The Lutheran
Writers Project

a home for writers and readers influencing and influenced by Lutheran traditions

THE POETRY POLE 

In It

I’m watching a wall of fast moving
grey-blue clouds turn into a door
the sun walks through
on this windy 29th day of October.

It walks down the yellowing hillside
and right up to a pair of scrub locusts,
which seem of no importance at all
and yet, wired up with bittersweet’s

red and yellow, seem just now to be
electrified by the light that just keeps coming,
crossing the street, extending itself
until I am standing in it as well,

the skin on my face growing warmer;
I close my eyes and then, as if I had been
sleeping in a strange place, let the light
wake me and tell me where I am.

--Robert Cording




On the Way to Cold Mountain

An hour ago, wind cleaning up
the remaining stale air
a cold front pushed back south,
the morning all sunshine
and breeze, I was singing
Simon and Garfunkel,
and slowing down, making
the morning last, grinning
like an idiot, crazy with
the wild exchange of sunlight
and green leaves taking place
in the lilac.  The sweet scent
of Rambling Roses preceded
the thought of roses, and you
came to mind, Han Shan,
saying , Be happy if there’s something
to be happy about, and there was.
I was happy about the day,
and, going inside, the beautiful
old room I could sit in,
the black tea with milk
I drank from my favorite mug.
I should have put up a sign—
No Philosophizing Today—
and just lain down on the rug
like my dog turning once, twice,
and then curling in on herself.
You also said, when the moment
comes, do not lose it.  But I did,
of course, the offhand thought
of a neighbor coming to mind
who, at this very moment,
could be hearing the voices
he can’t get out of his head,
and then of the people in every city
undergoing  some undeserved
madness, and of how, if asked
by any one of them to give up
my life for theirs, I could not.
O Han Shan, I know happiness
doesn’t need to be deserved,
and, believe me, I exult (even,
at times, to tears) over birdsong,
green grass, the great banquet
of light out my window, but tell me,
is there something more than this,
something more than moments
of light coming apart, turning
to ash in our mouths as we sing?

--Robert Cording



Aurora Ipsilon

Might'ier than the sword;
Bear your word sincere.
Justify the unwrit page;
Birth meaning beyond thought.
Prophesy! oh pen.
Mid-wife labored truth;
Deliver word incarnate
Creative and pure.

****

Madness comes descending--black, whispering,
summoning Soul to never ending night.
Chanting epithets, sweet sleep deterring,
mocking Sanity's cost with sick delight.
Haunted, Heart holds the spirits of the dead;
Innocence. Trust and Peace in sabbath-rest.
Oh, what price to pay!  Hope exchanged for dread...
But Love, unceasing, knows Heart's grief the best.
Night's minion fights, its goal to ruinate.
Silent thought, time's Fool, compounds care-killed gloom.
Wounded, Heart and Love be (yet obstinate)
They bear it, even to the edge of doom.
So Heart and Love are still the best defense--
They pay the price of Sanity's expense.

--Christine Summy



LAST THINGS

I’ve just read that when we die,
One thing will put on another—
The perishable the imperishable,

The mortal the immortal—one
Thing putting on its opposite,
Continuity in discontinuity. I sigh.

I begin to think about coats. Hats.
Putting on. Adding. So death isn’t less?
I don’t know why my poems keep

Arriving where things vanish.
I don’t know why an apple, once
Opened, can never be closed again.

Yesterday, in a long row, I planted seeds
That look nothing like sweet peas at their
June flowering. And we shall be changed.

I know a man who is dying. Slowly.
I know, too, two plum trees who are
Dying and blossoming, at the same time.

--Lynn Martin



FIRST CROCUS

I have come to the edge of nothing.
The sky dismantles itself. Clouds do
What clouds do—gather themselves

Until there is water enough to fall softly
Into the arms of my roses. This silence
Does not demand light instead of darkness.

This silence sits in the mystery of a field
And waits for the dead to speak their secrets.
And how is it nothing brings me everything?

Is this the resurrection of the dead?
I see the first crocus giving its life away—
The rivers turned into their own kind of singing.

--Lynn Martin



While in St. Peter’s, Rome*

I think the world
is like the feet of the Pieta
and shines out of the dark arches only
when touched by hands that believe in it.
I think that when the feet
are worn away by touch,
people will climb up the body of Christ
until he’s worn onto a world of hands,
a shining marble dust,
and then the night’s white, worn pearl,
river stone moon Mary will smile,
and we’ll all be home.

--John Graber

*Michelangelo’s Pieta is a marble sculpture of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion. It stands within a giant cathedral. For five hundred years believers on pilgrimage could reach just high enough to touch Jesus’ feet for a blessing. This reverent touch wore them down like stone stairs in old building



Visiting the Poetry Pole with Linda
after being evacuated from Holden Village:
A Poem for Jim and Karen


“They’re still our kids, but they’re not
in the pictures anymore,” says Linda,
frowning at her camera. We’ve crossed
water together seven times, come through fire
twice—one a kind of dying, the other
a promise of life too hot and blinding
to believe. Yesterday we looked flames
in the face, leaving the village we love.
Smelling of smoke we’ve reached this corner
where poems grow tall as roses, some lines
so bleached by sun and sprinklers
have to squint to read them. Linda squints,
too, taking the snapshot that says where we’ve been
and in whose company. These poems chart
what photos cannot say: what it’s like to hear
your skirt-chasing dad call you mi’ja; what it means
to stand all alone in Othello, pumping gas.
What this poem has to say is how it feels
to watch our children light the match themselves,
not just tiring of childhood, but torching it,
scrapbooks, trinkets, toys—everything is fuel.
This side of fire is fear; the other, clarity.
Beyond the blackened stumps the view
goes on forever. The forest is burning.
The only way is through.

