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.

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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

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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

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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

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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…]

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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

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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


may you shine as golden space

May your Solstice be pure gold.  May it bring the healing that enables full immersion in non-conceptual wholeness.  May you shine as golden space.

 

We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have lately seen photographed from the moon.  We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it.  We are its eyes and mind, its seeing and its thinking.  And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth, we are told, from a nebula; and that nebula, in turn, from space.  So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space … each in his own way at one with all, and with no horizons.

Joseph Campbell

 

Max Gimblett, Eagle

 

Later … I opened my eyes with wonder and the sky had utterly changed again and was no longer dark but bright, golden, gold-dust golden, as if curtain after curtain had been removed behind the stars I had seen before, and now I was looking into the vast interior of the universe, as if the universe were quietly turning itself inside out.  Stars behind stars and stars behind stars behind stars until there was nothing between them, nothing beyond them, but dusty dim gold of stars and no space and no light but stars.  The moon was gone.  The water lapped higher, nearer, touching the rock so lightly it was audible only as a kind of vibration.  The sea had fallen dark, in submission to the stars.  And the stars seemed to move as if one could see the rotation of the heavens as a kind of vast crepitation, only now there were no more events, no shooting stars, no falling stars, which human senses could grasp or even conceive of. All was movement, all was change, and somehow this was visible and yet unimaginable.  And I was no longer I but something pinned down as an atom, an atom of an atom, a necessary captive spectator, a tiny mirror into which it was all indifferently beamed, as it motionlessly seethed and boiled, gold behind gold behind gold.

– Iris Murdoch’s character Charles Arrowby in The Sea, The Sea 

 

– – –

 

Now that I see in Mind, I see myself to be the All.
I am in heaven and on earth, in water and in air.
I am in beasts and plants.
I am a babe in the womb and one that is not yet conceived
and one that has been born,
I am present everywhere.

– Upanishads

 


Painting by New Zealand / New York artist Max Gimblett Eagle, 2015
Leaves of gold, gesso, resin, gelatin, 23.75kt rosanoble gold leaf on wood panel, 850 x 840