I read a lot of poetry, but not too much. I once made the mistake of reading every book of poetry in the Brightwaters Public Library on Long Island in too short a time, and didn’t feel like reading any more poetry for a very long time. I read through the section one author at a time, and it might have been too much Robert Lowell that drove me from poetry, but there were others toward the end of the alphabet that were irksome as well. Lately, poetry comes once a week, making sure I read someone new, someone old, and someone borrowed. I occasionally skip the truly blue. Wasn’t it T. S. Eliot who said that humans cannot bear very much reality? Well, he was right. It's taken practice to remember that it’s easier to open to life’s more painful aspects, rather than just shutting down. I wish I’d begun that task a little sooner.
First thing this morning came the hard news of a friend in trouble. Seems this week has been filled with friends in trouble, strangers in trouble, countries in trouble, mothers and brothers in trouble; even I had my small share over the weekend. But this morning's news hit hard and shook me. So, I turned to poetry. I had been rereading Elizabeth Cunningham’s Small Bird: Poems and Prayers, specifically her poem Healing Song, in thanksgiving for my trouble leaving me in peace, but this morning I opened the book again and I found this:
Everything is here to stay,
one with the place we forgot to call home.
Shake the dust from your feet
and it remains the ground beneath them.
There is only change, river becoming rain
becoming river, fallen leaves
feeding the roots of trees feeding leaves,
the slow redemption of rot.
It is the indestructible that destroys,
the things that won’t break down
that may break us – unless
we break first, as an egg shatters
to release the bird
or a seed splits open and
takes hold in the earth.
At your feet, the earth
In your womb, the sea
In your belly, the fire
At your center, the sun
In your heart, the flower
In your throat, the sky
On your brow, the moon
At your crown, the star
In your hands, the earth.
It's funny how I never really saw these two were on facing pages until this morning. I suppose I never needed them at the same time before. Be well.
Elizabeth Cunningham is the author of The Maeve Chronicles, trilogy (so far) about the Celtic Mary Magdalen, and much beautiful poetry.