Hope is… with Sydney Story Factory

is

Having

Our

Passion

Encouraged

This was tweeted as part of a poem collage for the Sydney Story Factory.  Check them out.  They do great work!

Poems That Changed Your Life

One of my friends (who, incidentally, used to work in a bookshop – what a job!) recently posted about books on another sharing platform.  The question posed was: “Have you ever read a book that fundamentally changed the way you thought or behaved? What was the book and how did it change you?”  I thought it a fabulous post and naturally joined in.

Here I thought we could ask a similar question: Have you ever read a poem, or poems, that changed the way you thought or behaved?  Can you share the poem, or poems, and what was the change that occurred? 

There have been numerous poems for me.  I keep returning to two specific ones:

Rudyard Kipling’s “If

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too; …… 

Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by….
Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!….
Then there is Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –…..
For Kipling and Wilde there are two things that strike me.  First, is the quality of their writing.  It impresses me and challenges me to better expression.  Second, the depth of what they share.  They move to weighty matters of our very human struggles.  That also impresses me.
For Dickinson, I love the way she plays with the presence of such banal things. Someone is dying, meanwhile a fly buzzes.  This hit me with great irony when we were sitting for school exams. We had been examined on Dickinson’s “I Heard a Fly Buzz” and, in the background, flies buzzed, cars parked, the sun shone.  It struck me that Dickinson was teaching me that the poet can appreciate the weighty and the light, the sublime and the banal, all at the same time, and write of it to boot.  Wonderful.
Many years before that a poem changed me.  But I was the one who wrote the words down.  It was called “Drought” and has been posted on this site before.  What struck me about the process of that poem was that it was the first time I felt the rush, the animation, that comes as a poem emerges from the cocoon of our creative self. I loved that feeling and have loved feeling it again since then.
Have you ever read a poem, or poems, that changed the way you thought or behaved?  Can you share the poem, or poems, and what was the change that occurred? 

 

 

Another Side of Loneliness or ‘On Living Life to the Full’

Another Side of Loneliness or ‘On Living Life to the Full’

 

Paul Murray, who is a poet, scholar of Christian Spirituality and a Dominican Friar, writes in his book, Scars: Essays, Poems and Meditations on Affliction (Bloomsbury: 2014), on both the gift of our uniqueness and the loneliness that can be felt along with it.  Part of our lives are unique to us alone and others cannot perceive, think and feel exactly the same way that we each do. By the way, I’m fine at the moment.  I just recognise having had this experience before and wondered if others may identify with this in some way.

 

‘On Living Life to the Full’

 

When you heart is empty

And your hands are empty

 

You can take into your hands

The gift of the present

 

You can experience in your heart

The moment in its fullness.

 

***

 

And this you will know,

Though perhaps you may not yet

Understand it,

 

And this you will know:

 

That nothing

Of all you have longed for

Or have sought to hold fast

Can relieve you of your thirst,

Your loneliness,

 

Until you learn

To take in your hands

And raise to your lips

This cup of solitude

This chalice of the void

 

And drain it to the dregs.

 

(All rights to Paul Murray, OP and Bloomsbury Press 2014)

 

Interesting that I had read this, as, in recent times, the author Hannah Kent tweeted on her @HannahFKent account “My favourite new word: Waldeinsamkeit (German, noun). The feeling of being alone in the woods, an easy solitude, connectedness to nature.”

 

I partly covered what Murray is talking about in a closing section to one of my previous posts, “The Great Alone

How do we hold them,

Their damp, dark spirits,

In the fog,

When they realise

That we each

have an alone

that is unique to ourself,

and no other human

can truly dwell

with us

in that beautiful

yet alone

place?

 

Simon C.J. Falk 10 June 2016

Another Time

Another Time

 

In the head

Ideas buzzing, flitting, zipping

Around and around

Up

And

D

o

w

n

Then

Reverie interrupted:

A birdsong

Strong and insistent

Calls

Us to the present.

The ideas stop

The buzzing ceases

And

Aware we become

To another time

Another rhythm

Before our calendars

After our clocks.

The refreshing sounds

Of natural rhythms

Call us back

To who we are.

 

 

Simon C.J. Falk 25 March 2016

 

 

 

Fall

Fall

 

Moving along

Slowly

Faltering.

The dizzying head

The jelly legs

Sway

And crumble

The earth holds

The weight –

No further to fall.

 

Then

Comes the decision:

Get up

And go again?

Stay awhile

Resting on terra firma?

Surrender

Give up?

Until

You become

Another’s burden

Borne as their load.

 

 

Simon C.J. Falk 25 March 2016

 

That Worthy Wordsmith is our ‘Anam Cara’

That Worthy Wordsmith is our Anam Cara

In memory of John O’Donohue (1956 – 2008)

 John O’Donohue

had a way

with words

and sounds

and souls

and images.

His words

can land upon us,

like a soft, gentle rain.

And

as time unfolds

we become sodden

from its falling.

It washes our dryness

of soul.

Yet

it does not dampen our spirit.

It irrigates our vocabulary

and grows our minds.

John’s sharing of our inner light

awakens our longing,

to know

someone understands

the gurgling gestation

of life within

our very selves.

To read or hear him,

stating those words,

provides a company for us

when we feel

that our thoughts and musings

may have consigned us to isolation.

