Author’s Message: Poems

Poetry touches vibrancy, passion, deep movements of the soul. Feeling isolated when I retired, experiencing a painful gap when losing my life’s work, I found that writing poems became my companion and guide.

I had no idea how to write. Yet as the poems unfolded, I saw life through a soul lens. This was deeply satisfying; I felt whole and truly alive. Not happy necessarily, but fruitful in getting to know and express the whole of myself. I encourage you to find time to be still, watchful, alert. To contemplate your world, inner and outer. Without thinking, allow yourself to write impressions, impulses, observations. Your writing doesn’t have to make sense. Just write for the sake of discovery.

 

You may listen for a phrase or a few words from my poems, from others’ poems, stories, conversations and simply allow yourself to be touched into writing what comes from these. You may surprise yourself.

Christmas Monastery Morning

Joan Englander©2019

 

You cannot know the morning

Until you walk in it.

Until you hear the silence

In the dark.

Until the first birds chirp & peck

Along the mountain path.

 

Far below, clouds cover the sea

Cover my mind in swaddling clothes

The Birth echoing my own wonder,

Delight, as the sun nods its awakening

Over the mountains.

This walk my awakening, too.

 

Reds, oranges, great splashes of blue

Tinge these new beginnings with

Brilliance.

A brilliance I might not have noticed

On an ordinary waking day.

 

But this is no ordinary day nor should

Any day be labeled so.

All these years coming here, nothing seems

So vivid as now.

No step so precious, nor the three deer

Leaping across the road.

 

My steps begin the ascent up the path

Falter, halt. 

Vivid hues of pink and red swim within

Clouds painting the sky.

Can there be any more luminous

Thanksgiving than this?

 

Colors under my feet reflect joy

In my eyes.  A warm breeze enters

My chanting:  all is divine

In nature’s morning.  No words, no songs

Can capture God dancing through whispers

Of wind, trailing clouds swirling,

birds on the boughs.

 

Bells ring out into the blue of daylight.

Come, come to the chapel to give thanks.

Come to Gregorian chanting, the hush

of morning peace.

These bells will have to wait.

This could be the last time my feet pass

This way.

Changing

Joan Englander ©2018

Beauty is what saves us from despair

That furry reddish brown chipmunk’s tail

Flapping along the tree bark

Over the green patio shade

Scampering down the wooden beam

Darting along the railing

gone and back again

So busy and I so busy

judging

Those whose lives are frantic

Judging the deadlines, the hurry,

the carelessness

and wasn’t that me not so many years ago?

And now I prize aging

and sit

watching chipmunk bouncing

in the shade cloth

mistaking cloth for a trampoline

and the crows kissing on telephone wires

Orange trees smiling with pride

In their blossoming

And am I blossoming?

Have I changed my life?

Or has my life changed me?

Reflection on Swan by Mary Oliver

If I Step Out I will

Break Into Bloom

Joan Englander 2016

If I step out of my complaints

my restlessness

wanting more, wanting less

feeling lost, unworthy

vulnerable, afraid

 

If I break out

A great song

Will fill my lungs

Seep into my spirit

Cause joy in swollen rivers

Flowing deep into me

 

If I venture out

And mind stops

My heart will graze

On waving grasses singing

In meadows green and wide

 

If I journey out

into vast blue dancing overhead

Laughter will fill

My new mouth

Full of blossoming praise.

 

If I leap out

Will I fly?

(Inspired by last line of the poem, A Blessing, by James Wright,

That if I stepped out of my body I would break

Into blossom.” )

Try to Praise

Joan Englander 2016

 

Try to find praise within your soul

As mutilation sears the hearts of the innocents

As bloody rivers ravage the earth

Rivers of war and evil

Try praising every spec of beauty you

See, touch and taste

Etch upon your memory those sweet

Moments when you sang and candles

Turned the cottage gold

And spirits soared into song

And quieted you became

Like babes in sweet slumber—try

To praise those moments of dancing

In the streets, the parks, the halls

Frolicking in the ocean’s waves

Your breath in and out

Over and over a mantra of joy

Try praising life even as guns echo

Screams penetrate the skies, slash

Hammer, beat, blast—try

Praising the fullness of life

Try remembering peace.

(Inspired by Try to Praise the Mutilated World,

Adam Zagajewski)

Dancing

Joan Englander 2016

 

This is where I want to live:

In the immediacy of your Presence

like Rumi

swept away by joy.

Give away my meditation practices

and dance because I cannot help it.

I’ve been looking for dancing

in the wrong places.

