April is national poetry month. In honor of poetry, I’d like to share four short poems with you. I’ll say a word or two about a few of them. I suggest you read the poems slowly and even aloud.
The first poem is by St. John of the Cross, translated by Daniel Ladinsky:
What Is Grace?
“What is grace,” I asked God.
And He said,
“All that happens.”
Then He added, when I looked perplexed,
“Could not lovers
say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms
Existence is my arms,
though I well understand how one can turn
until the heart
All that happens is grace? Really? All? That bad news from the doctor? That cherished relationship that is falling apart? That disturbing headline? All is grace? It is, the poet seems to be saying, if we really believe that “existence is God’s arms.” Hmmm. What could that mean? Even bad and disturbing things can elicit trust and love… The poem says it is so hard for us to believe that all is grace, that God understands how we can turn away from Him… Until our “heart has wisdom.” There’s consolation in those words and much to ponder is these few lines…
This second poem is just for fun (or is it?)…by Judith Powell:
God-man, enduring helplessness
on Adam’s tree,
help those whose daily cross is
And here’s one by the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore:
I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.
Tagore says so much in so few words… This beautiful Hindu poet wrote many poems like this one that seem remarkably Christian. I guess we have to remember that we Christians don’t have a monopoly on love and joy and service, do we?…
And my final poem is one I really, really like… Maybe it’s because my own mother used to make her dumplings in a large wooden bowl… In fact, she had three wooden bowls. After her death, each “branch” of my family got one of those treasured, “holy” bowls… This poem is by Larry Schug.
Her Red Wing crockery mixing bowl
was all I wanted
of my mother’s earthly possessions,
that magic place
where pies and cakes and cookies
enough to sate six boys
were conjured with a mixing
of sugar and cinnamon,
a swirling of milk and eggs,
sprinkles and spoonfuls and cupfuls
of flour and soda and salt.
Now that I do my own baking,
I treasure my mother’s mixing bowl
as a peaceful, sacred place,
a small clearing in a dark forest;
where I meet her again,
my fingers touch hers
as she guides my hands
through stirring and kneading.
When a recipe calls for water,
I add tears.
Yes, we meet our deceased loved ones in all kinds of places…especially in those things they used while on earth—a mixing bowl, a hoe, a table cloth, a lunch pail… When do you feel particularly close to a deceased loved one? The last two lines remind us that grief is a mysterious thing… we never “recover fully” when a loved one dies… Tears can well up unexpectedly at any time…
I hope you enjoyed celebrating National Poetry Month with me. What did you think of these particular poems? Do you have another favorite poem that you would recommend to us?
In keeping with the joy of the Easter season, I’ve chosen the song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman. The last time I used this song was over two years ago. It continues to be a favorite of mine.
Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share with us? I welcome them!