a capricious little beast

[Here’s a poem by an alumna that speaks to a theme that has seemed very important lately]:

Wait

it’s morning now
I sit down
settle in
light a candle,
and wait

a friend comes to greet me
and I pour out my questions
like hot water over tea leaves
and together,
we wait

other writers guide us
from this poem to that one
a quote here, some words there
all these paradoxes rise and fall
like our ribs as we breathe,
and we wait

only if you are patient
with your questions
only when you cease
the frantic quest
for some certainty
that will cement your faith

only as you wait
still as the oak for her lark
to come home again
to nest in her branches

wait here, just wait
wait with the questions,
sit down and wait

and maybe, maybe you will find
it’s not the answers that you seek
but the questions themselves
the only way you know how to live

and maybe, maybe you will see
that even without the answers
you can go on

accepting as a gift
each moment of grace
accepting as a gift
each mystery and absurdity
accepting as a gift
all the joy and all the frustration

of understanding you will never stop asking
and understanding you will never know
and understanding it’s okay to let go

you do not need what once you sought
that capricious little beast, certainty

  • Ash

a ritual of care

[From a current SSU student – Note: The poetry collection, of which “A Ritual of Care” is a part, is meant to be fluid; shifting shape, emphasis and words to fit the needs of the specific gathering in which it is read. It is meant to be shared with a trusted group as it offers space to fully witness the realities of our time.]

A Ritual of Care

Hello, friends and family
You are most welcome here
Thank you for sharing this hallowed space
Together

Today, we have the opportunity
To bear witness to one another
With all the courage that we possess
We will safeguard one another in care
You are safe here

In doing this
We honour the Creator, who connects us
We honour the child, from which we have grown
We honour our youth, those who speak earnestly
We honour our present selves, we, who are fully alive
We honour our elders, those who have walked this road before and know so much
We honour our ancestors, who we will become

As we bear honest and courageous witness to one another
Our compassion will overflow from our cup to each other’s
We will pass hope like mashed potatoes around a communal table
Our grief melting like butter
Saturated with our abundant tenderness.

Today, let our generosity extend to each other
Within this room and beyond
Let us lend our courage to see each one of us as beloved
We are one creation
Each of us, a whole being

And as we rest together, in the safety of each others spacious arms
We acknowledge our strengths
Our ability to care, deeply and without reserve
We honour our individual longings
And as we metabolize our collective sorrow
We honour each other as we step into compassionate action
May we take this opportunity to become
Tender Alchemist of our time.

  • Marissa Wiebe – June 6, 2020

what you missed

[Maybe you missed last weekend’s “Rain and Snow” festival featuring Pádraig Ó Tuama and many others? Or maybe you were there and now you him, or miss poetry? ]

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade”

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home….

  • Brad Aaron Modlin, [This is the start of a poem that Padraig shares and discusses in the first episode of the new podcast he started with On Being just before coming to St. Stephen. Hope it whets your appetite for more. Check this out for the full poem and Padraig’s reflection.]

freedom of non-entitlement

[Peacemaker, Jarem Sawatzky, learned from Thich Nhat Hanh to write poetry as one way to be more mindful. He encourages his readers to “take me as your guide and write bad poetry”:]

The Freedom of Non-Entitlement

Beneath some of my suffering lies anger
Beneath anger, impatience
Beneath impatience, entitlement and wrong expectation

Entitlement is the seedbed of wrong expectation
Expecting now what cannot be now creates impatience
Impatience erases time and creates anger rooted in the
injustice that our wrong expectations cannot be lived now
Anger overflows to suffering
The suffering of wrong thinking and
The suffering of wrong action
The presence of this kind of suffering
waters the seeds of anger, impatience, wrong expectation
and entitlement
And the cycle of violence goes on

Transform entitlement and a new horizon of being
Bubbles forth into the present moment

Through the law of non-entitlement
we can embrace and enjoy death
The ones who know
the universe does not owe them anything
are free
A great weight is lifted
We are not entitled to our entitlements
They are not what makes us beautiful

The flower follows the law of non-entitlement
It does not expect to live without end
It does not see its own death as injustice

Gazing at the flower we know will die
Does not feed within us the seeds of anger
Somehow suffering diminishes
in the presence of the flower’s fragile beauty

How can I live and die
Like the presence  of the flower?
How do I embrace the way of non-entitlement?

  • Jarem Sawatsky (with permission), from Dancing with Elephants: Mindfulness Training for Those Living with Dementia, Chronic Illness or an Aging Brain

the opening of eyes long closed

[An excerpt from a lectionary reading on this First Sunday of Advent followed by a stanza of a poem that resonated:]

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. – Romans 13.11

…. It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air….