the litany of farewell


    Yesterday I had my final meeting with my spiritual director, Ken, who is also a dear friend and a lover of poetry. We shared poems as a part of our litany of farewell; I share some of them, now, with you.

    The Layers

    I have walked through many lives,

    some of them my own,

    and I am not who I was,

    though some principle of being

    abides, from which I struggle

    not to stray.

    When I look behind,

    as I am compelled to look

    before I can gather strength

    to proceed on my journey,

    I see the milestones dwindling

    toward the horizon

    and the slow fires trailing

    from the abandoned camp-sites,

    over which scavenger angels

    wheel on heavy wings.

    Oh, I have made myself a tribe

    out of my true affections,

    and my tribe is scattered!

    How shall the heart be reconciled

    to its feast of losses?

    In a rising wind

    the manic dust of my friends,

    those who fell along the way,

    bitterly stings my face.

    Yet I turn, I turn,

    exulting somewhat,

    with my will intact to go

    wherever I need to go,

    and every stone on the road

    precious to me.

    In my darkest night,

    when the moon was covered

    and I roamed through wreckage,

    a nimbus-clouded voice

    directed me:

    “Live in the layers,

    not on the litter.”

    Though I lack the art

    to decipher it,

    no doubt the next chapter

    in my book of transformations

    is already written.

    I am not done with my changes.

    Stanley Kunitz

    Fishing in the Keep of Silence

    There is a hush now while the hills rise up

    and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship

    of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully

    as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world.

    He knows the owls will guard the sweetness

    of the soul in their massive keep of silence,

    looking out with eyes open or closed over

    the length of Tomales Bay that the herons

    conform to, whitely broad in flight, white

    and slim in standing. God, who thinks about

    poetry all the time, breathes happily as He

    repeats to Himself: There are fish in the net,
    lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.

    Linda Gregg

    By a departing light,

    We saw acuter, quite,

    Than by a light that stays.

    There’s something in the flight,

    That clarifies the sight,

    And decks the rays.

    Emily Dickinson



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