--Anne Basye



Faith River

Adrift: 1990
Back in answer land,
black unmistakable
white blindingly bright – 

Everyone either
Catholic or Lutheran:
Catholics wrong,
we Lutherans right.

One day
entered water
lost shore


Afloat: 2005
No shore
in sight.
Something
holds me up

so far

My friends
are swimming, too

--Sara Bryan
Read the essay below; if you'd like to contribute, write to Blue Begonia Press founder & caretaker Jim Bodeen at bodeen22@charter.net. He'll send you instructions. You can view an interesting video of the original poetry pole on YouTube.
An ESSAY

The Poetry Pole touches earth and sky.


Yesterday, fourth graders from St. Paul Elementary School in Yakima , tacked their poems on the Poetry Pole in the garden at Blue Begonia Press after reading them aloud. We made a video of the recording. We talked about the muse, music, and inspiration.


We sat on the lawn, still in winter, and wondered aloud about breathing life into our poems.  We talked about our poems, too, and where they came from.


One girl, who has already written a book called, Girls, and her classmates have read it, wondered if I was an editor. No. I’m a caretaker, I said, I take care of the Poetry Pole and the poems around it. As I put my hand on the Pole, it moved. After a dozen years, it needs resetting. It’s rotting in the ground, I said. And I’ll bet if we look around, I’ll bet we find some poems that have blown off in wind and snow, and have been covered all winter.


And what about this Poetry Pole? I asked, putting my hand on the Pole, and watching it shake, while the kids laughed. Three years ago, Terry Martin, Dan Peters, Rob Prout and I co-edited Weathered Pages: Ten Years at the Poetry Pole. The volume included, by chance, 66 women and 66 men. Ages ranged from 8 to 88. The oldest writer in the book, by coincidence, in this context, was a Lutheran pastor, Harald Sigmar. Writers came from the four corners of the United States , including Alaska , Puerto Rico and Mexico . They included Academy of American Poets with national awards, along with writers being published for the first time.


The book resulted in Poetry Poles going up in school libraries, an art center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho , and a man in Oregon who began planting Poetry Poles like Johnny Appleseed up and down the West Coast. There is a part of me that believes that every Pole planted in weather is more authentic than the book Weathered Pages, which became for me (as much as I loved it) a kind of literary artifact.


The truth of the Poetry Pole begins with the invitation, and the practice of devotion. Here there is no middle man, no editor, no gate keeper. The caretaker at the Pole bows before the Goddess, the true source of one’s devotion and practice. She only wants our best. If we give her that, that is all we can do. And we give our best with no guarantees. We don’t put the poem on the Pole to add to our résumés. I have chided more than one poet, however, as books were going through final editing and the poets were writing about permissions, for crediting magazines and journals with first publications, instead of the Poetry Pole, where the poem was first published. And what about our vocation? I asked, that one would rather have a poem credited as being with a magazine prestigious or not, as opposed to a submission before the Goddess herself?


You get the point.


How does poetry come into the world?


And what kind of poetry does the Poetry Pole invite if it’s been created in the aftermath of Lutheran writers convening to read their work on a Lutheran university campus? What kind of calling is this?


I have been invited as first caretaker of this Online Poetry Pole. I like neither prompts not themes, preferring the poet’s vocation as being one of seeking what remains of the beloved, as Robert Graves wrote. I will act as first caretaker, encouraging the Poetry Pole’s beginnings, and then pass this privilege to another caretaker who will breathe fresh life into our work. As Lutheran writers we come from a tradition of monasticism. Let this invitation come from the writer’s monastic roots.


A Carthusian monk writing some liner notes on this subject for the Soundtrack to the movie, Into Great Silence. Here is some of what he says:


A monk is a man like any other man, who loves life and seeks happiness. However, he does not always find it right away. He follows his quest in the world, in his heart, and is aware of… the beautiful and the less beautiful; laughter and tears; good and hard times; peace and anguish…. He allows everything to touch him too, and welcomes it in his heart to look for coherence…until the moment he hears a voice talking to him, pointing out a direction to follow. This voice shines a light on what was, creates an aperture towards the future and invites him to not be afraid and to engage on the road to the unknown.


He is solitary, not isolated. He is a gatherer….he brings, as much as possible, all things to himself: the wide range of human experiences and historical events, desires and hopes that fill men’s hearts….Because of his small but significant part, the monk is a canal of life: a very thin artery that has the capacity to spread the spiritual energy of the divine grace all over the surface of the earth and even in the whole body of creation.


The Poetry Pole is a monk.


Remembering those fourth graders from St. Paul ’s at the Poetry Pole, bringing their own inspiration to the Pole, bring the best you have. Let there be no editor, only a caretaker. The sooner any guidelines disappear, the better.


Send your poems. Let them touch earth and sky.


Send one or two poems in a Word Document File in Times Roman text. Please, no indentions, images, headers, footers, or anything but your poem.  Add a one-sentence biographical note. Pass this invitation along.


Jim Bodeen

Yakima, Wa
March 11, 2008
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