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Back in 1996, I had the good fortune of literally sitting at the feet of the great Vermont Poet, David Budbill, as he shared his poems with my Cohort at Vermont College of Norwich University in Montpelier, Vermont. He was so earthy, in fact, David was as much as “earthy monk” as any person I ever met. He was amazing, humble, down to earth, true blue Vermonter (although he was born in Cleveland, OH). I love his words and this spectacular poem came into my Inbox and I looked David up online only to learn that he died back in September 2016.
Saddened by this, it is right and fitting that one of my favorite poems of David Budbill be shared here…especially since I now reside in the neighboring state of New Hampshire and I am deep in the soulful state of Winter
Enjoy David Budbill
Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,
my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first
through the woods, then out into the open fields
past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop
and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,
green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.
I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age
and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening
a prayer for being here, today, now, alive
in this life, in this evening, under this sky.
Author’s Note: Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day in terms or actual daylight. So in honor of the Creator’s grand order of changing Seasons and in celebrating them, I offer these poems.
Autumn is slumbering into winter,
messy and graceful like God’s ongoing
Advent within us.
And the World stands
Like it did once on a Holy Night
thousands of years ago.
Winter Solstice Luna
Brilliant ivory friend of mine,
rising with quiet passion over the
you, all fecund…
me, all lost, empty and searching…
You light my way, oh gracious Luna,
Lighting the splendid darkness of my
night with Divine light.
The late afternoon sky reminded
me of old, worn out bones,
ashen gray but filled with a holy Spirit,
mine and God’s.
and I wondered if my life would be as
much of a gift to those who have
been such a Gift to me…
“You are in this time of the interim
where everything seems withheld.
The path you took to get here has washed out.
The way forward is still concealed from you.
The old is not old enough to have died away
the new is still too young to be born.”
Human beings suffer.
They torture one another.
They get hurt and get hard.
History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cares and healing wells.
Seamus Heaney, from “The Cure at Troy” in Opened Ground
Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
“Out of Character”
God bless our contradictions,
those parts of us which seem out of character.
Let us be boldly and gladly out of character.
Let us be creatures of paradox and variety:
creatures of contrast; of light and shade:
creatures of faith.
God, be our constant.
Let us step out of character into
the unknown, to struggle and love
and do what we will.
Michael Leunig, The Prayer Tree
Dreams of Mercy
I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest…hanging all
The worries and weights of my body,
Upon thick, uneven
I felt the wind blow the
Dust out from within this
Wounded temple. I heard the whimpering
Cries of (old)
Grief come to have a say.
This grief felt so laden, so familiar,
All the years of want and the scars of
Letting go, all came out of this
The trees dared me
To let this
Grief hollow out my bones with mercy,
To paint the walls of my heart, the colors of
White & black. I have failed this challenge
Pregnant opportunities to be held
By an urgent compassion.
Too often I have walked away, full of myself
And empty of the Truth. But today,
Today I dreamed of walking through
My fingers tracing poems in the
Worn flesh of their bark…
A monk once said to me:
your faith should be like tea served Ch’an style
– rough, warm, and loosely wrapped;
and your religion the same:
warm to the touch,
& hewn on the edges of life.
the mystics great gift is
feeding hungry ghost
along the Way.
An old Abbot leaned against his cane,
rambling on about being invited to sit at the table of the new emperor.
“imagine me,” the wrinkled old sage giggled,
“being there with the divine emperor
& all those rich people.”
But Abbot, I said,
“you are the rich people.”
I awoke from a dream…
feeling like a habit held together by
flesh & grace…
so filled with God even
the Emptiness brimmed over.
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile
Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
falling in love in a quite
absolute and finite way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read,
who you know,
what breaks your heart
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love.
Stay in love.
And it will decide everything.