmic blessings

under a silver path of moonlight.

They are at the water-coming-down-place,

wishing they could levitate.

I am with them, lost at the edge,

lost in hidden spaces,

sometimes in a space suit,

sometimes swimming with a watery child

who does not want me to speak.

At the edge of the earth

there are trumpeting squash blossoms,

a silent cat, and a brick wall

that know my secrets better than I,

 I am at the edge with their blessings

and the light of the slippery moon.

This is more of a hybrid poem (a term I’m just making up) than a found poem.  I used pictures from an article about gardening called “Hidden Spaces” and the text in the collage from another article called “Lost Coast Generations” by Chiori Santiago, both in old issues of Examiner Magazine.  

I see this whole “series” as exercises.  Quick art when time and life do not allow for other things. Piggybacking on the words of others…especially if they are well written words…makes me feel that the Poetry Police might come knocking at my door. I have no intentions for the poems other than offering them here.  Yet, I am finding the process one of depth and emotional relevance. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m leaving the idea of pure found poetry (admitting it may have not been totally pure in the way I’ve been playing with it…but the intention was there). Setting the limit of 7 minutes to write (extra time for catching typos and adjusting words here and there) is allowing me to do a daily practice of “journaling”.  I like structure… limits in what I work with… my blue marker is fading out but I like using it for as long as I can.  Also, glue stick, magazines, markers…something that doesn’t have to be set up.  Materials easy and readably accessible.  

7 Minutes: The Experience Can Be Shocking

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Don’t expect to be impressed with the secrets of my garden.

Some imagination is needed.  There is a certain majesty in being undressed.

The experience can be shocking, let me tell you,

And I’m not half so kind where the vocabulary of size is concerned.

I’m tough, and I can speak roughly, look in the mirror and not flinch.

I can groom the flowers that are reluctant to grow and seize upon the strangest

to fall in love with, usually the ones with slimy tendrils, unformed and alien.

Don’t be impressed with anything I tell you as I spout lies left and right

and cover them with dust, Mars-y red and dry.  I am the speaker at the strange microphone,

the frozen naked woman who has given birth to the little bastards, broken toothed,

but who scream with honesty.  How I love each one of them.

Words that started this poem were “harvested”…sorry for the bad pun…from the article The Kindest Cut by Sara Stein (Examiner’s magazine) about the importance of being rough with garden plants….toughen up that ground cover!  Feeling the need to not do “pretty” work right now.

Closer to the Spirit

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