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. In this monthly column, ‘Setting the Inner Compass,’ I share some of the poems I find nourishing to the soul.
The news has been impossibly difficult these past few weeks. Apart from the complex and not so complex political and historical realities, I have simply felt intense sadness and grief at the lives lost and the fear and ideological walls that limit human community and wound this fragile planet. Finding light in this darkness is difficult and perhaps not the most faithful path for us to take. Perhaps we need to live in the shadows, the real time awareness of the violence and cruelty people can inflict on other humans like them that they name as enemies. It’s been a hard season for this writer.
The struggle with darkness and light is real as well on a smaller scale in our individual lives. Sometimes small, far from profound, thoughts throw us off our path and trouble our spirits. Sometimes our spirit wrestles with bigger, “ozone” sized questions. Danusha Laméris’ poem “Thinking” expresses the challenge to stop thinking so much when a million thoughts spin in our consciousness.
Alberto Rios in his poem “The Broken” invites us to embrace the reality of brokenness and the possibility that what is broken can be fixed. My spirits are lifted up by his words and promise that “something is always fixed” even as I admit I am not sure how, even with God’s grace, certain things in our world in 2023 can be repaired. There are times I struggle for hope and turn to others and poets to ‘hope’ for me until I am able to find my way back to hope again.
“Thinking” by Danusha Laméris
Don’t you wish they would stop, all the thoughts
swirling around in your head, bees in a hive, dancers
tapping their way across the stage? I should rake the leaves
in the carport, buy Christmas lights. Was there really life on Mars?
What will I cook for dinner? I walk up the driveway,
put out the garbage bins. I should stop using plastic bags,
visit my friend whose husband just left her for the Swedish nanny.
I wish I hadn’t said Patrick’s painting looked “ominous.”
Maybe that’s why he hasn’t called. Does the car need oil again?
There’s a hole in the ozone the size of Texas and everything
seems to be speeding up. Come, let’s stand by the window
and look out at the light on the field. Let’s watch how the clouds
cover the sun and almost nothing stirs in the grass.
“The Broken” by Alberto Ríos
Something is always broken.
Nothing is perfect longer than a day –
Every roof has a broken tile,
Every mouth a chipped tooth.
Something is always broken
But the world endures the break:
The broken twig is how we follow the trail.
The broken promise is the one we remember.
Something changed is pushed out the door,
Sad, perhaps, but ready, too ready, for the world.
Something is always broken.
Something is always fixed.
“Thinking” by Danusha Laméris used with permission of the poet from her collection, The Moons Of August (Autumn House Press, 2014). Danusha Laméris was born to a Dutch father and a mother from Barbados. She lived briefly in Lebanon during the outbreak of the 1975 Civil War. She lives and teaches in Santa Cruz CA.
“The Broken” by Albert Ríos from A Small Story About the Sky. Copyright © 2015 by Alberto Ríos. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Copper Canyon Press. Alberto Rios was named Arizona’s first poet laureate. His poems reflect his Chicano heritage and are infirmed by his upbringing in the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
Rev. Dave Brown is a poet, preacher, writer and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. He frequently speaks about Interfaith friendship with Imam Jamal Rahman. dave is the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA. His new poetry collection should be available early in 2024. ([email protected]).