This particular poem – Once Upon A Sea Green Day – was inspired by the memory of a day when my high school boy friend and I went from Brooklyn to Staten Island and found a obsure Tibetan monestary in the hills there. The monks were kind (and I suspect patient) and showed us their flower and vegetable gardens and an old well-loved version of the Book of the Dead. This later was most intriguing to us: a Catholic and a Jew steeped in their respective traditions.
We were young and cock sure and probably our own deaths seemed more hypothetical than real; but we speculated on Buddhism from our positions of profound ignorance. In its way, it was a good exercise. It made us begin to seriously examine the received wisdom of our traditions. For me it was the beginning of an adventure that was to last a lifetime. I did leave behind the grief, guilt and superstition; but here were some aspects of the tradition of my childhood for which I gained a respect that probably never would have evolved without examination.
What about you? What were the beliefs and enthusiasms of your youth? How have these (religious or not) been modified over time? Tell us in a poem or short creative nonfiction.
Renee Espiru (Renee Just Turtle Flight) said this prompt “caused me to delve deep” … and so she did. Here’s here response.
A MIRACLE OF THE HEART
I was but ten years old and fearless
steeped in the tradition of miracles
brought about by steadfast prayer
symbols of candles and holy water
rituals with the heavy smell of incense
chimes and bells extolling virtues
of those who gazed upon a crucifix
a man’s body nailed upon its’ image
a man whose story repeated as an echo
through time, through space in my head
someone I would never meet and who
lived in a distant past Jerusalem
I never questioned as my prayers filled
the vast void of my heart in need
of those miracles I believed would come
when an accident left you living
but only a shadow of who you once were
leaving me with unfulfilled prayers
feeling betrayed by a belief system
filled with rituals of incense and bells
of symbolic candles and crosses
a lifetime spent in understanding
that beliefs are what you make of them
that systems may not work or betray
that what I believe in is far greater
than myself a universe not made by people
that churches are made by people
when numbers far outweigh ones’ fear
solace and joy can need to be shared
that I loved you despite everything
© March 2017 Renee Espriu
From Sonja Benskin Mesher
.as a child.
tell us things, take us without consent. there are no records.
mine are all destroyed. ask them. there are no answers.
so we attended regularly, varied chancel houses, over
time. sit up, stand up, sit down, recite, remember, stand.
up for yourself at last.
do not believe all that you are told, all that you like to.
think about it.
you wanted to believe that you believed that.
the truth is.
you did not.
And from Paul Brooks (The Womb Well Rainbow):
Work For The Answer
In my youth
I wanted to be
a mash up of Samuel Beckett
and Bertolt Brecht.
Thought I had
a religious vocation,
took two years to decide
with a horticultural job,
shovel and callouses,
tended flowers, swept up
to the church.
The religious answer
was it will all be sorted
when He comes again.
Sold Socialist Worker
on street corners
council leader’s homes,
lost a job as a casual
because I refused
to cross a picket line
I lost my luggage.
The political answer
was it will all be sorted
come the Revolution.
Still waiting for Godot
to blend with Mother Courage.
I think I shall
on the question.
Accept what cannot
be changed, change
what I can sort,
and disregard the rest.
© Paul Brookes
In honor of Derek Walcott who died a few days ago, the recommended read for this week is The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013. Walcott first poem was published when he was fourteen and this book was published in his 84th year. Never more than now has the world needed the grace, wisdom and universality of his poetry. This is a must add to your poetry book collection. It doesn’t include the epic Omeros, also recommended, but it does include some of his earlier work that I have not seen included elsewhere.
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