Lockdown

by Brother Richard Hendrick

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

 

Oceans

by Juan Ramon Jimenez

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…–Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Enough

by David Whyte 

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

How Surely Gravity’s Law…

by Rainer Maria Rilke

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing –
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

Don’t go outside …

by Kabir

Don’t go outside your house to see the flowers.

My friends, don’t bother with that excursion.

Inside your body there are flowers.

One flower has a thousand petals.

That will do for a place to sit.

Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty

Inside the body and out of it,

before gardens and after gardens.

 

Beyond Opinion and Judgement

 by Rumi

Beyond opinion and judgement,

Undistracted by guilt,

I am walking strong and steadily home,

Not timid or uncertain,

With my eyes splendidly clear,

All one pearl of gratefulness, no fear.

 

Excerpts from

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

 by Mary Oliver

…Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

…Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart…

…You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another…

And, the full poem:

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

by Mary Oliver

1.
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

2.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

3.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world

 

The Country of the Trees

by Mary Oliver

There is no king in their country
and there is no queen
and there are no princes vying for power
inventing corruption.
Just as with us many children are born,
and some will live and some will die and the country will continue.

The weather will always be important.

And there will always be room for the weak, the violets
and the bloodroot.
When it is cold they will be given blankets of leaves.
When it is hot they will be given shade.
And not out of guilt, neither for a year end deduction
but maybe for the cheer of their colors, their
small flower faces.

They are not like us.

Some will perish to become houses or barns,
fences and bridges.
Others will endure past the counting of years.
And none will ever speak a single word of complaint,
as though language, after all,
did not work well enough, was only an early stage.
Neither do they ever have any questions to the Gods–
which one is the real one, and what is the plan.
As though they have been told everything already,
and are content.

Saint Francis and the Sow –

by Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

From Benedictus

by John O Donoghue

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

Care

by Rachel Holstead

In those moments when you want to care for all the world,

Remember that in you is also the whole of the world.

And you can only begin here – caring for this skin,

These bones, this heart.

Delve deep into caring, and every cell

Becomes a temple in which to honour the world.

Forget about enlightenment

By: John Welwood

Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins. 
Feel the love, the longing, the fear in your bones. 
Open your heart to who you are, right now, 
Not who you would like to be, 
Not the saint you are striving to become, 
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you. 
All of you is holy. 
You are already more and less 
Than whatever you can know. 
Breathe out, 
Touch in, 
Let go.

Clearing

by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.

Good Workers

by Gary Johnson

Let us praise good workers (you know who you are)
Who come gladly to the job and do what you can
For as long as it takes to repair the car
Or clean the house—the woman or man
Who dives in and works steadily straight through,
Not lagging and letting others carry the freight,
Who joke around but do what you need to do,
Like the home caregiver who comes daily at eight
A.m. to wash and dress the man in the wheelchair
And bring him meals and put him to bed at night
For minimum wage and stroke his pale brown hair.
He needs you. “Are you all right?” “I’m, all right,”
He says. He needs you to give him these good days,
You good worker. God’s own angels sing your praise.

 

“Attention”

by Ron Stone 

“Well… …That’s what you always forget, isn’t it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what’s happening.

And that’s the same as not being here and now.” 

—Aldous Huxley, Island

If this were the last time we met in this world
what would I wish I had said      or done?
I know death is always somewhere in the neighborhood
for someone as old as I,
just as I know, no matter how much I might beg,
God would never forbid you might die.

There is no perfect word to speak,
no perfect deed to perform.
When after today I have left or am left,
if I am never to see you again,
then I just want to be fully here     now,
to be fully awake while we may.

There will be time for sleep after today.

 

Romanesque Arches

by Tomas Tranströmer

Inside the huge Romanesque church the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
“Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.”
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething piazza
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Tanaka, and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.

 

Thinking

by Danusha Laméris

Don’t you wish they would stop,
all the thoughts swirling around in your head,
bees in a hive, dancers tapping their way across the stage.
I should rake the leaves in the carport, buy Christmas lights.
Was there really life on Mars? What will I cook for dinner?
I walk up the driveway, put out the garbage bins.
I should stop using plastic bags, visit my friend
whose husband just left her for the Swedish nanny.
I wish I hadn’t said Patrick’s painting looked “ominous.”
Maybe that’s why he hasn’t called.
Does the car need oil, again? There’s a hole in the ozone
the size of Texas, and everything seems to be speeding up.

Come, let’s stand by the window and look out
at the light on the field. Let’s watch how
the clouds cover the sun, and almost nothing
stirs in the grass.

