Thank you to all who joined us for the Leadership Foundations Advent Season Town Hall “Praying With Poetry”. We were thrilled to be joined by Father Steve Lantry S.J. to explore how the reading and listening of poetry can be a resource to our spiritual lives in this Advent season.
If you missed it, make sure to check out the video below. We have also included the selected poems shared this morning so you can read along.
The images found in human language
do not correspond to me,
but those who love words
must use them to draw near.
My poems resemble the bread of Egypt,
one night passes over them
and you can’t eat them anymore.
So gobble them down now,
while they’re still fresh
before the dust of the world settles on them.
Where a poem belongs is here,
in the warmth of the chest.
Out in the world, it dies of cold.
You’ve seen a fish; put him on dry land.
He quivers for a few moments, and then he’s still.
And even if you eat my poems
while they’re still fresh,
you still have to bring forward
many images yourself.
Actually, my friend, what you’re eating
is your own imagination.
These poems are not
just a bunch of old proverbs.
Invoking Your name
does not help me to see You.
I’m blinded by the light of Your face.
Longing for Your lips
does not bring them any closer.
What veils You from me
is my vision of You.
Today, like every other day,
We wake up empty and scared.
Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument:
let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are a thousand ways
to kneel and kiss the ground.
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
by Mary Oliver
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locusts,
equally the beeches, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and how often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world for this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
by Mary Oliver
Have you heard the music that no fingers
Far inside the house
What is the sense of leaving your house?
Suppose you scrub your ethical skin until it shines,
but inside there is no music,
Mohammed’s son pores over words, and points out
this and that,
but if his chest is not soaked dark with love,
The Yogi comes along in his famous orange.
But if inside he is colorless, then what?
Kabir says: every instant that the sun is risen,
if I stand in the temple, or on a balcony,
in the hot fields, or in a walled garden,
my own Lord is making love with me.
from The Kabir Book,
versions by Robert Bly
It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect
to arrive anywhere?
Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.
Abraham learned how the sun and moon
and the stars all set.
He said, “No longer will I try to assign partners for God.”
You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.
Say Bismillah, “In the name of God”,
like a priest does with a knife
when he offers an animal.
Bismillah your old self,
to find your real name.
Theology and Banking
He tried to confess
his sins to a bank.
He told the teller
about his specific
enactments of sloth,
lust, deception, cruelty.
Did he have an account?
she asked. Everyone,
he replied, has an account
in Heaven. Would he step
aside to let the next
person in line advance?
she asked. Yes, he said,
but first I need to withdraw
a lot of it. She summoned
Security, who said they
would have to ask him
to leave. He said he
would have to ask them
to forgive him. They
said they excused him. No,
not excuses, he said—-
forgiveness. They took him
to the door and beyond. He
wandered to a church
and deposited some money.
May I have a receipt? he asked.
Yes, a liturgical minister said,
and gave him a wafer, a sip
of wine. He ate and drank
the receipt. Will you tell me
my current balance? he asked.
Yes, the minister said, you are
like everyone else, overdrawn,
so I wouldn’t push it. Go now
and sin much more frugally
if sin you must, and
apparently you must.
by Hans Ostrom, PhD,