A Prayer for Every Day Julia Fehrenbacher

Let me breathe only grace today, only
that which slows, steadies,
softens, sparks

only that which permits
and pardons and points
to the blossoms inside the broken,
the poetry inside the pain, the nourishing
newness inside the now
Let me breathe only grace
today, only that which invites
me to speak my very own
language for as long as I have breath,
only that which hums:

You can.
You will.

Let me breathe only grace today, only that which notices the tired
and says, lie back, Love—rest
for as long as you need to. It’s not
about how much you do
but how full you are.

And, my God, how beautiful you are when you are full.

A Prayer for Every Day

Serendipitously I came upon this gem while looking for another site – the wonders of internet rabbit holes! I admire Fehrenbacher’s work and previously posted Hold Out Your Hand back in December, 2018.

Here she offers us a prayer for grace which slows, steadies, / softens, sparks. A grace which permits / and pardons and points / to the blossoms inside the broken. Such deliciously inviting alliteration, a musical incantation. A grace which invites me to speak my very own / language, which says to You can. / You will. A language of confidence, of strength, of your own.

And then the permission, to breathe grace which notices the tired / and says, lie back. How might you breathe with relief to be given that invitation, to rest, to do nothing in a world that demands we be productive. She tells us what we all need to hear, that It’s not / about how much you do / but how full you are. What if you were to stop and consider your own rich fullness?

Is it not enough to be full of your own being, to listen and receive, not just to do and do more. Because as she emphatically reminds us, how beautiful you are when you are full. May you rest in your fullness today.

Insha’Allah by Danusha Laméris

I don’t know when it slipped into my speech
that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”
Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.
The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.

So many plans I’ve laid have unraveled
easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.

Every language must have a word for this. A word
our grandmothers uttered under their breath
as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon,
hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes,
dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.

Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah
the rice will be enough to last through winter.

How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way a mother would, carefully,
from one day to the next.

Insha’Allah

Though ‘God’s will’ is not in my vocabulary, I have always like the sound of insha’Allah, the soft music of it as well as the meaning I make that there is something beyond me that allows babies and rain and all those things not in my control. Already, I am thinking to myself Insha’Allah I will see you next summer as I wonder about the possibility of going east to my brother’s family and to walk my favourite beach. As Lamérus says, so many plans unraveled, easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers, never more so than in these past many months.

Every language must have a word for this, she tells us. This feels true to me, especially when she invokes the grandmothers hanging the whites on a line in the sun or peeling potatoes as grandmothers have done for millennium. The steady prayers for the safety of sons, for war to end, for there to be enough food for the winter, waiting without knowing.

How lightly we learn to hold hope, with a cautious care that it may turn and bite us, disappoint us. And yet we do hold it, carry it the way a mother would, and we do it from one day to the next. May you be reminded to carry your own hopes lightly, carefully, trusting in possibilities even without certainty.

(My apologies for being so late in the day. I wish I could have found a poem about losing track of the days; I thought today is Tuesday but apparently not.)

Dandelion by Ted Kooser

The first of a year’s abundance of dandelions

is this single kernel of bright yellow

dropped on our path by the sun, sensing

that we might need some marker to help us

find our way through life, to find a path

over the snow-flattened grass that was

blade by blade unbending into green,

on a morning early in April, this happening

just at the moment I thought we were lost

and I’d stopped to look around, hoping

to see something I recognized. And there

it was, a commonplace dandelion, right

at my feet, the first to bloom, especially

yellow, as if pleased to have been the one,

chosen from all the others, to show us the way.

Dandelion

I got a new book of poetry this week! How to Love the World, edited by James Crews, a collection of poetry about gratitude and hope and love and beauty in the world. I’m excited to have a new source of poems to share with you, to shine a light on the good that exists in small but important ways.

One of the first to catch my eye is this one by Ted Kooser, a wonderful poet and the curator of the online American Life in Poetry for many years. I have always appreciated his taste in concise poems that speak volumes and this is one of his own that meets that criteria.

I haven’t yet seen many dandelions though before long they will be everywhere, that first one a single kernel of bright yellow / dropped on our path by the sun. The poet considers that we might need some marker to help us / find our way through life, after the long winter to find our way over grass blade by blade unbending into green.

