SETTING THE INNER COMPASS – March 2022

SPRING
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin .
Brendan Kennelly (Beginning)

Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. ‘Setting the Inner Compass’, is a column where I share poems that I find meaningful and hope others do as well.

I am writing this a couple of days after the first day of spring. Daffodils are blooming in my yard and buds are swelling on bushes and trees getting ready to bloom. There is a real sense, at least in the natural world, of a new season beginning. The coming of spring makes me think of two familiar and popular poems. The first is by Emily Dickenson, “A Light Begins in Spring” , which begins:

A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels

The second poem is “Spring” by Mary Oliver. It is a favorite and always comes to mind in this season. I read it at BLUES VESPERS last Sunday, the first day of spring. The poem’s image of a bear awakening grabs my imagination. In the middle of the poem, the poet places a line that has become central to my life and vocation. “There is only one question: How to love this world. ” Yes. Amen.

Spring 2022 is marked by the war in Ukraine. The pain of those who are victims of this war is beyond my comprehension. I know that I feel overwhelming sorrow, anger, and grief as I watch the images, especially the images of suffering and displaced children. The ‘light’ of spring still exists but it lives alongside the horror of this war.

Some may struggle to find light and hope in this spring of 2022. Molly Fisk’s poem, “Against Panic”, speaks to that struggle and asks us not to ignore the pain of the world but to remember as well the “beauty and relief that is still there”. The second poem, “Begin”, by Brendan Kennelly is a new one to me. I’ve read that it was widely circulated by Irish Americans in the aftermath of 9/11. I am thankful to Bloodaxe Books, a poetry publisher in the UK and to Molly Fisk for allowing me to use these poems.

In this season in nature and this hard season in our life together I hope we all make some space in the midst of the challenges and terror so we can experience a hint of new beginnings, a hint of grace, of spring and an awareness of God’s love.

Peace,

Dave

THE POEMS

“Against Panic” by Molly Fisk

You recall those times, I know you do, when the sun
lifted its weight over a small rise to warm your face,
when a parched day finally broke open, real rain
sluicing down the sidewalk, rattling city maples
and you so sure the end was here, life a house of cards
tipped over, falling, hope’s last breath extinguished
in a bitter wind. Oh, friend, search your memory again —
beauty and relief are still there, only sleeping.

“Begin” by Brendan Kennelly

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.
Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark
determination and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and future
old friends passing though with us still.
Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.
Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.


CREDITS

“Against Panic” by Molly Fisk is used with the permission of the poet. Molly Fisk is the author of The More Difficult Beauty, and editor of California Fire & Water: a Climate Crisis Anthology. She lives in the Sierra foothills.

“Begin” by Brendan Kennelly is from his collection, Familiar Strangers: New and Collected Poems 1960-2004. (Bloodaxe Books, Northumberland U.K. 2007). It is found in the anthology, ESSENTIAL POEMS from the STAYING ALIVE Trilogy published by Bloodaxe Books edited by Neil Astley)


Rev. Dave Brown is a writer, creator/host of Blues Vespers, one of the PNW Interfaith Amigos and former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA. He serves on the PCUSA Education Roundtable. (dbrown7086@aol.com). His most recent poetry collection is, I Don’t Usually but…

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