Saturday, February 27, 2010

Come Lie with Me

It is not what we say that proves our intentions, but what we do. Words can certainly help to clarify, but they can also serve to confuse, and it is all too tempting to disguise odious action with a false word. That is not to say that words cannot build trust. What they lack in certainty, they make up for in efficacy. All too often, actions require excessive time and effort to interpret and, even then, sometimes wrongly. A forthright act, however, paired with an honest word, is an irreproachable thing. So speak your thoughts, and follow them with action, and those you love will never be disappointed.

Come Lie with Me

Come lie with me, and in the mead
we'll make our bed beneath
the silver-swelling clouds that speed
across the amber heath.
There shall we whisper, lip to ear
and subtle tongue to teeth,

a word or two, that you may hear
sufficient prophecy
for wistful dreaming, drawing near
with every guarantee.
The promise is not in the oath,
however, nor the plea

that presses for assurance. Both
are only words, at best,
and understanding is a growth
that thrives on act and rest,
alone. And if the words that pass
between us are not blessed

by more than murmurs in the grass,
they are no better than
the idle breezes that harass
our tangled hair and span
the little lengths, from bract to bloom,
of dandelion. Can

I prove the things that I presume?
I shall not ask your trust
to make its bed within a room
as empty as a gust
of wind. Adjudge my every deed
and, so, I will adjust,

then lie with me, and in the mead,
as truest lovers must.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ash Wednesday at Mount Angel Abbey

Have a holy Lent.

Ash Wednesday at Mount Angel Abbey

Alight, as lancing shadows line
the cedar-stippled field,
cross-cutting dells of foggy wine
decanted from a yield
of water sifted from the brine
and ocean waves. The mountain spine
has split the sky and steeled

the stony face of Benedict
as, from the tower, sounds
a brazen chorus, chanting strict
and antiquated rounds.
The brume may dull the derelict
before it spreads its interdict
across the lowland grounds,

but we are near the narthex wall,
and nearer, so, to God.
No mist can mute the solemn call,
nor check its ring abroad.
The carillon will conquer all
in claps and volleys from the tall
and eminent facade.

Yet, this is not an endless hymn;
the monks may only pull
as long as morning light is dim
and dew is on the wool.
So, clapper rests against the rim
and we proceed, subdued and grim,
until the nave is full.

The service is a whispered chant
the brethren barely pace,
and organ music drowns the cant.
The abbot's even face
regards us in the dawning slant
of tinted light. That God may grant
us forty days of grace

is on his lips. An ashen brand
is on each earth-bound head.
The host is elevated and
the sacred words are said.
This Lent, as soon begun as spanned,
no more, nor less, a holy hand
to lift us, ever longing, from the dead.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Portion

Is there any task more difficult than distinguishing our wants from our needs? We tell ourselves, day after day, that our wants are our needs. We want good health. We want trendy clothing. We want organic food, and pay raises, and houses with three bedrooms, two baths, and a two car garage. All that these things serve to do, however, is alleviate suffering. Somehow we imagine that we are entitled not to suffer; that nothing could be worse than suffering. How wrong we are. We need to suffer. We need to see that this world is not enough. Yet, the more we sink into our comfortable and self-satisfied lives, the harder that becomes. We all have the means to pull out of such a fruitless existence and, more importantly, to fill our lives with happiness. Not pleasure, but happiness. Pleasure comes from the things we take; happiness, from the things we are given. So, as we near St. Valentine's Day, try to put aside the false materialism of the holiday and remember those things that have been given to you: friends, family, lovers, the beauty of the world around you. These are the things that are given freely, but, in the end, are worth more than all the wealth of men.

My Portion

What portion is my own? The earth
allots a share to each at birth.
A breath of air, a place to lay
upon, and each extends the worth

we reckon by our poverty.
If all our riches were so free,
then labor would not look for pay,
nor recompense. Our currency

is other, though, and too profane.
It supplements a noble gain
with idle wealth. I will not grow
into my manhood, nor attain

a happiness beyond this old,
intrepid striving after gold,
until I learn, until I know,
the value of the things I hold

already. What I wish to take
is in my grasp. And now, to wake
from long and lazy sleep, to grope
for more than mortal hands can make,

is, in the end, my portion. Less
than this would be enough to bless
my weak endeavor with a hope
of life. I ask a small success,
and God will grant success.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

O ă d Ōnāi!

I worried that this one might be a bit too long, but it just kept growing, and I couldn't cut it down. Sorry. I also hope it's not too confusing. It's about the things left undone that we put off, and put off, and put off again, until, at last, it's too late to retrieve them. I don't believe I'm too late to resuccitate any of my particular failings, but I'm certainly guilty of negligence, as I'm sure everyone is, in one way or another.

O ă d Ōnāi!

O ă d Ōnāi! My knees are slack
and trembling. My heart,
it flutters under this attack,
a kite struck by the dart

and dropping from a height. If I
were blameless as a bird,
perhaps to plummet with a cry,
to perish, though unheard,

I would not, then, begrudge an end
so swift. But I, a thief,
must struggle simply to ascend
and look to find relief

from longing, vicious as a flame
that parts the cloth and flesh,
alike. I play it as a game,
but, soon, the staffs that thresh

the grain from off the splintered stalks
will reach me. To submit
a fruitless harvest, chaff and rocks,
cannot suffice to quit

the reapers from their rigid task
or turn their calloused feet
away. The only fruit they ask:
the yield of the wheat

that was implanted years ago;
that I cannot return.
And all the labor that I owe
will perish in the burn

and blaze, impartial consummate
of saint and sinner, both,
as, trembling, I must await
a final, fruitless growth

and hope that it can flourish, fair
in wealth. A thousand-fold
could never be enough. A prayer
to keep from growing old

betrays my lips. My knees are set
and holding, yet. To die,
and never to discharge my debt...
Forbear, O ă d Ōnāi!