 

Human Beings

 by Adrian Mitchell

look at your hands
your beautiful useful hands
you’re not an ape
you’re not a parrot
you’re not a slow loris
or a smart missile
you’re human

not british
not american
not israeli
not palestinian
you’re human

not catholic
not protestant
not muslim
not hindu
you’re human

we all start human
we end up human
human first
human last
we’re human
or we’re nothing

nothing but bombs
and poison gas
nothing but guns
and torturers
nothing but slaves
of Greed and War
if we’re not human

look at your body
with its amazing systems
of nerve-wires and blood canals
think about your mind
which can think about itself
and the whole universe
look at your face
which can freeze into horror
or melt into love
look at all that life
all that beauty
you’re human
they are human
we are human
let’s try to be human

dance!

Hokusai Says

By Roger Keyes

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious. Hokusai says says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old. He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are. He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened. He says every one of us has to find

a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive — shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees, wood is alive. Water is alive.

Everything has its own life. Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your veranda or the shadows of the trees

and grasses in your garden. It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you. Joy is life living through you. Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

 

Ancient Language

by  Hannah Stephenson

If you stand at the edge of the forest
and stare into it
every tree at the edge will blow a little extra
oxygen toward you

It has been proven
Leaves have admitted it

The pines I have known
have been especially candid

One said
that all breath in this world
is roped together

that breathing is
the most ancient language

 

Control

By Rachel Holsted

We seek safety in control,
in putting things in place
in setting things up
in holding on tight.

But really, the world will turn as it will
and all we must do is grow older
and, someday, pass away.

And the more we pretend
that this is not so,
the less time we have for really living.

Can it not be beautiful,
this slow tuning in with the world,
this slow settling into our skin,
this careful tending of the light within?

By feeling this raindrop,
we are alive.

By watching that wave break
and hearing its sound on the shore,
we are alive.

By watching the sun come up
and hitting the snow on the mountain,
which is not how it was yesterday
and is not as it will be tomorrow,
and is only now,
we are alive.

Let us not find ourselves at the end
thinking ‘what happened?’
but just be here, and here, and now, and now
each moment deepening our wisdom
and refreshing our hearts.

Sometimes

By Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,

from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel

faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail;

sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

 

A people sometimes will step back from war;

elect an honest man, decide they care

enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.

Some men become what they were born for.

 

Sometimes our best efforts do not go

amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.

The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow

that seemed hard frozen: may it happen to you.

 

Just Rain

Mary Oliver

The clouds
did not say
soon, but who can tell
for sure, it wasn’t

the first time I had been
fooled; the sky-doors
opened and
the rain began

to fall upon all of us: the
grass, the leaves,
my face, my shoulders
and the flowered body

of the pond where
it made its soft
unnotational
music on the pond’s

springy surface, and then
the birds joined in and I too
felt called toward such
throat praise.  Well,

the whole afternoon went on
that way until I thought
I could feel
the almost born things

in the earth rejoicing.  As for myself,
I just kept walking, thinking:
once more I am grateful
to be present.

Everything is Going to Be All Right

 By Derek Mahon

How should I not be glad to contemplate

the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window

and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?

There will be dying, there will be dying

but there is no need to go into that.

The poems flow from the hand unbidden

And the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything

And the far cities are beautiful and bright.

I lie here in a riot of sunlight

watching the day break and the clouds flying.

Everything is going to be all right.

Not Coffee

By Shirley Mc Clure

I Go Among Trees And Sit Still

By Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move

Prayer

Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lif
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gif.
Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.
Darkness outside, Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Dead Stars

Ada Limón 

Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.

                 Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.

I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.

We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
       the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.

It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
       recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.

And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
       Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.

But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
       of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—

to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
       what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.

Look, we are not unspectacular things.
       We’ve come this far, survived this much. What

would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?

What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
No, to the rising tides.

Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?

What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain

for the safety of others, for earth,
                 if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,

if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,

rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?

Smart Cookie

Richard Schiffman after Wallace Stevens

The fortune that you seek is in another cookie,
was my fortune. So I’ll be equally frank – the wisdom
that you covet is in another poem. The life that you desire
is in a different universe. The cookie you are craving
is in another jar. The jar is buried somewhere in Tennessee.
Don’t even think of searching for it. If you found that jar,
everything would go kerflooey for a thousand miles around.
It is the jar of your fate in an alternate reality. Don’t even
think of living that life. Don’t even think of eating that cookie.
Be a smart cookie – eat what’s on your plate, not in some jar
in Tennessee That’s my wisdom for today, though I know
it’s not what you were looking for.

To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate

Fernando Pessoa

To be great, be whole: don’t exaggerate
Or leave out any part of you.
Be complete in each thing. Put all you are
Into the least of your acts.
So too in each lake, with its lofty life,
The whole moon shines.