This solace

makes him

like our Anam Cara

from afar.

Though afar

his words

convey his presence to us

with great immediacy.

In that thin place

between memory and the beyond,

John is present to us still.

That worthy wordsmith,

is helping at the forge

of our delicate souls.

Simon C.J. Falk 2 December 2013.

For some of us John O’Donohue has been a great inspiration.  He was probably best known for his books ‘Anam Cara’ and ‘Eternal Echoes’.   Irishman, Poet, philosophical-theologian, former priest, he had a way with words that continues to enchant his readers and hearers.  The words above scarcely scratch the surface of describing him. But they attempt to at least point to his influence.  More information about John and his writings can be found at http://www.johnodonohue.com and his talks at Britain’s ‘Green Belt Festival’ can be found at http://www.audible.com

Footprints

Pope Francis has inspired individuals and groups to service by the example of his own living and giving.  This poem was written earlier this year in response to an experience of the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday at a community called Ariah Park.  The washing of the feet is a Christian ritual action expressing service after the manner of Christ in the Gospel account according to John, chapter 13.

 

FOOTPRINTS

 

Footfalls

On the floorboards

Padding

The path

Of pilgrims’ lives.

Each footprint

Bears an imprint

Unique to our world.

And yet

They come

From the same creator’s hand.

Feet were washed

Kissed and wiped

After the Master’s example and care.

Each bearer

As they placed their foot

They showed

The grounding of their stand.

Stand

Upon their generous service

Loving others as Christ has loved.

Can they see

Their gift

To their sisters and brothers

Is seen and noticed

Both here below

And above?

As we washed

Those pilgrim feet

A teary smile alights the face.

At this Assembly

On Holy Thursday

Three generations

Witnessed grace.

Grace

Flowing through

Water and towel

At the Saviour’s

Example and command.

Yet they know

Not just the ritual

For they live

The service somehow.

 

Simon C.J. Falk

Ariah Park,

Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013.

Whence?

Image

 

Labyrinth at St. Clement’s Retreat and Conference Centre Galong NSW.  A place where one can walk when one has questions.

There is often debate about violent activities and the relationship between violence and the weapons used. The poem below was written this week and explores how on both an individual and societal level we have some questions to ask about self-discipline.  Spiritual writer, Jean Vanier, in many of his books, reminds us that we all can be angry or violent within.  Vanier’s writings and this poem are far from being the only answer. But it does ask some of the questions.  One point it does seek to affirm is this: that if you and I are attempting to be self-aware, self-disciplined and peaceable, we are creating our own little sphere of influence where we are.   The poem is written in memory of all families affected by acts of violence.

 

 

Whence?

 

Whence does this come?

This foment within,

That leads to destruction,

wreck, ruin and sin.

 

Whence does this hatred

come forth and arise?

That curdles the blood

And narrows the eyes.

 

What makes a person

Callously premeditate to kill?

To take down another

What kind of will?

 

What kind of will

Courses their veins?

Making meek to maniac,

Who holds the reins?

 

Any debate on the gun

Or the bow

Will only sort out

Some of this hatred below.

 

It’s not just the weapon

That’s held in their hands,

It’s the set in the heart

That governs their plans.

 

How can ‘civilised’ nations

Repeat this offence?

It’s happened too often,

What is their defence?

 

It may be the gun

It may be the knife,

But is it really the weapon

That delivers the strife?

 

Who is responsible?

Where goes the blame?

The pain wanders the nations

To bed down its shame.

 

Each person must fasten

Self-control as their shield

No matter what weapon

No real threat will they wield.

 

Two questions remain

And encircle my mind:

How may we untangle

This terrible bind?

 

Firstly, each one of us

Needs hold guard of our heart,

To each search our desires

We’ll be playing our part.

 

And another question

Sits upon our fair lands,

What culture are we breeding

That produces these stands?

 

These moments of road rage

Of bullying and killing,

This anger and violence,

What are we instilling?

 

 

Eden Rain

Image

Snug Cove in Eden, NSW (pictured above) provides a bountiful vista in any weather.  The following free verse was written after I’d walked in fine rain along Eden’s Aslings beach during the last drought.

EDEN RAIN

Caught

in the moment

of Eden rain.

Needly,

The drops fell;

stitching

through the dryness

of the dusty air.

Life

it brought;

People took notice;

perplexed, disbelieving at first,

then

delightfully convinced

of the steady wetness

falling upon them.

Gift from the sky,

Salve in our chapped land.

The wetness

on the lips,

and the damp-dust aroma

filled nostrils and lungs

with not only

the wetness

but with vitality.

Caught

in the moment

of Eden rain;

I walked through

like a fish in a pond

enfolded in bounty.

 

SCJF13012010

Nearer

Image

Nearer

Nearer

Than the breathing

In

Or out

Closer

Than

Mine own breath

The Lord is

Is there

In the stillness.

Deep inside

Near my heart

Under my lungs

The lifeblood

And

The breath

Come from his.

Stop

Be still

Know

That he is

Is nearer

And

Always within.

Turn not aside

To pace

And frenetic activity.

Stop

Look within

God is there

In the stillness.

Image

This is a recent free verse from a time of retreat I had at Jamberoo Abbey ( http://www.jamberooabbey.org.au/html/home.htm ).  It is a thank you in response to a time of prayer in Christian Meditation.

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