• advent journal: borrowed words

    by  • December 5, 2015 • advent journal, gratitude, kindness, peace, poetry • 4 Comments

    The day has been long, not because of anything other than the passing of time, I suppose. I worked at the computer store and came home tired. I have searched for words for a couple of hours now and found them already written by others. I offer three poems that spoke to me tonight, all of them familiar (and a couple of them previously posted here).

    (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 held in your hand,
    what you counted and carefully saved,
    all this must go so you know
    how desolate the landscape can be
    between the regions of kindness.
    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 gaze at 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.

    (W S Merwin)

    with the night falling we are saying thank you
    we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
    we are running out of the glass rooms
    with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
    and say thank you
    we are standing by the water thanking it
    standing by the windows looking out
    in our directions

    back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
    after funerals we are saying thank you
    after the news of the dead
    whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

    over telephones we are saying thank you
    in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
    remembering wars and the police at the door
    and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
    in the banks we are saying thank you
    in the faces of the officials and the rich
    and of all who will never change
    we go on saying thank you thank you

    with the animals dying around us
    taking our feelings we are saying thank you
    with the forests falling faster than the minutes
    of our lives we are saying thank you
    with the words going out like cells of a brain
    with the cities growing over us
    we are saying thank you faster and faster
    with nobody listening we are saying thank you
    thank you we are saying and waving
    dark though it is

    Remembering That It Happened Once . . .
    (Wendell Berry)

    Remembering that it happened once,
    We cannot turn away the thought,
    As we go out, cold, to our barns
    Toward the long night’s end, that we
    Ourselves are living in the world
    It happened in when it first happened,
    That we ourselves, opening a stall
    (A latch thrown open countless times
    Before), might find them breathing there,
    Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
    The mother kneeling over Him,
    The husband standing in belief
    He scarcely can believe, in light
    That lights them from no source we see,
    An April morning’s light, the air
    Around them joyful as a choir.
    We stand with one hand on the door,
    Looking into another world
    That is this world, the pale daylight
    Coming just as before, our chores
    To do, the cattle all awake,
    Our own frozen breath hanging
    In front of us; and we are here
    As we have never been before,
    Sighted as not before, our place
    Holy, although we knew it not.



    Blogging since December 2005


    4 Responses to advent journal: borrowed words

    1. Joy N
      December 6, 2015 at 12:55 am

      Beautiful words. Thank you for passing them along.

    2. Maggie
      December 6, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Well chosen. Kindness…in strangers it seems more apparent after an awful tragedy—a loss of our sense of good intentions of those around us. Trying to show that it is still there. It is, it is.

    3. Leah King
      December 6, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Kindness. A small, significant, available gift to give. And receive.

    4. Suzanne Cate
      December 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

      This Advent seems particularly real to me…thicker, darker, heavier. I need these words of kindness, of gratitude, of remembering to be light in this oppressive time. You found the right words, Milton. Thank you..

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