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Poetry

A Friend, Akin to the Music of the Heart

 

The language of poetry can touch us in fabulous ways.
It can inspire us in difficult circumstances like a guide from beyond.
It can celebrate what is most familiar and deeply intimate.
It can render us helpless — simply — drenched in beauty;
or dance wildly with us like life prayers.
Poetry is indeed a friend, akin to the music of the heart.

We would love to hear from you if have some poems that you would like to share. Please feel free to send them on.

 


Poetry editor
e-mail
poetry[at]wellbeingfoundation.com

 

This is our second selection of poems. To read the earlier selection, click here

Click on a poem title to read the poem

 

WILD GEESE
Mary Oliver


FIVE A.M. IN THE PINEWOODS
Mary Oliver

‘ALL PASSES…'
Antonio Machado

ACCEPT ME
Rabindranath Tagore

LIKE ROOTS
St Francis of Assisi

‘AH, NOT TO BE CUT OFF…'
Rilke


‘YOUR DEEPEST PRESENCE…'
Rumi

WHY I WAKE EARLY
Mary Oliver

THE MOURNES

Helen Waddell

INNOCENCE

Patrick Kavanagh

'I THANK YOU GOD FOR MOST THIS AMAZING…'

ee cummings

‘TO SEE THE WORLD…'

William Blake

'WHEN YOU ARE WITH…'

Rumi

‘YOU ASK ME WHY…'

Li Po

 

POEM
Thomas McGrath

 

‘AMIDST THE GRASSLAND…'
Matsuo Basho

 

‘A ROAD MIGHT END…'
Rumi

 

‘FOR THE RAINDROP…'
Ghalib

 

‘THAT IS PERFECT…'
The Upanishads

 

THE SUN NEVER SAYS
Hafiz

 

BERSERK
Hafiz

 

WOW
Hafiz

 

 

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
you do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver
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Five A.M. In The Pinewoods

I'd seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

this is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
Finally
one of them — I swear it! —

would have come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking;
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.

Mary Oliver
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All Passes

All passes and all remains;
but our lot is to pass,
to pass making roads,
making roads in the sea.

Antonio Machado
(excerpt, Proverbs and Song-Verse)
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Accept Me

Accept me, dear God, accept me for this while.

Let those orphaned days that passed without
You be forgotten.

Only spread this little moment wide across
Your lap, holding it under Your light.

I have wandered in pursuit of voices that drew
me, yet led me nowhere.

Now let me sit in peace and listen to Your
words in the soul of my silence.

Do not turn away Your face from my heart's
dark secrets, but burn them till they are alight
with Your fire.

Rabindranath Tagore
(Prayers)
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Like Roots

Our hands imbibe like roots,
so I place them on what is beautiful in this world.

And I fold them in prayer, and they
draw from the heavens
light.

St Francis of Assisi
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‘AH, NOT TO BE CUT OFF…'
Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner — what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming.

Rilke
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YOUR DEEPEST PRESENCE…'
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding
The two as beautifully balanced and co-ordinated as bird-wings.

Rumi
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Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety—

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light—
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver
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The Mournes

I shall not go to heaven when I die.
But if they let me be
I think I'll take a road I used to know
That goes by Slieve-na-garagh and the sea.
And all day breasting me the wind shall blow,
And I'll hear nothing but the peewit's cry
And the sea talking in the caves below.
I think it will be winter when I die
(For no one from the North could die in spring)
And all the heather will be dead and grey,
And the bog-cotton will have blown away,
And there will be no yellow on the wind.
But I shall smell the peat,
And when its almost dark I'll set my feet
Where a white track goes glimmering to the hills,
And see, far up, a light
Would you think Heaven could be so small a thing
As a lit window on the hills at night?
And come in stumbling from the gloom,
Half-blind, into a firelit room
Turn, and see you,
And there abide.

If it were true,
And if I thought that they would let me be
I almost wish it were tonight I died.

Helen Waddell
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Innocence

They laughed at one I loved

The triangular hill that hung
Under the Big Forth. They said
That I was bounded by the whitethorn hedges
Of the little farm and did not know the world.
But I know that love's doorway to life
Is the same doorway everywhere.

Ashamed of what I loved
I flung her from me and called her a ditch
Although she was smiling at me with violets.

But now I am back in her briary arms
The dew of an Indian Summer morning lies
On bleached potato-stalks
What age am I?

I do not know what age I am,
I am no mortal age;
I know nothing of women,
Nothing of cities,
I cannot die
Unless I walk outside these whitethorn hedges.

Patrick Kavanagh
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I THANK YOU GOD FOR MOST THIS AMAZING…'
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaply greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any — lifted from the no
of all nothing — human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e e cummings
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To see the World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake
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When you are with everyone but me,
you're with no one.

When you're with no one but me,
you're with everyone.

Instead of being so bound up WITH everyone,
BE everyone.

When you become that many, you're nothing,
Empty.

Rumi
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You ask me why I make my home in the mountain forest,
and I smile, and am silent,
and even my soul remains quiet:
it lives in the other world
which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom.
The water flows.