Thinking we were lost and looking around, there it is, a commonplace dandelion, the first yellow bloom, as if pleased to have been the one, / chosen from all the others, to show us the way. And there it is, that common flower/weed pointing us to the renewal of life in April, reminding us that spring always arrives and that we will find our way. And yes, I know it is snowing this morning but still… it is spring!

Packing for the Future: Instructions by Lorna Crozier


Take the thickest socks.
Wherever you’re going
you’ll have to walk.

There may be water.
There may be stones.
There may be high places
you cannot go without
the hope socks bring you,
the way they hold you
to the earth.

At least one pair must be new,
must be blue as a wish
hand-knit by your mother
in her sleep.

*

Take a leather satchel,
a velvet bag an old tin box —
a salamander painted on the lid.

That is to carry that small thing
you cannot leave. Perhaps the key
you’ve kept though it doesn’t fit
any lock you know,
the photograph that keeps you sane,
a ball of string to lead you out
though you can’t walk back
into that light.

In your bag leave room for sadness,
leave room for another language.

There may be doors nailed shut.
There may be painted windows.
There may be signs that warn you
to be gone. Take the dream
you’ve been having since
you were a child, the one
with open fields and the wind
sounding.

*

Mistrust no one who offers you
water from a well, a songbird’s feather,
something that’s been mended twice.
Always travel lighter
than the heart.

Packing for the Future: Instructions

Listening to Lorna Crozier, whom I greatly admire, on CBC Sunday morning, I was reminded of this poem of hers which I’ve loved since I first read it. Haven’t you wished, at least once in your life, that someone would give you instructions for your unknown future? Some directions to help you navigate this life you find yourself in?

She has us begin with thick socks, the hope socks bring you, / the way they hold you / to the earth, ground you wherever you are. Bring a pair blue as a wish /hand-knit by your mother / in her sleep, an enchanting possibility. Even if your mother never knit, you could wish for that because you know that Wherever you’re going / you’ll have to walk.

You will need a satchel, a bag, an old tin box – / a salamander painted on the lid, something to hold that small thing you cannot leave – a key, a photograph, a ball of string to lead you out / though you can’t walk back / into that light. For myself it was a purple Crown Royal drawstring bag in which I kept my inexplicable treasures. And though I neglected the ball of string, I did leave room for sadness because that is the other language we must learn in order to move through this world. Perhaps most important is to take the dream / you’ve been having since / you were a child, that one where you were connected to the real world and its aliveness in a way that we seem to lose as we grow older.

Finally, the instruction to always trust offerings of water from a well (that icy-clear taste), a songbird’s feather (a Jay’s impossible blue), something that’s been mended twice (my first pair of leather gloves). That last line: always travel lighter / than the heart, catches my breath each time, a gentle reminder not to let heart-heaviness weigh me down too long. I return to these instructions from time to time, when I feel I’m losing my way, pull on those sky blue socks and start walking.





Questions to Ask When Waking by Bernadette Miller

What would you do if you really knew
that life was wanting to sing through you?

What would you say if your words could convey
prayers that the world was waiting to pray?

What would you be if your being could free
some piece of the world’s un-whispered beauty?

What would you stop to bless and caress
if you believed that blessing could address
our painful illusions of brokenness?

What would you harvest from heartache and pain
if you understood loss as a way to regain
the never-forsaken terrain of belonging?

What would you love if your love could ignite
a sea full of stars on the darkest night?

Questions to Ask When Waking

Well, you probably know by now how much I love poems that ask important questions that I can’t really answer but which awaken my whole being. And of course the best time to hear such questions is in those early moments of waking before we are stolidly in our everyday routines, that liminal space where we are neither here nor there.

Each question begins with What would you do… or say or be or stop or harvest or love. Honestly, each one of these exquisitely crafted questions is enough to fill me up with wonder and carry me through my day. I especially love some piece of the world’s un-whispered beauty. There is so much beauty that is self-evident, reliable, traditional, but what of the unspoken beauties that are more hidden?

Can you believe that blessing could address / our painful illusions of brokenness? If we stopped to bless with our attention what we believe to be broken, would we find that it was whole? And then loss, that universal heartache, if we could understand it as a doorway into the never-forsaken terrain of belonging, understanding that we are not abandoned in our grief.

