From my Heart to Yours – April 2012

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

From my Heart to Yours – April 2012

Greetings,

Bake bits of fresh bread for you
Here, in the oven of my heart

 Cesar Vallejo (Peruvian Poet)

Last week I spent time with my grandson Luka, one of things he is currently into is imaginative play.  It is fascinating to watch and listen, as he creates another world right before his eyes. At some point in our human development, we put aside our childish imagination and seek to enter the real world, whatever the real world is. Then at various times, either through a movie or listening to music or while reading a novel or poetry we are transported to another place, our imagination is once more evoked and for a moment our eyes are opened, we are changed. Our imagination never leaves us, it changes as we change, for we receive inspiration from the imagination for our creative endeavours of painting, music, flower arranging, writing and poetry for instance, without the imagination there can be no creativity.

I recall a time many lifetimes ago as a young police officer when my imagination was hardly practised; it was the facts which become the focus of my life. It was a time of being immersed in the more unseemly facets of life, in all its different guises. I vividly remember one young barrister who was cross – examining me in the Crown Court at Liverpool, who suggested I was imagining the events that led up to his clients arrest and insinuating that I had a very vivid imagination. I think my reply was that it was not in my imagination but it happened the way I had told it.

One way that our imagination becomes alive is through the reading and hearing of poetry. As a young police officer, I could not imagine reading poetry. Some years later I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. A ministry friend and colleague died and his widow asked me if I would like to go through his library and take what books I wanted.  This is always a very sacred and poignant moment, to touch books a friend had handled and marked.  Going through his library I noticed a large number of books on poetry, some were marked while others were barely used.  I helped myself to a few, and I became hooked, alas with the busyness of life, those poetry books gathered dust. About ten years ago, while fossicking at a Rotary book sale, I found a collection of poetry books, it was a light bulb moment, I instinctually knew, I needed poetry to sustain and feed my soul.

Poetry offers the reader or hearer the freedom to engage life through the lenses of imagination. Vincent Hunt (A Catholic Priest in the Auckland Diocese) offers these words on poets and poetry:  “But the poets restore our awareness by the magic of their words. They are people with a vivid awareness of God’s presence, the vividness of which comes through in terms in which they express themselves. Through the imaginative language that they use they impart to us something of their own awareness.  An important part of the task of the poet and artist is to lead us to notice and pay attention to what we might otherwise only see in passing, to give us a more lively awareness of what would be no more than intellectual concepts if left to ourselves.”

I readily admit, poetry is not for everyone, and those who do enjoy poetry, it is a deeply personal experience, for one size does not fit all.  Yet, when we read or hear a poem, miraculously, something happens, a word here or there, a verse, just a line may touch us inside, we come alive and life takes on a different hue.  At this point I want to offer you some pieces of poetry to feed your imagination, alas; I know that not all poets speak to us through language, symbol and metaphor at the same level of intensity.

I find myself sitting before my collection of poetry books, I reach out, take one off the shelf, my eyes scan the contents page, hoping one will jump out and shout ‘select me.’ There is no magical selection process for a poem to slip through my defences to touch my soul. It is almost serendipitous, a poem comes across my path, often unexpectedly, I copy it, and then file it away in my laptop or poetry folder to savour at some later date.

In a flash of inspiration, the selection has been made. I will share a few poetic treasures from my cache of poems I have collected along the way.  I readily admit there is some organising principle to my selection, they are not randomly chosen, rather, they are poems which invite me to linger and savour their presence.  Incidentally, within this offering there is mainly a verse here and there, or may be just a few words, sometimes a long poem is too much, and may cause indigestion of spirit.  I have yielded to temptation and will offer a word or two about each poem and how it still engages with me.

One of my favourite metaphors is the journey; in this poem Wendell Berry entitled “The Spiritual Journey” offers a different perspective:

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home
         

What I delight in this poem is the reminder, that the spiritual journey is not one of travelling great distances to meet with a celebrity guru; rather it is coming home to ourselves and learning to be at peace within our own skin.  Arriving home we discover we are not beyond grace, we are held within the arms of the eternal embrace of love.

Because we are human beings, we will make mistakes and experience failure, that is how life is, on those occasions I turn to this poem by Antonio Machado (Spanish Poet died 1939) called “Last night”:

Last night, as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvellous error! –

that a spring was breaking

out in my heart.

I said: Along with secret aqueduct,

Oh water, are you coming to me,

Water of a new life

That I have never drunk.

 

Last night, as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvellous error! –

That I had a beehive

Here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

Were making white combs

and sweet honey,

from my old failures.

 

Last night, as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvellous error! –

that a fiery sun was giving

light inside my heart.

It was fiery because I felt

warmth as from a hearth,

the sun because it gave light

and brought tears to my eyes.

 

Last night, as I was sleeping,

I dreamt – marvellous error! –

that it was God I had

here inside my heart.

As each stanza flows on from the other, I have included the whole poem so you are able to appreciate the beauty and presence of our inner transformation, as we experience acceptance and love within from the One we name as God.  Our mistakes and failures can be transformed into something beautiful and life enriching as a spring of water bubbles out from deep within the earth.  This is a parallel imagery of when Jesus spokes of the Spirit flowing from within us as a river of living water.

The imagery of water flowing is a common theme in poetry. I read the following poems when I need to refocus my life in a way that is healthy and open:

        Fluent – John O’Donohue

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding

–                                  Manuel Bandeira: (Brazilian Poet)

Be like the flowing river,

silent in the night.

Be not afraid of the dark,
if there are stars in the sky, reflect them back.

If there are clouds in the sky,

Remember, clouds like the river are water,
So gladly reflect them too,
in your tranquil depths.

Water has an amazing effect upon the human soul, something happens within us in the presence of sound and sight of water.  The Hebrew poet King David, better known as the psalmist offers us those well known words in Psalm 23:

He leads me beside still water

      He restores my soul

I readily accept that we each find our soul restored in different ways, yet often, we know what we need, but allow other things to crowd in upon us, and that still small voice within gets ignored.  I find Kabir (Indian Mystic Poet) reminds me of the Guest within me and the Guest inside you, the presence of the Divine Spirit ever present, yet often ignored in favour of more urgent demands.

                                                The Guest is inside

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;

you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

We have returned where we began coming home to ourselves, this perhaps is a gift of poetry, upon reading, we pause, becoming silent, we allow the words to reverberate within our own soul and we are blessed.

I want to conclude with two stanzas of a poem from William Butler Yeats, written towards the end of his life:

Vacillation

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top

While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless

This poem speaks to me at different levels, today as I write it is a reminder how blessed I am as a human being, but not only am I blessed, but I can bless others. It challenges me to make a difference in the lives of others, and let others make a difference in my life, this truly is a blessing.  Poetry does make a difference.

Meanwhile Peace in the Dignity of Difference

Alf