Beautiful and Terrible Things Will Happen

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Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
~Frederich Buechner

 

(Two local teens died in separate roll over car accidents yesterday)

Most days I depend on beauty
happening in the most unexpected places
and go looking for it.
But when the terrible crushes, bleeds and fractures us,
beauty hides its face,
what I fear most
is that I’ll not ever see beauty happen again.

We are told, again and again and again
every single day, if only we can hear:
here I am with you in this broken world-
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

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Radiance Once So Bright

Remembering my father, Henry Polis, today on the 20th anniversary of his death from cancer:
photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Nate Gibson

 

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What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
               Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
                      We will grieve not, rather find
                      Strength in what remains behind;
                      In the primal sympathy
                      Which having been must ever be;
                      In the soothing thoughts that spring
                      Out of human suffering;

The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
                              Is lovely yet;
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
~William Wordsworth from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”
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Her Pivoting Ear

 

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same pair, two months ago

Near dusk, near a path, near a brook,
we stopped, I in disquiet and dismay
for the suffering of someone I loved,
the doe in her always incipient alarm.

All that moved was her pivoting ear
the reddening sun was shining through
transformed to a color I’d only seen
in a photo of a new child in a womb.

Nothing else stirred, not a leaf,
not the air, but she startled and bolted
away from me into the crackling brush.

The part of my pain which sometimes
releases me from it fled with her, the rest,
in the rake of the late light, stayed.
~C. K. Williams  “The Doe”

 

Oh little one
to have been born
in June over three decades ago
so wanted
so anticipated
but lost too soon
gone as swiftly
as a doe disappearing in a thicket,
a memory that makes me question
if you were real,
but you were
and you are
and someday
I’ll know you when I see you.

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Each Other’s Harvest

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That time
we all heard it,
cool and clear,
cutting across the hot grit of the day.
The major Voice.

Warning, in music-words
devout and large,
that we are each other’s
harvest:
we are each other’s
business:
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.
~Gwendolyn Brooks  from “Paul Robeson”

 

We all can hear it now~
the Voices of the Forgiven
forgiving the unforgivable.
They are louder than any gunshot;
penetrate deeper than any bullet.

They are harvesting hearts
with their faith, their obedience,
their tears, their words.

This is how the gospel resounds
through the crushed and broken-hearted.
This is how Christ forgave His enemies
in the midst of His suffering at their hands.
This is His amazing grace in action
with families reaching out in love
to the one who has taken so much from them.

 

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The Colors of Truth

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…I forced to mind my vision of a sky   
close and enclosed, unlike the space in which these clouds move—
a sky of gray mist it appeared—
and how looking intently at it we saw
its gray was not gray but a milky white
in which radiant traces of opal greens,
fiery blues, gleamed, faded, gleamed again,
and how only then, seeing the color in the gray,   
a field sprang into sight, extending
between where we stood and the horizon,
a field of freshest deep spiring grass   
starred with dandelions,
green and gold
gold and green alternating in closewoven   
chords, madrigal field.
Is death’s chill that visited our bed   
other than what it seemed, is it   
a gray to be watched keenly?
Wiping my glasses and leaning westward,   
clearing my mind of the day’s mist and leaning   
into myself to see
the colors of truth
I watch the clouds as I see them   
in pomp advancing, pursuing   
the fallen sun.
 ~Denise Levertov from “Clouds”


Tears fell from heaven last night
after a long dry spell;
not nearly enough tears have watered this parched ground
and surely more will come.
No matter what our color,
we are closewoven in our love for unity
and our hatred for hatred.
No matter how broken, how shattered,
we bind each other together
to be a tapestry
woven in colors of truth.

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What Does Love Look Like?

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What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
~St. Augustine

So many sighs and sorrows and tears today
for the martyring of Your people in South Carolina
for the color of their skin,
for their faith in You.

When will the hatred end?
When will we all be one people,
united in Your arms?

Only when our love looks like Your Love,
Love that sacrifices Himself for the good of others,
rather than sacrificing others for no good at all.

Lord, come quickly.

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And I Weary Wept…

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The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellowed leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

The wind left.  And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
~Antonio Machado translated by Robert Bly

This garden blooming with potential,
entrusted to me, now 26 years:
the health and care of 15,000 students,
most thriving and flourishing,
some withering, their petals falling,
a few lost altogether.
As winds of time sweep away
another cohort from my care,
to be blown to places unknown,
I weary weep for losses,
wondering if I’ve failed to water enough
or is it only I with thirst unceasing,
my roots drying out, hidden away deep beneath me?

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…one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
~Billy Collins from “Forgetfulness”

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