Poetry for me, both reading it and writing has always been a way of life. From a child making up metaphors with my English teacher father or a teenager filling spiral notebooks with angst and devouring Anne Sexton to an adult battling life’s daily perplexities by stashing emergency poems in a folder in the lower desk drawer at work, this art form for me can transform the worse mood simply by expressing all the mess, joy, sorrow, confusion, achievements, wonder and mystery of life through words. There is nothing in the world that is not poetry. Reading a good poem that speaks to you wakes you up. Comforts you or challenges you. Makes you think, laugh, cry and brings you closer to what really matters in life.
Writing a poem can take you on a journey to the places where the masks fall away and you start to meet your true self. It aids in that brave and difficult work that Rilke so eloquently expounds upon in his Letters to a Young Poet of “living the question” when it seems there are no answers. (19 year old poet Frank Kappus wrote to Rilke for advice and Rilke ended up writing him ten amazing letters which Kappus later published.) You can read the excerpt about living the question here. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/06/01/rilke-on-questions/
I have recently begun writing poetry again as a way to again live my own questions. Because I am guilty of often wishing I were somewhere else or even someone else. Because I replay the past like an overwatched movie. Because I am really afraid of death. Because sometimes I snap at people. Because I hate vacuuming. But also because I love sipping a cup of coffee with a friend. And because sometimes driving through the Pennsylvania mountains in summer I am so struck by the beauty of the verdant hills, blue sky and porcelain clouds converging I feel I am truly one with everything. Because I am alive and living.
And so I share this poem I wrote today that attempts to express this interplay of daily mundane struggles and spiritual yearning in our lives and how they are really the same thing even if we don’t always notice.
Dirt clutter dust-
Dust …ashes to ashes… I think…
The childhood refrain
with a sorrow for the time
I have lost.
My head is in the future wondering which man to love.
My head is in the past wondering how different I would be
if I never lived in California.
And I must remind myself to bring my head here-
to Scranton with its pain and still spring chill in April and mess
in the kitchen with the dust pan and the cats-
those orange and black wonders living always in a Kairos time
of sleeping and leaping –
this moment already disappearing
giving birth to a new one-
This is everything.
Cleaning and breathing.
Tacked on my wall is a torn calendar page
with a quote from Goethe-
Nothing is worth more than this day.
Someone gave me a necklace once with the same phrase…
These are the signs we should follow
But the day is lost over and over and over again.
Still, if we are lucky another one appears.
And we can choose to notice this time.
And sometimes go beyond the noticing -if only briefly-
To awakening to our beautiful life.
To brooms. To cats. To the sky through the window.
To one’s own flawed bones
Sweeping debris into a blue dust pan.