What would you love if it could ignite / a sea full of stars on the darkest night, if loving this world would bring more light (for how could it not), if your words could convey prayers? Is there a question here for you to wrestle with, to awaken you to some new understanding so that you know that life was wanting to sing through you?

About Standing (in Kinship) by Kimberly Blaeser

We all have the same little bones in our foot
twenty-six with funny names like navicular.
Together they build something strong—
our foot arch a pyramid holding us up.
The bones don’t get casts when they break.
We tape them—one phalange to its neighbor for support.
(Other things like sorrow work that way, too—
find healing in the leaning, the closeness.)
Our feet have one quarter of all the bones in our body.
Maybe we should give more honor to feet
and to all those tiny but blessed cogs in the world—
communities, the forgotten architecture of friendship.

About Standing (in Kinship)

I’ve always liked the concept of kinship, that state of relatedness with others, our affinity with other people, animals, earth beings. There is a connection, a sense of empathy which feels important to me and the rare kindred spirits in my life with whom I share this closeness are precious to me.

So I was pleasantly surprised by how this poet introduces us to the idea that we all share twenty-six little foot bones with funny names like navicular. How together they build something strong, how they hold us up, allow us to walk through our lives. How when one of those bones breaks, they get taped to the ones beside it for support. And then she reveals her lovely analogy: how things like sorrow work that way too, find healing in the leaning, the closeness. Oh yes, it is the leaning toward one another, the connection that can ease grief, even while we feel the pain of the loss, the broken place.

She suggests we might honour our feet, those 26 small bones that are so necessary to being upright and mobile, and also give honour to all those tiny but blessed cogs in the world – those interconnections of community, the forgotten architecture of friendship (such a lovely phrase). Consider if you will, the architecture of your own connections with people, your kinships, how we could not stand for long without them.

Perhaps as I walk today, I will feel those bones, feel the closeness with my kin, with all of you.

Kindness by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Consider the tulip,
how it rises every spring
out of the same soil,
which is, of course,
not at all the same soil,
but new. How long ago
someone’s hands planted a bulb
and gave to this place
a living scrap of beauty.

Consider the six red petals,
the yellow at the center,
the soft green rubber of the stem,
how it bows to the world. How,
the longer we sit beside it,
the more we bow to it.

It is something like kindness,
is it not? The way someone plants
in you a bit of beauty—a kind word,
perhaps, or a touch, the gift
of their time or their smile.
And years later, in the soil that is you,
it emerges again, pushing aside
the dead leaves, insisting on beauty,
a celebration of the one who planted it,
the one who perceives it, and
the fertile place where it has grown.

Kindness

It is still too early for tulips in the garden though I happily bring home bright bunches of cut stems from the grocery store (flowers being as important as food, especially in March). The poet asks us to consider how tulips rise from the soil where they were planted, how someone’s hands planted a bulb which became the gift of a living scrap of beauty; the miracle of seed to flower.

Whatever colour you may choose (mine are yellow at the moment, a bouquet of sunshine), we watch as their green stems gently bow, a graceful still life. She suggests that the more we contemplate these early blooms, the more we bow to it. You really can lose yourself in the close-up intensity of colour and intricacy of the flower’s whorls, pausing for a moment to pay attention, to pay homage.

The connection she makes is enchanting: It is something like kindness, / is it not? The way a kind word or touch or smile from someone plants / in you a bit of beauty. How the flower of that kindness emerges in you, insisting on beauty. You are the fertile soil where that beauty has been planted which recognizes the giver of the gift as well as you, the receiver. This is indeed a celebration, simple kindnesses we all exchange with one other. Let us insist on beauty.

when we get through this Maya Stein

When we get through this, I want us to set a table with all of the loaves of bread
we’d practiced in our quiet houses. I want us clutching fistfuls of the cilantro we coaxed
from our city windowsills, and I want the nascent musicians, the ones who learned
old songs on their new ukuleles, or warbled choruses on isolated balconies, to take
the stage together. I want all the knitted, crocheted, stitched, and mended things pooled
at our feet, warming our ankles. I want us to greet each other in unfamiliar languages,
to tell the stories of those who have been lost. I want us to look, in unison,
toward the world millions of miles and light-years away, to take in what is before us,
and beyond us. I want us to wake to the magnitude of our fortune against the smallness
of our time. And then I want us to remember this, and to keep remembering.

when we get through this

Now that we have passed that magical first year of this great unknown global experiment, now that spring is edging its way forward so that new possibilities seem within reach, there is a sense that things may shift. What this poet is calling when we get through this, is much more palatable to me than the frequent refrain of when things get back to normal, normal meaning any number of things we can’t all agree on.

