Invitation to Poetry: Book of Life

Invitation to Poetry

Our 15th Poetry Party! I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc. Leave them in the comments or email me and I’ll add them to the body of the post as they come in along with a link back to your blog if you have one (not required to participate!) I’ll add your contributions all week and then I will draw a name at random on Saturday morning from everyone who participates and will send the winner a copy of my newest zine What is Blossoming Within You?

This week’s photo is of a statue I found in the Edgell Grove cemetery in Framingham, Massachusetts where my mother is buried. I became intrigued by what this angel might be writing and I was reminded of the image of the “Book of Life” from Revelation. So what do you imagine is being penned by this winged creature? Feel free to take your poem in any direction you feel moved.

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THE TAMARIND TREE
A Buddhist parable on immortality, based on the way of Nature, which reproduces a plant from hundreds of seeds dispersed on the wind [lifetimes lived], in the likelihood that at least one of them will, by chance, happen upon fertile ground [enlightenment].  How merciful for the plant!  How merciful for us!

ONE BRIGHT and cool summer day the Buddha took a walk along the forest path, simply enjoying the beauty of the earth. At a cross road, he saw a man in grief praying earnestly.

The man recognized the Buddha and fell on his knees. He cried, “Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful! I was once a man with great wealth, living a life of ease and happiness. By trikery and deceit, those I trusted and loved took everything from me. I am now a wretched man with no one to turn to. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I can be liberated?”

Pointing to the mango tree by the road, the Buddha said, “Do you see that mango tree? You must be reborn as many times as the number of mangoes on that tree before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world.”

Seeing that there are at least dozens of mangoes hanging on the tree, the man gasped, “But Lord! I have lived a righteous life in accord with the precepts! Why am I condemned to suffer so much longer?”

The Buddha sighed. “That is the way it must be.” And he continued his walk.

He came across another man praying by the road and this man too, fell on his knees and cried, “Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful. I have lost all those I loved to the king of death. I am now forlorn and lonely. Life is full of anguish. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?”

The Buddha pointed to the field of wild flowers along the road and said, “Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of flowers in that field.”

Seeing so many hundreds of flowers in the field, the man cried, “But Lord! I have done many good deeds and have followed your teachings by heart. Why must I endure so much more suffering?”

The Buddha sighed, “That is how it must be.” And he continued on his way.

When he came across a Tamarind tree, another man fell down on his knees and cried before him, “Oh Lord! Life is full of suffering! During the days I toiled like a slave under the scathing sun; at night I have nothing to sleep on except a pile of grass on the cold, damped earth. Life is nothing but hunger, thirst and loneliness! How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?”

The Buddha looked up to the Tamarind tree–each branch of it bearing many stems and each stem has dozens of leaves. The Buddha said, “Look at that Tamarind tree. Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of leaves on that Tamarind tree.”

As the man looked up at the Tamarind tree and its thousands of leaves, his eyes filled with tears of gratitude and joy. “How merciful!” he said as he prostrated to the ground at the Buddha’s feet.

To this day the Tamarind’s seeds are the symbol of faithfulness and forbearance.

(submitted by kigen)

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The sentinel a vigil keeps
watching while the dark world sleeps
blind to Love and Glory.
He each night writes the ancient story
and scribes for each day something new
until the damp of morning dew
stills his pen
and then
and then
He waits and waits to see
what God does next in you, and me.

-Anne Sims at Stories and Faith

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This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me! 

-Emily Dickinson

Accompanying woodblock print by Bette Norcross Wappner

*****

How long had I watched Sisiphus
push this rock that rests
under my foot?
To my embarrassment his name
never showed up in the book of life-
Possibly Dante had given him a ring
of hell and that should have
sufficed. I never
thought myths died, now I fear
that I am somones dream.

-Tom Delmore at Crow’s Perch

*****

Granite Angel

I wonder what you are writing,
pen and book in hand.
You stand among 
gravestones etched with
statements: 
Sweetheart. Beloved. 
Mother. Infant.
And mysteries: 
Why so young? Why so old? 
Sorrow?  Relief?  

Marbled divinity, 
I think your writings are not words, 
but sketches, silhouettes of grace. 