The dance that really sings

is when God leaps out from my

limbs and makes praising

Divine.

It’s not the tango in an elegant

restaurant

Or Bollywood flirtations in a

dance studio

Or bouncing gyrations of a

rock band.

It’s the unspeakable moment when

God says go

rise up, become liquid grace

in my embrace come

along my wedding path fall

into my arms of love.

 

Reflection on the poem, Buoyancy by Rumi

A Momentary Happiness

Joan Englander ©2018

 

Have you ever known a silly bird?

He’s out there somewhere I can’t see

But I can’t miss his snoring song

Right at the end of a decent melody

He ruins it with a clogged up snort

And brings me up short, laughing

When a moment ago I tasted tears

Sadness as my daughter disappears

And I am left to ponder:

How do I let go of all my treasures

Made of beauty, give away all I

Cling to and adore

No wonder that bird upsets me

With his croaking cry he shakes

Me away from loss and grief and

Even these I try to cling to

In spite of myself, life is amusement

What then is the secret of being happy?

Is it as simple as a rush of wings

Flapping through winter leaves

In warm sunlight?

A moment when an imagined piccolo

Dances in the crimson air?  And I

Stand enchanted at the doorway of life?

Green Moments

Joan Englander ©2018

 

To keep vitality alive, I must see with new eyes 

Refuse to sink into the morass of life slipping away. 

May I feast on every moment

green, black or grey

feast in awe as a breeze

sifts through oak leaves

raindrops dance on winter branches

breaking forth into healing songs.

 

Raindrops sing in my heart

A moment so delicious

while stars remain hidden in daylight

But in my heart, they shine.

 

Feasting has become a symphony I taste

As the sun drifts down into the sea

And all things are precious, sacred

as long as I feast and not fall asleep

missing this one precious moment

green, black or grey.

Inspired by Birthday Poem, Ted Kooser

Love’s Funeral Pyre

 

If I lay my pain body down 

on the funeral pyre of Love

 

Would I still carry the pain 

of feeling left out?

 

Feeling strange and unacceptable

As life’s events pass me by?

 

Would I feel abandoned, lost

If I stepped onto the pyre

 

Sang of Love healing the rift

In my soul

 

Sang aloud on this morning walk

As cloud becomes fish

 

Flying in the air, breathing

Fins across the sky

 

Am I a strange bird creating

Fish with my eyes

 

Strange to prefer solitude to

A luncheon with ladies

On an elegant lawn?

 

Steeped in thoughts of rejection

Souring this new day

 

Along the dirt pathway 

Jasmine breathes its springtime sigh

 

Breathes its fragrance into me

Come: love the distress, the hurt

 

The mirage created by loneliness

Lay your pain body down

 

On the funeral pyre of Love

And at last pass away 

Into jubilation.

 

Joan Englander ©2019  

Inspired by Hafiz, The Gift

Author’s Message

Deep listening, sometimes known as Lectio Divina in the Benedictine spiritual tradition, opens the heart to an inner knowing, a depth of awareness. By inwardly repeating a phrase or a few words from a poem, scripture, or song, these words become the core through which you can live on a deeper level. When I feel unloved, I return to this poem inspired by author, Henri Nouwen.[1]

Heard By God

Joan Englander ©2013

Before anyone ever saw me

I was seen by God’s loving eyes.

Before anyone ever heard me cry or laugh

I was heard by God’s heart. 

Before any person ever spoke to me 

I was spoken to and chosen by 

the voice of eternal Love  

existing throughout all eternity.

 

Throughout my life many scars have come

threatening to rule and define me 

wreak havoc

over the goodness my life is meant to be.

Befriending these scars and shadows 

I put this brokenness 

under the light of blessing.

 

For I am called beloved for all eternity.

 

Thoughts of worthlessness, uselessness

Not good enough, never can do it right

Insults, rejection, blaming

Under the light of blessing: 

This brokenness is a gateway 

to joy.

 

For I am called beloved for all eternity.

 

Beloved I am now each moment I live

each moment I die.

And when my breathing ends

the voice I heard before I was born

calls in exuberant song

that same ancient echo:

 

You are beloved for all eternity. 

 

As I slip softly away

Into eternity I go like

silent footsteps over golden leaves 

blown by a winter wind 

even the leaves speak the same refrain: 

grasses, wind, trailing gold

 

Beloved for all eternity are they

As together we journey 

To a place called Home

A place we can’t remember.

 

[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, The Crossroad Pub. Co., Spring Valley, NY, 2002