I think at least some of us can agree that there is no going back. What Stein is offering us instead is the idea that all the things we did to support ourselves and others, the loaves of bread we’d practiced in our quiet houses, the herbs we grew on our windowsills, the songs we learned to play or sing, the handwork created – she wants all this to be brought together to share, to take the stage together.

She wants us to tell the stories of those who have been lost, not to forget them, to see what is right here before us in this very moment. She wants us to wake to the magnitude of our fortune against the smallness of our time – I especially like that line – to realize how many are the gifts, especially in times of uncertainty. Finally, she wants us to remember all of what has gone on and to keep remembering. It is through remembering what has been lost and what we have gained that we can go forward with new possibilities. This poem asks us to keep remembering.

What the Heart Cannot Forget by Joyce Sutphen

Everything remembers something. The rock, its fiery bed,
cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub
of watery fingers along its edge.

The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,
remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,
gathering itself together for the fall.

The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under
its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down
the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

The tree remembers the story of each ring, the years
of drought, the floods, the way things came
walking slowly towards it long ago.

And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
and the arms remember lifting up the child.

The heart remembers everything it loved and gave away,
everything it lost and found again, and everyone
it loved, the heart cannot forget.

What the Heart Cannot Forget

Everything remembers something the poet begins, grounding us in this world. There is rock, here since time out of mind, forming and reforming, the rub / of watery fingers along its edge, as it is shaped. There is cloud, with its imaginary shapes of elephant, camel, giraffe, covering the sun, gathering together to release its clouds of rain. There is turtle, one of the oldest creatures, who remembers legs like wings, a prehistoric time before it had to crawl to the ocean’s edge while escaping the beaks of savage birds.

Each being, creature, entity, remembers its origins. There is tree with the story of each ring, with times of not enough water and too much, the way things came / walking slowly towards it long ago, each tree, each ring with its own story. And there is the body with its lifetime of memories, the scars on skin, the ache in bones, the feet which have danced, the arms remember lifting up the child. Most of all, there is the heart which remembers everything it loved and gave away.

Right there, can you pause and remember your own loves, what you’ve lost and found again, and everyone your heart has held. Because finally, she assures us, the heart cannot forget. Our hearts remember it all – rock and cloud and turtle and tree and our bodies which keep us in this world. Everything and everyone remembers something. Though the mind may forget, the heart remembers it all and we are all part of this world.

Silver (for Suzy Moore) by Jeannette Encinias

“How many years of beauty do I have left?
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.
When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.
When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and your children come home
to find their own history
in your face.
When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.
When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.
Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?
This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far.
I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.

Silver

This is a poem I started passing on to a few of my beautiful silver-haired friends this week after being introduced to it by my friend Maureen who was reading it to her elderly mother. This morning I decided it’s too good to not to share with all of you – silver or not, woman or not, young or old – a gift of recognition of the beauty of a well lived life.

How many years of beauty do I have left? How’s that for an opening question we might all be asking ourselves, at any age, though not in the traditional sense of the word. By the time you reach 80 (are you there yet? do you know someone who is?), she tells us your beauty rises in ways / your cells cannot even imagine now. Can you imagine? And how your wild bones grow luminous and / ripe, having carried the weight / of a passionate life. Oh my! Now your hair aflame with winter, your learning and leaving and loving show in the tender lines around your eyes and your children find their own history / in your face. This is beauty, the beauty of an aging face, a face with wisdom written on it.

This is the time of life when you understand what it feels like to fail / ferociously – love the fierceness of that failure, and also the resilience to rise and rise and rise again. Even in inevitable loneliness to still have a song in your heart, to feel that heart beating with the strength of an owl’s wings, a Queen remembering her beauty. This is no surface beauty superficially admired but the goddess within beneath the sweater and the skin.

May this poem remind you of your own loveliness, how far you have come and know that you are seen. I see you. / Your beauty is breathtaking.