Li Po
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Poem

When I carry my little son in the cold
I begin to turn into a hollow tree;
I want to carry him more deeply,
Inside the warmth of my heart.

TOMASITO'S WORLD

LET ME SHOW YOU
In the universe of the mason jar
The little galaxies
Of these lightning bugs!

CELEBRATION

How wonderful, Tomasito!
All of us here!
Together....
A little while
On the road through....

THE PRESENT

Here is the little river
I wanted to show you,
Tomasito,
Where your mother and I walked
Once
In a long winter,
And where
In summer
With friends
We came and you fished
For Red Horse—
The river full of deadfalls and the hillslopes covered with cactus.
I would like to show it to you
As it once was — the valley
Bigger and the river
Wider and the hills
Green right down to the bankside....
And myself as you are
Now
Adream
In the dazzling weather—
Look, Tomasito!
Now!
Look!
Look at the river!

POEM

How could I have come so far?
(And always on such dark trails!)
I must have travelled by the light
Shining from the faces of all those I have loved.

Thomas McGrath
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Amidst the grassland
Sings a skylark
Free and disengaged from all things

Matsuo Basho
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A road might end at a single house,
but it's not love's road.

Love is a river.
Drink from it.

Rumi
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For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river—
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure.

Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn into sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air.

When, after heavy rain, the stormclouds disperse,
Is it not that they've wept themselves clear to the end?

If you want to know the miracle, how wind can polish a mirror,
Look: the shining glass grows green in spring.

It's the rose's unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see
In every colour and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what
comes.

Ghalib
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That is perfect. This is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take
perfect from perfect, the remainder is perfect.

May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.

The Upanishads
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The Sun Never Says

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe
Me."

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole
Sky.

Hafiz
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Berserk

Once
In a while
God cuts loose His purse strings,
Gives a big wink to my orchestra.

Hafiz
Does not require
Any more prompting than that
To let
Every instrument inside
Go
Berserk.

Hafiz
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Wow

Where does the real poetry
Come from?

From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Spirit.

Where does poetry live?
In the eye that says, "Wow wee,"
In the overpowering felt splendour
Every sane mind knows
When it realises — our life dance
Is only for a few magic
Seconds,

From the heart saying,
Shouting,

"I am so damn
Alive."

Hafiz

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The following was our first selection of poems, in February 2005. It celebrates the magic as one person discovers she is not just this mind-body. They reveal a kind of ‘defection in place' within, as she gradually awakens to the Truth of herself, where she finds that she is always welcome.

 

Click on a poem title to read the poem

 

SOME KISS WE WANT
Rumi
‘IN THE CHERRY BLOSSOM'S SHADE...'
Issa
I DWELL IN POSSIBILITY
Emily Dickinson
THIS PRECIOUS LOVE AND LAUGHTER
Hafiz
THE VEGETABLES
Hafiz
THE JOURNEY
Mary Oliver
MOTHEROOT
Marilou Awaikta
NOW I BECOME MYSELF
May Sarto
THE GUEST HOUSE
Rum
AN ATLAS OF THE DIFFICULT WORLD
Adrienne Rich
ALL THE HEMISPHERES
Hafiz
‘AS ONCE THE WINGED ENERGY OF DELIGHT....'
Rilke
HOW DID THE ROSE?
Hafiz
SONGS OF KABIR
Kabir
CANAL BANK WALK
Patrick Kavanagh
‘DANCE, WHEN YOU'RE BROKEN OPEN...'
Rumi
‘LET ALL THE STRAINS OF JOY MINGLE ...'
Tagore
BUOYANCY
Rumi
THE STORY OF LOVE
Kabir
LOVE AFTER LOVE
Derek Walcott
QUIETNESS
Rumi



Some Kiss We Want

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives, the touch

of spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling!

At night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine.

Breathe into me. Close
the language-door and open the love-window.
The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

Rumi
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In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.

Issa
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I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer house than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Superior—for Doors—

Of Chambers as the Cedars—
Impregnable of Eye—
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky—

Of Visitors— the fairest—
For Occupation—This—
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise—

Emily Dickinson

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What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!

Hafiz

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The Vegetables

Today
The vegetables would like to be cut

By someone who is singing God's Name.

How could Hafiz know
Such top secret information?

Because
Once we were all tomatoes,

Potatoes, onions or
Zucchini.

Hafiz

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The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!'
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations ,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

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Motheroot

Creation often
needs two hearts
one to root
and one to flower
One to sustain
in time of drouth
and hold fast
against the winds of pain
the fragile bloom
that in the glory
of its hour
affirms a heart
unsung, unseen.

Marilou Awaikta
(Abiding
Appalachia)
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Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
‘Hurry, you will be dead before—'
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!....
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the Sun!

May Sarton
(extract)

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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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An Atlas Of The Difficult World
XIII (Dedications)

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush -hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plain's enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
towards a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.

Adrienne Rich
(extract)

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All The Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while
Let your senses and bodies stretch out

Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.

Open up to the Roof.
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love.

Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly.

Change rooms in your mind for a day.

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.

Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
as you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
Chatting

While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
You.

Hafiz

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As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood's dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realise the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practised powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions.... For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke
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How Did The Rose?

