Two poems that I should read every day, like prayers.
I met Wendell Berry once and was stunned by the sheer magnitude of his self. He read his poems like he was tilling this fields, with rough hands, a deep voice, and a plaid shirt and jeans. He hadn't shaved that morning; he read his poetry like he was working, like they were as much of a part of him as was his daily chores around the farm, like he had just come down from his bedroom and was sipping his coffee, looking out at the day through his kitchen window. He helped me realize that poetry should be a simple extension of your self, of what you do and what you are and how you breathe.
The Peace of Wild Things
BY 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.
I first heard this poem on NPR's A Prairie Home Companion on my little wind up radio, sitting in my cook cabin at Kidney Pond in Baxter State Park. I had just finished eating some home made pizza and was sipping a cold beer, staring out at Katahdin. Bly came on and read from his most recent book, Turkish Pears in August, with a violin accompaniment. "Wanting Sumptuous Heavens" has stuck with me ever since. I had been feeling pretty lonesome up there in Maine, wondering what was next, what I was doing, where everyone went. Then this poem came to me and I sat there, transfixed by his voice and the violin, by the pond reaching out to Katahdin, by the loons and the canoes, and was content. At times when I feel overwhelmed by life, when I feel like I'm being pulled into places I don't want to be in, I try to remember to recite this poem, to go back to that moment and to take a few deep breaths. Good prayers, these poems be.
Here is the link to the poems he read that day along with the audio file - http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2008/03/01/scripts/bly.shtml
Wanting Sumptuous Heavens
BY ROBERT BLY
No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.
Sketches & scatterings. Rooted in Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River.