Here are the perfect
fans of the scallops,
quahogs, and weedy mussels
still holding their orange fruit –
and here are the whelks –
each the size of a fist,
but always cracked and broken –
clearly they have been travelling
under the sky-blue waves
for a long time.
All my life
I have been restless –
I have felt there is something
more wonderful than gloss –
than wholeness –
than staying at home.
I have not been sure what it is.
But every morning on the wide shore
I pass what is perfect and shining
to look for the whelks, whose edges
have rubbed so long against the world
they have snapped and crumbled –
they have almost vanished,
with the last relinquishing
of their unrepeatable energy,
back into everything else.
When I find one
I hold it in my hand,
I look out over that shanking fire,
I shut my eyes. Not often,
but now and again there’s a moment
when the heart cries aloud:
yes, I am willing to be
that wild darkness,
that long, blue body of light.

–  Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems, vol. 1



She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth –
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours, trans. A Barrows & J Macy


As I turn away from Refreshment Sunday, deeper into Lent, towards the Passion, I start to consider more deeply the nature of this journey, this wandering in the wilderness. It’s a time when I turn more and more to poetry as I struggle to learn who I am, who God is, and what this wilderness is.

Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid –
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance from the soil.

– Rilke, translated by Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy, from Love Poems to God

Creativity in extremis

I was thinking of revisiting T.S. Eliot today, but Kimberley’s post inspired me. So here’s a little more dreaming.

This is what I am: watching the spider
rebuild – “patiently”, they say,

but I recognize in her
impatience – my own-

the passion to make and make again
where such unmaking reigns

the refusal to be a victim
we have lived with violence so long

Am I to go on saying
for myself, for her

This is my body,
take and destroy it?

. . . . . . . . .

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

– Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language