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.
Valentine’s Day 2022- In my 2021 Valentine’s Day column I shared how I changed my mind about celebrating Valentine’s Day. There was a time when I didn’t pay much attention to this or any “greeting card” holiday. I didn’t have much interest in red hearts and cute cupid laden cards. The only holidays I paid attention to were those on the liturgical calendar. Eventually, over time I softened and came to believe that any day that makes people happy without doing any harm is a good day. And that a day celebrating romantic love is a pretty nice thing. I know that Valentine’s Day, like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, has shadows and there are those who are excluded and wish they weren’t. I’m sensitive to that, especially in public settings.
In the 2021 column I shared some of the poems I read at weddings. They included “Lonely Lake” by Joyce Kennedy, “The Orange“ by Wendy Cope and “Prayer for a Marriage” by Steve Scafidi. In that column I shared “Coming into Bed on a Winters Night” by Ellen Bass. I really like that poem and decided to share it again this month.
The poems in this column begin with a poem by William Butler Yeats that lifts up the vulnerability that anyone has when they open themselves to another person in love, “Tread softly” indeed. The two poems that follow are about the small tender moments of love between two people. Simple acts, yet profound moments of connection, moments of connection where I believe something holy is happening. God is present. One of my spiritual disciplines this late winter is not moving so fast and trying to be present to everyday miracles: like on a cold night slipping into a warm bed with my partner (thank you, Ellen Bass), and like celebrating bulbs that blossom “against all probability” and holding my beloved close (thank you, Kristen Case).
“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W. B. Yeats
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
“Morning” by Kristen Case
Against all possibility our bulbs have blossomed,
opened their little white rooms, given their assent.
I pull myself from your breathing to take a closer look.
It happened over night.
Outside a flock of birds folds and unfolds its single body.
I start the coffee. Light comes
from impossible directions.
You are still asleep.
I cup the curve of your skull with my hand.
Light rises on the flame-colored bricks.
“Getting into Bed on a December Night” by Ellen Bass
When I slip beneath the quilt and fold into
her warmth, I think we are like the pages
of a love letter written thirty years ago
that some aging god still reads each day
and then tucks back into its envelope.
“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W. B. Yeats, the poem is in the public domain and can be found in The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats.( Scribner, 1996).
“Morning” is from Little Arias by Kristen Case (New Issues Poetry and Prose) © 2015 Kristen Case. Reprinted with the permission of author and publisher.
“Getting into Bed on a December Night” is from INDIGO (Copper Canyon Press) by Ellen Bass © 2020 by Ellen Bass. Used by permission of the Permissions Company on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.
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. (firstname.lastname@example.org). His most recent poetry collection is, I Don’t Usually But…