How
did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too
frightened.

Hafiz

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Songs of Kabir

The flute of the Infinite is played without
ceasing, and its sound is love:
When love renounces all limits, it reaches truth.
How widely the fragrance spreads! It has no end,
nothing stands in its way.
The form of this melody is bright like a million
suns: incomparably sounds the vina, the
vina of the notes of truth.

Kabir

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Canal Bank Walk

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
to pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress
woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot
be proven.

Patrick Kavanagh

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Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you're perfectly free.

All I know of spirit
is this love.

Rumi
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Let all the strains of joy mingle in my last song—the joy that
makes the earth flow over in the riotous excess of the grass, the
joy that sets the twin brothers, life and death, dancing over the
wide world, the joy that sweeps in with the tempest, shaking
and waking all life with laughter, the joy that sits still with its
tears on the open red lotus of pain, and the joy that throws
everything it has upon the dust, and knows not a word.

Rabindranath Tagore

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Buoyancy

Love has taken away all my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
But I couldn't.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That's how I hold your voice.

I am scrapwood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

I saw you and became empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence.

The sky is blue, the world is a blind man
squatting on the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man.

A great soul hides like Mohammed, or Jesus,
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck
we could have. It's a total waking up!

Why should we grieve that we've been sleeping?
It doesn't matter how long we've been unconscious.

We're groggy but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around, the buoyancy.

Rumi

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The Story Of Love

The story of Love can never be told.
It is the sherbet of the dumb man
Who eats it and smiles silently.

Without any earth and without any seed,
The tree of Divine Love just grows and grows,
Heavy with a million radiant fruits
My Lover picks for me to taste.
The story of Love can never be told.

When I calmed my mind
And entered my heart,
The Love of the Lord
Leapt like a flame within me.
All my old ideas and beliefs
Just blew away like chaff in the wind.

It wasn't because of anything I am;
It wasn't because of anything I did;
But only because of Him and His wild, miraculous grace
That I learned at long last the lesson of Love.
My coming and going have ended;
My mind has melted in the Mind.

Don't ask me to speak any more—
The story of Love can never be told.

Kabir

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Love After Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other's welcome,

And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott
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Quietness

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape. Walk out
like someone suddenly born into colour.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest
sign that you've died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon comes out now.

Rumi

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The following three poems are not part of the initial selection depicting an inner journey, but they may take you some way along your own.

PEGASUS
Patrick Kavanagh
I SHALL NOT GO TO HEAVEN
Helen Waddell
LAST NIGHT AS I WAS SLEEPING
Anthony Machado

Pegasus

My soul was an old horse
Offered for sale in twenty fairs.
I offered him to the Church—the buyers
Were little men who feared his unusual airs.
One said: ‘Let him remain unbid
In the wind and rain and hunger
Of sin and we will get him—
With the winkers thrown in—for nothing.'

Then the men of State looked at
What I'd brought for sale.
One minister, wondering if
Another horse-body would fit the tail
That he'd kept for sentiment—
The relic of his own soul—
Said, ‘I will graze him in lieu of his labour.'
I lent him for a week or more
And he came back a hurdle of bones,
Starved, overworked, in despair.
I nursed him on the roadside grass
To shape him for another fair.

I lowered my price. I stood him where
The broken-winded, spavined stand
And crooked shopkeepers said that he
Might do a season on the land—
But not for high-paid work in towns.
He'd do a tinker, possibly.
I begged, ‘0 make some offer now,
A soul is a poor man's tragedy.
He'll draw your dungiest cart,' I said,
‘Show you short cuts to Mass,
Teach weather lore, at night collect
Bad debts from poor men's grass.'
And they would not.

Where the
Tinkers quarrel I went down
With my horse, my soul.
I cried, ‘Who will bid me half a crown?'
From their rowdy bargaining
Not one turned. ‘Soul,' I prayed,
‘I have hawked you through the world
Of Church and State and meanest trade.
But this evening, halter off,
Never again will it go on.
On the south side of ditches
There is grazing of the sun.
No more haggling with the world....'

As I said these words he grew
Wings upon his back. Now I may ride him
Every land my imagination knew.

Patrick Kavanagh

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I Shall Not Go To Heaven

I shall not go to Heaven when I die,
But if they let me be
I think I'll take the road I used to know
That goes by Shere-na-garagh and the sea.
And all day breasting me the wind shall blow,
And I'll hear nothing but the peewits cry
And the waves talking in the sea below.

I think it will be winter when I die
For no one from the North could die in spring—
And all the heather will be dead and grey
And the bog-cotton will have blown away
And there will be no yellow on the whin.

But I shall smell the peat,
And when it's almost dark I'll set my feet
Where a white track goes glimmering to the hills,
And see far up a light....
Would you think Heaven could be so small a thing
As a lit window on the hills at night?
And come in stumbling from the gloom,
Half-blind, into a fire-lit room,
Turn, and see you,
And there abide.

If it were true
And if I thought they would let me be
I almost wish it were tonight I died.

Helen Waddell
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Last night as I was sleeping

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aquaduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Antonio Machado
(version by Robert Bly)
 
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Dublin, Ireland: February 2005