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Faith Comes From What is Heard

September 21, 2012

Okay, so there are two poems I can no longer bear to read aloud. One I used to read at the end of yoga classes sometimes. It's by Rainer Maria Rilke, that overly-sensitive 19th-century German poet I'm somehow kin to, I guess. And the other I used to read around All Saints' Day at the evening alternative service when I was a parish pastor. That one is by Robinson Jeffers, an under-valued, mid-twentieth-century treasure of a poet. 

Now my voice breaks when I try to read them. So read them aloud for me. It's worthwhile work.

Here's the Rilke. It's probably not even a good translation. I wouldn't know the difference. Still, it makes me cry. Do join in:



 

God speaks to each of us as God makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall;

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

 

Flare up like a flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don’t let yourself lose me.

 

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

 

Give me your hand.

                                      

You want to read the other one, too? (You do, you do.) It's more of a love poem. Here it is, thanks to Robinson Jeffers:

Blue Gentians


       Cremation 


       It nearly cancels my fear of death, my dearest said,
       when I think of cremation. To rot in the earth
       is a loathsome end, but to roar up in flame--
       besides, I am used to it,
       I have flamed with love or fury so often in my life.
       No wonder my body is tired, no wonder it is dying. 
       We had great joy of my body. Scatter the ashes. 



So what is making me so weepy?

Well, tomorrow night I'm going to hear a performance of the Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony. Anybody who has seen the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy screwball comedy, "Adam's Rib," might remember that the love interest/composer pens a little love-ditty to Hepburn called "Farewell, Amanda," outright stealing Tchaikovsky's main motif from his 5th. And yet, watch the film, you'll laugh; hear the symphony, you'll cry. Who says two things can't be true? Only damn fools. Ignore them. 

(And don't forget to read the poems aloud. That's all for now!)  

That is, unless you want to listen up: 

 

 

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.