This re-blogged post featuring Bill Moyers’ interview with American poet W.S. Merwin (1927–2019) caught my attention while preparing a Views from the Edge reflection (yet to be published) that will draw from Albert Camus’ statement about war living inside ourselves.
The YouTube featured by this blogger was an unexpected gift. Ponder and enjoy!
[.. BILL MOYERS: When we confirmed this meeting, you suggested that I read a poem in here called “Rain Light.” Why did you suggest that one?
W.S. MERWIN: I don’t know, I just — that seems to be a very close poem to me.
BILL MOYERS: Here it is.
“All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud touches…
The painter’s brush, the poet’s pen, and the musician’s composing take the heart and mind into the space of wonder and joy that is Easter.
Easter Morning verse
EASTER MORNINGa double acrosticEither Jesus really did rise or
All his followers made up the worst
Series of lies in history... Poor
Thomas certainly was right to doubt
Even after hearing tales: what four
Reached the tomb (or five?) Who saw him first
Matthew says two women; Mark says three
Or was it just one, as said by John?
Reports of what eye-witnesses can see
Or was it just one, as said by John?
Never can be trusted. Luke said one
In the road joined two who could not see --
Not until he broke the bread...No one
Got the story straight! Conspiracy?
Even grade school kids could do as well.
And Luke throws in Peter saw him too --
Somewhere unreported... Who could tell
That this jumble of accounts could do
Enough to give faith and hope to all.
Resurrection? Who could think it true?
Maybe just the simple: those whose eyes
Open to the light through grief, through tears…
Reminded of love, of truth, of grace…
Needing to be fed, hands out for bread ...
Inspired by the scriptures, in whose head
Grow visions: life can come from the dead.
- Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, 2012
Text set to music by Palestrina (1591)
“The strife is o’er, the battle won; the victory of life is won . . . . The powers of death have done their worst, but Christ their legions hath dispersed: let loud shouts of holy joy outburst.
[“The Strife is o’er” is often sung to the tune Victory, adapted from a 1591 setting of the Gloria Patri by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina from a Magnificat tertii toni. An additional Alleluya refrain was set to music by William Henry Monk.”
Grace and Peace to you this Easter in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Life can come from the dead!”
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 11, 2020, Easter morning.
The sounds from the cross are too hard to hear. They still echo down the years to this moment when COVID-19 has locked us in our homes . . . if we have a home. Poetry not only echoes the sounds we do not wish to hear; it helps us to hear a Deeper Voice, the divine whisper beneath the clamor. What follows are the Stations of the Cross, courtesy of poet Malcolm Guite.
!I. Jesus is condemned to death
The very air that Pilate breathes, the voice
With which he speaks in judgment, all his powers
Of perception and discrimination, choice,
Decision, all his years, his days and hours,
His consciousness of self, his every sense,
Are given by this prisoner, freely given.
The man who stands there making no defence,
Is God. His hands are tied, His heart is open.
And he bears Pilate’s heart in his and feels
That crushing weight of wasted life. He lifts
It up in silent love. He lifts and heals.
He gives himself again with all his gifts
Into our hands. As Pilate turns away
A door swings open. This is judgment day.
II. Jesus is given his cross
He gives himself again with all his gifts
And now we give him something in return.
He gave the earth that bears, the air that lifts,
Water to cleanse and cool, fire to burn,
And from these elements he forged the iron,
From strands of life he wove the growing wood,
He made the stones that pave the roads of Zion
He saw it all and saw that it is good.
We took his iron to edge an axe's blade,
We took the axe and laid it to the tree,
We made a cross of all that he has made,
And laid it on the one who made us free.
Now he receives again and lifts on high
The gifts he gave and we have turned awry.
Click HERE for the rest of Malcolm Guite’s Stations of the Cross, or HERE for Malcolm’s book Sounding the Seasons.
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, April 10, 2020 — Good Friday.
Today, Ash Wednesday, is a solemn day that calls for distraction from frivolous distractions, you might say.
Entertainment cultures shun solemnity. Ash Wednesday interrupts our flight from the knowledge of our mortality: “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Steve Shoemaker, seen here welcoming President Clinton to Champaign-Urbana, shared a poem that leads me a decision Ash Wednesday: plagiarize or leave the page (Views from the Edge) blank?
