How to be a teacher (nota bene)

I

Gratia plena for the gifts

to show, to share.

You must observe you are

the learner, the listener,

over and over

more than you are they who enter

a world – sharing people,

discomforted and

yearning. Listen to them,

hear their call, the voice

of all our selves.    

II

Be – with awareness of being

present in the here and now

allow eyes to join.

Listen and keep listening.

Welcome words of the wise;

guard against the self.

Guard against the pretension

that uplifts itself to inspire.

There are no know-it-all teachers

only hesitant beginners

growing in life, the teacher.

III

Welcome the begin agains.

Receive the moment’s surprise.

From the others the message;

not your own voice, slow and endless

learning to the one who teaches

be a teacher that grasped

always the begin again.

                                                                                                      ~ sonja s

~ an imitation of a poem by Wendell Berry

always we begin again

 

 

 

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Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guest, an altar for the unknown God. Then if a bird sings among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it. If you are conscious of something new – thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being – do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness; let it take shape and grow, and not a word of your happiness to any one! Sacred work of nature as it is, all conception should be enwrapped by the triple veil of modesty, silence and night.

~ Henri-Frederic Amiel

a trilogy of poems

a reflection on Edward Hirsch’s I am going to start living like a mystic

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Poem the first

I am going to start living like a monk

Today I am wearing a tunic, a cowl, stockings and shoes
and walking to the church of this world’s flock.

The benches wait like emptied wooden arms about to brace
each body’s always we begin again –  solid, welcoming.

Stained fragments of gospels lighting the timeless presence
are the greeters of the veiled, the entering streets.

I will look at my neighbours as longing for answers
and search in mask worn faces, mirrors of mine.

Some will light in the way of thousands before a candle
and beat upon their breasts beyond the pain for mercy.

The light shall search the souls for cracks
as if the brokenness were consecrated by the cries.

I will unfold the cloak with my tunic bare,
a worker of the field, adorn with the apron of jugum Christi.

Poem the second

I am going to start living like an artist

Today I am coming out of the hiding place
and gluing down the harsh fullness of this moment.

The memories grab like gnarled fingers across the years
each a slant of the past – wild, judging.

Sombre shards of shadows blocking out the glow
are the crossing of a border, an invitation.

I will rummage the hoard as searching for a reason
and unfurl the layers, savings for a perfect day

I breathe will  into hands with eyes watching outward
and pencil onto a blank page questions among desires.

Not daring to think  I shall make the way by walking
as if my whole being is this one moment.

I will go to bed with curtains wide open,
a beholder of light, in plain view of the dark.

Poem the third

I am going to start living like a child

Today I am removing the grown-up lady mask
and wearing the white skirt with ribbons braided through my toes.

The mask left like fifty two and a half scars of harrowed stains
each a deep pierce of a thing – tightly, clinging.

Animals of clouds playing with the grass-tickled body
are the hungers for a life, yet secret.

I will watch the clouds as dreams in the day
and weep the nightmares, wounded hurts of summer.

I will bow on grazed knees with split heels
and finger the earth for the life of the ant.

I shall again look up lolling in light
as if yesterday and the morn were scrubbed by it.

I will whirl the white skirt with hands wide free
a child of light, un scarred by the other self.

To be of use

a poem by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

This November’s kitchen

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This November morning woke up with a cup of coffee and a desire. A slow dry wind breezes through the kitchen’s back door. In the oven a cheesecake awaits its baking time. It might be a long one. A yogurt dough aspiring to be a pâte brisée is in for disappointment – I forgot the pre-bake step. Doughy it will remain. Yogurt dough, quark made at home, and a sugar substitute serve this morning’s baking. The mayhem of a low carb lifestyle.

But, the trace of freshly ground spices gathers together the tasks of this morning. Welcoming all. It’s supper’s lamb marinating in a tender Nigel Slater recipe. This one, flop proof. The lamb, only enough for two of us, awaits a long and slow cooking this afternoon. It marries the day, the heat, and the dryness – the willingness to gift the moment.

The oven’s clock’s beep calls hands to pause the flow of words, to straighten the apron, and test the wobbly cake. Memory hints to switch the oven off and leave the cake in for some time. I trust the memory. But, I’m not yet trusting myself to share the ingredients, the instructions, and the recipe. I’ll stick to the notes, allow the desire, and drink another cup of coffee.

the suchness of life

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october’s sky is gray
a bird calls and
the dog barks
the i struggle and still

thou knows and waits
now

slow-rise bread
lemon, rosemary
awakens the senses
to pen down thoughts

into this
suchness

the oven clock startles
the senses awake
dark crusted broken bread
joins the sacredness of now

no stories, no analyzing
of today’s yesterday and tomorrow
capture the segment between –
the staff of life awaits

thou knows

the I still struggles
october’s sky is gray
another bird calls
the dog sleeps

and work awaits
this for ever now

~ sonja s