For This Is Love

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photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

 

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts at night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
~Robert Frost

 

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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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To Be Wild and Perfect for a Moment

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…and there it is again — 
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open. 
Do you love this world? 
Do you cherish your humble and silky life? 
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden, 
and softly, 
and exclaiming of their dearness, 
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, 
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
~Mary Oliver from “Peonies”

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White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.
Outrageous flowers as big as human

heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.
The moist air intensifies their scent,

and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.
In the darkening June evening

I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.
~Jane Kenyon “Peonies at Dusk”

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Year after year, I bring peonies to the graves
of those from whom I came,
to lay one after another exuberant head
upon each headstone,
a moment of connection between us
before it shatters,
its petals perfectly
scattered to the wind.

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Wither Me to Within

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Wither me to within me:
Welt me to weal me common again:
Withdraw to wear me weary:
Over me to hover and lover again:

Before me to form and perform me:
Round me to rill me liquid incisions:
Behind me to hunt and haunt me:
Down me to drown indecision:

Bury me to seed me: bloom me
In loam me: grind me to meal me
Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth

Rive me to river me:
End me to unmend me:
Rend me to render me:
~Philip Metres “Prayer”

 

The truth is:
though we prefer to gaze on fresh beauty,
to ponder smooth youthful perfection
rather than the pocked and wrinkled
the used-up and weary,
our prayer desires His everlasting love
even when we fall in frailty.
We wither from the first day,
readying for fruit to burst forth
as we, torn and buried,
are sown to rise again.

 

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

 

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The Fresh Fields

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Now Spring returns with leaf and blade,
Some seek the garden, some the glade;
And all to Nature turn, but I
to the fresh fields of Poetry.

Sweet are the first green leaves, and sweet
The scents, and genial the first heat;
And backed by pine or cypress glooms
How rich the rhododendron blooms!

Yet rich or sweet as these appear,
They were as wonderful last year;
And all as then move without pause
Through the same course by the same laws.

The flowers I meet in song are new;
None shall forecast their shape or hue;
To none of your dull round belong
The seasons that unfold in song.

The trees that sung in verse I find
Are each its own, an unknown, kind;
But best in all, tree, season, flower,
Is, there’s no limit to their power.
~Archibald Young Campbell from “Spring and Poetry”

 

These intricate blooms,
beautiful as they are,
return unchanged year after year~
a proliferation of brilliant color.

They explode like fireworks
over fields and hills,
flash, flourish, fade
and are gone.

Yet words of the poet bud and swell in slow motion,
a blossoming blend that linger longingly,
ever changing, transforming
the landscape of heart and mind.

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An Impossible Blossom

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Whenever I allow my eye to peer through
an iris,
I need a flotation device
and depth finder
as I’m likely to get lost,
sweeping and swooning
through inner space
of tunnels, canyons and corners,
coming up for air and diving in again
to journey into exotic locales
draped in silken hues
~this fairy land on a stem~
so immersed in the possibilities
of such an impossible blossom.

(Thank you to Li-Young Lee for introducing me to “impossible blossom” in “From Blossoms” from Rose.
Copyright © 1986: Boa Editions, Ltd.)
There are days we live as if death
were nowhere in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

~Li-Young Lee

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Unfolding World

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It’s spring!
     The blushing, girlish
     World unfolds
Each flower, leaf
     And blade of sod—
     Small letters sent
     To her from God.
~John Updike from “A Child’s Calendar”

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