Fridays are for poems...

There is an old Christian hymn, "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind," (sic) that continues to be one of my favorites - mostly as an invitation to prayer. The text was penned by John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker from my new home state of Massachusetts, as a part of a much longer poem, "The Brewing of Soma" in 1872. In the original poem, Whittier - an abolitionist and prolific New England writer - compares the "frenzied ecstasies of a sect of Hindu priests to the noisy Christian tent revivals he found so offensive" - and offers a more mystical and contemplative alternative.
(New Century Hymnal, United Church of Christ: Cleveland, Ohio)

For years I have been using two verses at the start of my Sabbath prayers:

Dear God, embracing humankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

There is often not much in contemporary living that even hints of "our ordered lives," is there? We get into a groove sometimes, maybe even have a schedule, but an ordered life that is grounded? I was visiting with a couple from church at their home last night, and as an incredible thunder storm struck, we spoke of how disorienting it is when the doctor calls and says, "Yes, it is cancer... you'd better come in." Nothing exposes our turbulence like that simple phone call. Or the news of the unexpected death of a friend or a public figure: we are awaked, to be sure, but not to our grounding in God's presence. More often than not it is to the rut or haze we've been living through only half aware.

One of the poets I have been reading on Fridays in my attempt to reclaim a taste of order, Marie Howe, puts it like this in her poem, "Prayer."

Everyday I want to speak with you. And everyday something more important
calls for my attention - the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.

Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
(Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, Norton: New York, 2008)

Pretty insightful and spot on to me: what's more, she evokes that longing for her ordinary life to be a part of her prayer. So I am playing - not striving or working, you understand, but playing -with ways for Friday to be for me a time of poetry - a Sabbath feast of sorts - so that I don't forget what "thy still dews of quietness" taste or feel like. Here's how my boys the Cinematics put it on "Evolution."

(CREDITS: Eduard Steichen, from his Tonalist period, Clark Institute of Art, Williamstown, MA,; Van Gogh, vangogh4,;


Di said…
The graphics on this video are as mesmerizing as the music.
Maggie May said…
i love marie howe...
RJ said…
thanks for your replies... great to hear from you both

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