I HAVE NOTHING
I have nothing…
no thoughts, no ideas
Worse, only clichés
crowd my mind:
or remembered words
wielded by real writers.
Feeling only frustration,
tempted by alliteration,
or worse, rhyme…
Is it worse to plagiarize
than to leave a blank page?
— Steve Shoemaker, Feb. 6, 2013
In memory and thanksgiving for Steve’s faithful solemnity and smile,
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020
Seen here with his 6’8″ frame squeezed into his seat on a flight to somewhere, Steve Shoemaker (1942-2016) wrote poetry. Often the verses came to him in the dark. At 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. Steve would turn to his right side so as not to disturb Nadja, and commit the verses to his iPhone. The poem was waiting in the in-box in the morning.
Often he led the reader through the lines to a surprising last line that shined a humorous light on all that had come before.
I will give up writing poems for Lent.
I will give up eating desserts for Lent.
I will give up sex for Lent.
I will give up thinking about sex for Lent.
I will give up lying for Lent.
I will give up bragging for Lent.
I will give up exaggerating for Lent.
I will give up self-centeredness for Lent.
I will give up self-denial for Lent.
— Steve Shoemaker RIP, Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2013.
In this era of ill-humor and self-indulgence, Steve’s tongue-in-cheek verses ring the bell on the distortions of our best intentions and our shared need to focus on what lies beyond the self.
This photograph shows Steve sitting on an ancient bristlecone pine at 11,000+ feet in Colorado. — GCS, Feb. 25, 2020.
The Senate majority party scored high on the Rotten Tomatoes scale for mocking truth in the impeachment trial that was not a trial. When truth is mocked, we rage against the sham or fall silent in despair. The poets say what we feel. God lovesreal tomatoes. God loves truth. Have a look at this re-blog. — GCS, Views from the Edge: To See More Clearly.
This is the blessing for the first garden tomato: Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store sells in January, those red things with the savor of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name. How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm, warm as the flank of a cow in the sun. You […]
i used to run through fields laughing, blowing bubbles floating up, up, away off to Who-knows-where … now I watch the bubbles burst, burst, burst – dreams, illusions, hopes, bursting into air … time and death bursting all our bubbles for we are puffs of air but for a time … till some child runs again through fields of green, blowing bubbles that float … up and up … swelling, rising, not yet bursting each bubble its own never to be repeated self precious beyond belief … while we in our old age move toward the end of time evaporating into eternity Whence we came.
— “Morning Mist Over the Creek” by Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL Feb. 6, 2013
Steve Shoemaker (RIP) was the Views from the Edge colleague whose verses and poems, written in the middle of the night, were sent to “his publisher” from his iPhone before dawn. Five of Steve’s verses/poems are republished in Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness. At six-feet eight inches, he towered above the crowd. In this photo, his 6’8″ frame rests on a 1,000+ year-old Bristlecone Pine above the tree line. – GCS
“Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind.” –Maxwell Bodenheim, quoted in Ben Hecht’s play Winkelberg (1958).
Max Coots was our family’s John Muir, Robert Frost, and Wendell Berry. He was a naturalist and poet whose whimsy and wit lifted people from the doldrums of the harsh winters of the New York North Country. Max’s Seasons of the Self spoke to me years ago. His poem “A Harvest of People” — found during an internet search — put me again in the presence of his wit, wisdom, and gentle spirit.
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For generous friends, with smiles as bright as their blossoms. For feisty friends as tart as apples; For continuous friends who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them. For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible; For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn; and the others as plain as potatoes and as good for you. For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter. For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time. For young friends, who wind around like tendrils and hold us.
We give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might live.
Max Coots was Minister of the Unitarian-Universalist Church in Canton, New York for thirty-five years. Every August, he found solitude along the Grasse River in the barn board retreat he’d built with materials he’d rescued from the dump. Max had a solar shower in 1973.
The other twelve months, Max was an old beech tree, providing shade in summertime and dropping beech nuts from the pulpit that kept alive a host of chipmunks and squirrels in wintertime.
— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 22, 2019.