my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I have often felt so blessed and fortunate to live this life I've been given. When I look around and see the suffering and trauma in the world I sometimes feel guilty. This poem addresses that. And it reminds me to continue to find beauty and gratitude in the ordinary, which makes all the suffering bearable.


A Brief for the Defense
Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.


From REFUSING HEAVEN (Knopf, 2005) 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Casting Out the Seven Devils.

Before you click on the link below, in which Marie Howe speaks her poem, Magdalene, read it through  to yourself. Although I felt confused on my initial reading, part of me understood and I felt connected. Hearing her read the poem is powerful proof that poetry needs to be read out loud. I will make a comment below the post explaining how the poem affected me. 

Magdalene – The Seven Devils



Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out" —Luke 8:2.
The first was that I was very busy.
The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you couldnot happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.
The fourth — envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too — its face. And the ant — its bifurcated body.
Ok the first was that I was so busy.
The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,
that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early
and, I shouldn't have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.
The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.
The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living
The sixth — if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I
touched the left arm a little harder than I'd first touched the right then I
had
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.
The seventh — I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive and I couldn't stand it,
I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word — cheesecloth —
to breath through that would trap it — whatever was inside everyone else that
entered me when I breathed in
No. That was the first one.
The second was that I was so busy. I had no time. How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?
The third was that I couldn't eat food if I really saw it — distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate.
Ok. The first was that I could never get to the end of the list.
The second was that the laundry was never finally done.
The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.
And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was
love?
The fourth was I didn't belong to anyone. I wouldn't allow myself to belong
to anyone.
The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn't know.
The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.
The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…The sound she made — the gurgling sound — so loud we had to speak louder to hear each other over it.
And that I couldn't stop hearing it—years later—
grocery shopping, crossing the street —
No, not the sound — it was her body's hunger
finally evident.
—what our mother had hidden all her life.
For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.
The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.
And that I didn't think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —
Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. 



You can hear Krista Tippet interview this poet on this podcast site. I found it fascinating.

http://www.onbeing.org/program/the-poetry-of-ordinary-time-with-marie-howe/5301