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Poetry and Liturgy


“Love Means to Look at Yourself..." by Czesław Miłosz

Love means to look at yourself/ The way one looks at distant things/ For you are only one thing among many/ And whoever sees that way heals his own heart,/ Without knowing it, from various ills./ A bird and a tree say to him: Friend./ Then he wants to use himself and things/ So that they stand in the glow of ripeness./ It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves:/ Who serves best doesn't always understand.

"The Broken Tablet" by Roger Kamenetz

The broken tablets were also carried in an ark.
In so far as they represented everything shattered,
everything lost, they were the law of broken things,
the leaf torn from the stem in a storm, a cheek touched
in fondness once but now the name forgotten.
How they must have rumbled, clattered on the way
even carried so carefully through the waste land,
how they must have rattled around until the pieces
broke into pieces, the edges softened
crumbling, dust collected at the bottom of the ark
ghosts of old letters, old laws. In so far
as a law broken is still remembered
these laws were obeyed. And in so far as memory
preserves the pattern of broken things,
these bits of stone were preserved
through many journeys and ruined days
even, they say, into the promised land.

Kaddish for Black Lives

Creator of life, source of compassion. Your breath remains the source of our spirit, even as too many of us cry out that we cannot breathe. Lovingly created in your image, the color of our bodies has imperiled our lives.

Black lives are commodified yet devalued, imitated but feared, exhibited but not seen.

Black lives have been pursued by hatred, abandoned by indifference, and betrayed by complacency.

Black lives have been lost to the violence of the vigilante, the cruelty of the marketplace, and the silence of the comfortable.

We understand that Black lives are sacred, inherently valuable, and irreplaceable.

We know that to oppress the body of the human, is to break the heart of the divine.

We yearn for the day when the bent will stand straight.

We pray that the hearts our country will soften to the pain endured for centuries.

We will do all we must to bind up the wounds, to heal the shattered hearts, to break the yoke of oppression.

As the beauty of the heavens is revealed to us each day, may each day reveal to us the beauty of our common humanity. Amen.


"Ritual For Frightening Times" by Andy Izenson

I invite you to try this with me, even if you don’t think of yourself as someone that does magic. Try it with me as a thought experiment.

Let’s start by considering the possibility that ritual can change you. I don’t mean this to say that it can be a substitute for doing work on yourself, or for having a varied and flexible mental health toolbox, rather that our psyches are squiggly and weird places that are subject to metaphor and ritual, which can be one of those tools. We can call this ritual “magic,” but we don’t have to. I’m less invested in the vocabulary than I am in the syntax, and all the roads up a mountain lead to the top.

So if the language of “magic” works well for you, we can use that. If you’d prefer to consider this an exercise in psychological and somatic processing using tools drawn from the work of Eugene Gendlin, Starhawk, Halko Weiss, and Bessel Van Der Kolk, that’s also fine. The important thing is that you try this with a sense of curiosity and openness to the possibility that it’s not meaningless.

Usually, in ritual, we start by invoking spirits, elements, deities, ancestors, whatever beings are our allies in our working. We do this as a way of feeling connected, of asking for help, of knowing as we begin to stretch our consciousnesses that there’s something out there and that if we exceed the boundaries of the self, we won’t tumble into the void.

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"Searching My Rage" by Drew Drake

I let my rage be beautiful.
Felt no need to dress it up
Did not care how it looked
Or what ground it shook,
I just let it be,
And it was beautiful.

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"Who Said it Was Simple", by Audrey Lourde

There are so many roots to the tree of anger   
that sometimes the branches shatter   
before they bear.
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march   
discussing the problematic girls   
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes   
a waiting brother to serve them first   
and the ladies neither notice nor reject   
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.   
But I who am bound by my mirror   
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex
and sit here wondering   
which me will survive   
all these liberations.

"A Litany for Survival", by Audrey Lourde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.

"Harlem", by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

"On Ecological Literacy" by Fritjof Capra

We need to teach our children, our students, and our corporate and political leaders, the fundamental facts of life – that one species' waste is another species' food; that matter cycles continually through the web of life; that the energy driving the ecological cycles flows from the sun; that diversity assures resilience; and, (as suggested by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan) that life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, did not take over the planet by combat but by networking.

"For my Mother" by Jonathan Billig

Another year around the sun
For a spirit whose echo is endless. 

You are loved
As you are,
As you live in me and in your 
Smiling, suffering, singing children.
Programmers and apprentices,
Every shining hand you touch
A poultice for the thought,
“I can’t go on.” 
Because you do.
Because you ever always do.
Because you ride on mountain trails
Dragging friends and G!d along behind you
As if to say,
“There will be time for sorrow.
Come, let us carve a path with joy.” 

Like the star who by our life
Becomes the sun,
You anchor orbits
And radiate light. 
You merged with male
To become rock,
Coalesced from cold and violent space
When stars imploded. 
A leader among children,
A shepherd among wanderers, 
A help when none was given.
A breath both long and breathless,
Fulfillment and excitement, 
Supple strength transcending time. 

Bending our minds toward you,
Our spirits form a latticework of love.
Until we weave together 

Each moment,
Each person your quilt, 
A shelter giving tribute to the sky,
As vast as the blue of your eye.