seven poems for a pilgrim’s backpack

Georgia O'Keeffe, Winter Road 1, 1963

1

Traveller, your footprints are
the only path, the only track:
wayfarer, there is no way,
there is no map or Northern Star,
just a blank page and a starless dark;
and should you turn around to admire
the distance that you’ve made today
the road will billow into dust.
No way on and no way back,
there is no way, my comrade: trust
your own quick step, the end’s delay,
the vanished trail of your own wake,
wayfarer, sea-walker, Christ.

– Road, by Don Paterson, from The Eyes, A Version of Antonio Machado.

 .

2

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and 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 bow 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 to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.

– When I Am Among the Trees, by Mary Oliver, from Devotions

.

3

Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize
The stars are words

and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words,
and so is this world too.

And I realize that no matter where I am,
whether in a little room full of thought,

or in this endless universe of stars and mountains,
it’s all in my mind.

– Jack Kerouac, from Lonesome Traveller

.

4

Yes
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon.  It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out — no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

– William Stafford, from The Way It Is

.

5

We’re in a freefall into future.
We don’t know where we’re going.
Things are changing so fast
And always when you’re going through a long tunnel,
anxiety comes along.

All you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise
is to turn your fall into a voluntary act.

It’s a very interesting shift of perspective.
Joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world
and everything changes.

– Joseph Campbell, from Sukhavati, A Mythic Journey
[Not really a poem, but exquisitely poetic…]

.

6

Praise the wet snow
falling early.
Praise the shadow
my neighor’s chimney casts on the tile roof
even this gray October day that should, they say,
have been golden.
Praise
the invisible sun burning beyond
the white cold sky, giving us
light and the chimney’s shadow.
Praise
god or the gods, the unknown,
that which imagined us, which stays
our hand,
our murderous hand,
and gives us
still,
in the shadow of death,
our daily life,
and the dream still
of goodwill, of peace on earth.
Praise
flow and change, night and
the pulse of day.

iiGloria, by Denise Levertov, from Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus

.

7

Wayfarer,

Your whole mind and body have been tied
To the foot of the Divine Elephant
With a thousand golden chains.

Now, begin to rain intelligence and compassion
Upon all your tender, wounded cells

And realise the profound absurdity
Of thinking

That you can ever go Anywhere
Or do Anything

Without God’s will.

– Wayfarer, by Hafiz, from I Heard God Laughing, Renderings of Hafiz, by Daniel Ladinsky.

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Image:
Georgia O’Keeffe, Winter Road 1, 1963.  Oil on canvas, 55.9 x 45.7 cm National Gallery of Art, Washington DC


Notes:
It’s been many months since I last posted on this blog.  Life took me down unexpected trails, unfolded adventures in another country, locked me up in the most gracious way imaginable and then threw me into quarantine on the return.  Poems kept me company – poems of all shapes and sizes, from all cultures and times.  These seven are just a few favourites from my own backpack.  (I’d need a truck to carry all my favorites!)

During the lockdown in New Zealand, I posted poems on my Facebook page using the tags #likerightnow and #lockdownpoems.  As my engagement with that platform diminishes, I’m moved to share a few poems here, on this little blog that’s been languishing of late.  As a personal archive, if nothing else.

I’ve sometimes wondered whether it’s time to retire this blog.  (It has chugged along since May, 2009 – almost eleven years of learning and sharing.)  But there’s an enormous archive of material here.  Recently I revisited some posts written over a decade ago and was astonished to find so little I would change.  Back in those days the blog had barely any subscribers and few readers – there was no feedback in the form of ‘likes’ or comments.  I had much to learn about writing code and inserting images.  But while I’m now posting my own poetry and writing on the echoes from emptiness blog, I’m considering re-posting some of these old pieces of writing – in case they speak to someone’s thoughts or questions.

Whether that eventuates or not, I’d like to thank all the beautiful subscribers to, and readers of, this blog – your company over the years has been priceless.  

– miriam louisa


6 thoughts on “seven poems for a pilgrim’s backpack

  1. Thank you for this beautiful offering, it arrives at a time when my family is encountering internal stressors likely to increase in the next few months & these gentle reminders of Truth are soothing salves & nourishment.

    • I’m always in awe of the mysterious ‘timing’ of the Universe, dear Heather. It’s so good to know that these poems might be soothing and nourishing for you and your family…
      _/|\_

  2. O Dearest YOU!!! ALL of your Offerings/Sharings are WONDERFULL with my very soul…..if you have Knowing to, PLEASE keep Sharing as you are Moved to Share…..via this manner and your other websites!!!!!!- Your Soul is Embryonic/Ancient….AH!!!!!
    Quantum Love ALWAYS!
    Dorothea

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