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A Poem for Autumn: “Grace” by Wendell Berry

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

Unholy Sonnet 42 – Mark Jarman

Instead, you can walk backwards into life—
Undo your steps and gain ground as you yield,
As long as ground remains beneath your feet.
It’s like one way of wading into surf,
Putting the swell behind you as it breaks.
The other is to take life diving under
With eyes shut tight until it washes over.
Either way, if you don’t want to face
The world mounting towards you, wave on wave,
Or setting up its obstacles perversely,
You can make a virtue of reversal
Or submission. Then, perhaps, you’ll have
That certain feeling of being vaguely shepherded
Or that someone somewhere knows where you are headed.

Please Don’t – Tony Hoagland

Please Don’t – Tony Hoagland

From the poet’s new collection, Application for Release from the Dream. His take on the non-toiling flowers of the field (Mt 6).

Please Don’t

tell the flowers–they think
the sun loves them.
The grass is under the same
simple-minded impression

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

From The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Religion Comes – Czeslaw Milocz

A fragment from his “Treatise on Theology”:

Religion comes from our pity for humans

They are too weak to live without divine protection.

Too weak to listen to the screeching noise of the turning of infernal wheels.

Who among us would accept a universe in which there was not one voice

Of compassion, pity, understanding?

To be human is to be completely alien amid the galaxies.

Which is sufficient reason for erecting, together with others, the temples of an unimaginable mercy.

A Sleep Poem by Wendell Berry

From the 1990 selection of Sabbath poems.

The body in the invisible
Familiar room accepts the gift
Of sleep, and for a while is still;
Instead of will, it lives by drift

In the great night that gathers up
The earth and sky. Slackened, unbent,
Unwanting, without fear or hope,
The body rests beyond intent.

Sleep is the prayer the body prays,
Breathing in unthought faith the Breath
That through our worry-wearied days
Preserves our rest, and is our truth.

What Would You Write If You Weren’t Afraid? Mary Karr on the Art of Memoir

What Would You Write If You Weren’t Afraid? Mary Karr on the Art of Memoir

September is always a great month for books and music, and this one is no exception. Among the many releases to be excited about is Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. In celebration, I had planned to reference her 2009 interview with The Paris Review in a weekender, but then I (re-)read it, and Bam. Simply too many sections jumped out, both one-liners and extended exchanges with Amanda Fortini, the interviewer. They talk about writing, family, memory, addiction, God – what more could you ask for? Since she was working on the new book when their conversation took place (not…

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A Few Stanzas from W.H. Auden’s “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Relevant Irrelevance: Poetry and Grace in a Zeitgeist of ‘More’

Relevant Irrelevance: Poetry and Grace in a Zeitgeist of ‘More’

We have Connor Gwin to thank for the following reflection.

There is something happening in America. The pace of life has increased to an almost breakneck speed. New technology allows people to be working all the time – pardon me as I check my Apple Watch – while new social media networks allow people to connect in more ways to those around them.

Newspapers are filled with stories of death, dismemberment, suicide, and record profits for major corporations. Amazon is running modern-day sweat shops in the heartland of America, just so I can have that new book on my doorstep in two…

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Directive – Robert Frost

Directive – Robert Frost

Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart you’re getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there’s a story in a book about…

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Good Poems for Hard Times: A Love Letter to Garrison Keillor

Good Poems for Hard Times: A Love Letter to Garrison Keillor

In a preaching class in seminary we were all told to go around the room and tell everyone our name, where we were from, and who our favorite preacher was. While I knew it probably wasn’t the right answer, the truest answer for me was that my favorite preacher was, and still is, the magnificent Garrison Keillor.

To say that I loved Garrison Keillor with all my heart would be an understatement. I grew up on Public Radio in Mississippi. Which means that as a child I heard loads of classical music and Morning Edition. And while this was likely good…

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Don’t Tell Anyone – Tony Hoagland

Don’t Tell Anyone – Tony Hoagland

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if I should consider myself

personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down…

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