Poetry of Change
In Praise of the Earth
FROM A POEM BY JOHN O’DONOHUE
(to be found in the Barefoot Guide: Whole Landscapes, Whole Communities)
Let us thank the Earth
That offers ground for home
And holds our feet firm
To walk in space open
To infinite galaxies.
Let us salute the silence
And certainty of mountains:
Their sublime stillness,
Their dream-filled hearts.
The wonder of a garden
Trusting the first warmth of spring
Until its black infinity of cells
Becomes charged with dream;
Then the silent, slow nurture
Of the seed’s self, coaxing it
To trust the act of death.
The humility of the Earth
That transfigures all
That has fallen
Of outlived growth.
The kindness of the Earth,
Opening to receive
Our worn forms
Into the final stillness.
Let us ask forgiveness of the Earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.
Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And shadowed sureness of the moon.
That we may awaken,
To live to the full
The dream of the Earth
Who chose us to emerge
And incarnate its hidden night
In mind, spirit, and light.
The Opening of Eyes
(to be found in the BFG1)
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and fi nding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
By David Whyte
from Songs for Coming Home
©1984 Many Rivers Press
The Man Watching
By Rainer Maria Rilke
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
(Reprinted here by the Community Development Resource Association - www.cdra.org.za)
A sleep of prisoners
By Christopher Fry
The human heart can go the lengths of God.
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity's sake!
by Tracey Martin
I spent a winter with them,
watching how they talked,
the way the director would turn
when asked a question;
the subtle order of tea and coffee.
They asked: ‘When will we start changing?’
They said: ‘Nice work if you can get it.
What is it you actually do?’
Download the rest of the poem here
We are greater than our despair.
The negative aspects of humanity
Are not the most real and authentic;
The most authentic thing about us
Is our capacity to create, to overcome,
To endure, to transform, to love,
And to be greater than our suffering.
We are best defi ned by the mystery
That we are still here, and can still rise
Upwards, still create better civilisations,
That we can face our raw realities,
And that we will survive
The greater despair
That the greater future might bring.
FROM “MENTAL FIGHT” BY BEN OKRI, 1999
From the BFG4 Writeshop:
3 Poems by Simric Yarrow
Poetry is a part of every Barefoot Guide. Simric is our resident barefoot poet, writing poems as he listens and observes and also stimulating us to write poems.
In ways we cannot know
This heart-open project to bare our soles is first a spiral-spider movement inwards
To that mysterious ambiguous saucy source of constant change
When we tap that treacley tree-core
We can challenge some of what has gone before
Provided that we remember to use singing tones too
For we wish to spread the wonderfully dangerous belief
That there is a peachy potency for change in every soul
We wish to support this sap’s flow into our connecting communities
Just as it flows in birdsong and bubbling laughter
And leafing through the many forms this tree may shape
The many performances this being we are birthing may inspire
We will cook a patchwork platter
We will warm up a new rhythm, a new dance in syllable and sound and colour
Branching from our theory-trunk into a forest feast of story
Our roots and twigs will tingle with the knowledge that the waves of breakdown desperation
Hold future fulfilment in their foamy crashing
And if we intuitively trust the ripple-vibrations of our vibrant sharing
Our works will wash their way into the world
In ways we cannot know
The grandmother in our hearts
Viva! The wisdom of the grandmothers
who notice the perfumes we try to hide and sometimes save our lives
who share the power of simplicity
showing compassion for our consumer confusion
who live inside all our hearts
helping us bring each other in from the cold hard edges
listening for magic moments
defending our rights to live free lives
fighting only with power-words and power-stories that recreate dignified roles
turning scavengers into instant livestock entrepreneurs
and when we meet with open ears
we’re upgrading democracy for free
for those whose feet will walk where their wild hearts and discerning minds direct
showering fountains of strength that catalyse cataracts of loving courage
sometimes, the snowflakes of feelings freeze in folly
mother-in-law and daughters-in-law get stuck in circles of thirst
well-meaning northern woodchoppers cause clear-cutting in the south
but still, one voice can change what’s possible and thunder-clear the air
and that kitchen community, huddled round ancestral hearths
can open that long-locked door of fear
and meet the wider world with wide mirror-smiles
And so it begins
And so begins the delicate task of expression
Boldly allowing the pen to tell us the tale
Giving free room to our inside wobbles
Pouring forth titles and chapters researched with
Years of treading upon this earth
I wonder how to speak and share myself
Showing my flutter-heart but
In this yearning for revolutions of minds
Striving to include
Striving to be included
There is a dance of trust here, a dance of clarity
The information clay is shaped and moulded
Into delightful curls and conjunctions
Will it form strong soil for blooming thought-flowers
In those who meet these phrases?
Will more emerge another day
To other listening voices?
If I keep the words inside I know a part of me will choke
My part unplayed, my song unheard
For like the birds I have my task
And I must spit and mewl and puke these drafts
And breathe and pause and sleep and dream
And scratch and further form
Until they stand
Humming their harmonies for all to hear
Released from the tended gardens of my soul