Poems


Blessing

Jan Richardson

Even in the desert,
even in the wilderness,
sabbath comes.
May you keep it.
Light the candles,
say the prayers:

Welcome, sabbath.
Welcome, rest.
Enter in
and be our guest.


When I am among the Trees

Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”


A Chorister’s Lament

Early each morning, as sun still slumbers,
A barefoot monk sits solemnly on earthen floor,
legs entwined beneath saffron and maroon,
and chants his prayers:
May I be a guard for those who need protection
a guide for those on the path
a boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.
O Divine One, you heard and granted the petitions of this ancient sage.
 In your providence, he did become a boat, a raft, a bridge.

Centuries later, a brown-robed monk
begged that he might be an instrument of your peace.
An instrument plays and sings,
shares melody and rhythm, delightful and sad,
bending discord into harmony…
Once again, you heard and granted this humble monk’s petitions,
and in your mercy, you made it so.

Emboldened by these saints,
how I long to be your instrument, O God,
to play for you on glad tambourines
and let your trumpet sound…
How I yearn to be a boat, a raft, a bridge
for weary wanderers seeking safe harbor.

But all day every day, voices warn me I’m a vector,
akin to tick and mosquito,
transmitting deadly disease,
paving the road to hell
despite good intentions.

Well, if I’m to be a vector, O Holy One,
make me an agent of your loving care,
an extravagant host,
infecting with laughter, not despair.
If I’m to be a vector, Creator God,
breathe into me life-giving Spirit,
fill my soul with faithful song, my lips with honest words,
that in your good time, my voice might join with others once again,
rehearsing the stanzas,
repeating the refrain,
becoming boat and bridge and instrument proclaiming your glory:
a conspiracy of praise!

~ Don C. Richter, Eastertide 2020 ~

Inspiration for this lament comes from “Prayer of Shantideva” (8th Century C.E.) and “Saint Francis Prayer” (13th Century C.E.) found below.  


Prayer of Shantideva (8th Century C.E.)

May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow And all are awakened.



Saint Francis Prayer (13th Century C.E.)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life


Dreams

Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


Kindness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth
what you counted on and carefully saved,
how desolate the landscape can be.
How you ride and ride
Thinking the bus will never stop,
The passengers eating maize and chicken
Will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone,
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye.


Beannacht / Blessing

By John O’Donohue

For Josie, my mother

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

From Echoes of Memory (Transworld Publishing, 2010)


This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

JOHN O’DONOHUE, Excerpt from his book, To Bless the Space Between Us
Photo: © Ann Cahill


Praying

By Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.


Blessed are you who bear the light

by Jan Richardson

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith,
in stubborn hope,
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

© Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons. janrichardson.com


A Blessing for Traveling in the Dark

By Jan Richardson

Go slow
if you can.
Slower.
More slowly still.
Friendly dark
or fearsome,
this is no place
to break your neck
by rushing,
by running,
by crashing into
what you cannot see.

Then again,
it is true:
different darks
have different tasks,
and if you
have arrived here unawares,
if you have come
in peril
or in pain,
this might be no place
you should dawdle.

I do not know
what these shadows
ask of you,
what they might hold
that means you good
or ill.
It is not for me
to reckon
whether you should linger
or you should leave.

But this is what
I can ask for you:

That in the darkness
there be a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be a welcome.
That in the night
you be encompassed
by the Love that knows
your name.

© Jan Richardson, janrichardson.com


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.

© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Listen to Wendell Berry read this poem, courtesy of the public radio program On Being:

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