-Martha Louise Harkness

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The Angel of Narcissus

I strike a pose,
so high above them all,
so wise and stern,
and all who see me crane and yearn
to view the words I write.
“Is my name on your list?”
you wonder, your uneasiness
creating little flurries in the air
around my stony soul.

The stone mason’s chisel
does my fair proportions justice,
but he carefully omits
what flows from my pen:
buy milk, suntan lotion,
start the laundry,
mail the rent check,
put out cat,
pick up Jean at 3.

-Wren at The Winding Mind

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STORYTELLERS

Late at night, the sentinel grins
at its sculptor’s naïve folly,
thinking he could capture time
and achieve immortal glory.

The sentry resumes his task each night
after graveyard gates are locked,
giving lie to those who claim
“dead men tell no tales.”

Row by row they take their turn,
spinning yarns from lives well lived,
adding to the Book of Life
tales of courage, joy and pain.

Storytellers one and all,
in rhythm or in verse,
the old scribe nods while carving words,
into solid granite.

Years from now, my story, too
will find its way into this tome,
to join my fellow pilgrims there,
my story freed, I’ll rest at last.

-Rich Murray at Pilgrim Path

*****

In memory of–

Jacob
from the Rhine,
musically-inclined,
last week he resigned

joy and sorrow intertwine

-Sherry R

*****

Perhaps we are here in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate,
pitcher, fruit-tree, window
– Rilke, ninth Duino Elegy

Demas heard the order, just like the rest of us:
Return at once.
He had statued himself atop a stone,
“in order to get a better look,” he said.
“Just a minute longer,” he said.
Demas. From the moment his feet touched down,
the pen was moving.
I had quietly questioned God’s wisdom
in giving such a gift to one so young.

He begged me to look at his final page:
tears, dusk, winter, black, crows, dirt.
I reminded him of Lot’s wife.
He did not seem to care.
“Just one more,” he said.
As I moved away, my eyes saw his final word: death.

There are those who fell in pride,
and then there are those who fell in love.
Demas would be the latter.
As the company fluttered away, our eyes met.
“I think I’ll stay,” he said.
“It’s so beautiful,” he said.
We watched our comrade’s fall into creation.
The stone beneath his feet slowly rose
until the incarnation was complete.

-John at The Dirty Shame

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With winged pen
She charts a course across the page
For the journey of thousands,
Maybe millions of different souls,
All precious and unique
Each with a collection of stories,
Dreams,
Visions for an unknown future
Glimpsed only in fragments,
Yet sparkling with desire
As they soar to her on whispered breath
These Prayers,
These hopeful secrets uttered,
In the quiet pause of hectic days.
She collects them in her book
Wildly writing every detail
So that someday,
When the time is right,
She can return these prayers
Fully formed,
With voluptuous wings,
Freeing souls to fulfill their deepest desires,
Freeing souls to live.

-Tricia Schug

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The Book

Days of awe, shivering
down the back of the year
calling, calling in the long holy
chant of the shofar.
Does an angel take up pen
and scratch the names
of all the world across pages
granite grey and hard
as resentment? Or does my God
hold the book of life, apon
his lap and trace each page
writ by stars, and ancient branches,
veined by leaves gone to lace
and etch my name among the green
and laughing faces, of
the lilies on the still quiet
water?

-Tandaina at Snow on Roses

*****

your thoughts are
as poetry,
transcribed
by angels
who take 
the mundane, the
everyday
things,
giving  them
fresh beauty…
.for they see
as
through
the eyes
of
God

-Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes

*****

It’s heavy, heavy,
This Word.
I’m not sure I envy
the poor girl.
She’ll have to bear the birth
And the life
And the suffering
And the dying.
But He’ll rise again,
and that’s when
those earthbound
creatures can
know what we
Know.

And they will be changed.

Oh my God.
The wonder.
Oh. My God.

MikeCamel

*****

So often I wonder
as I stare at newly formed verse,
words set to dance on page,
at how I myself get caught
in the play of word with word
as between most skilled partners.
And, as ideas once more spin
new paths through my mind,
I know that I was not the one
who set this in motion.
At best I nudge them to spin
faster, further.
I, mere mortal,
am not up to such creation.
I but play with words already patterned.
And I watch.
And I marvel.

-ymp at Means of Grace

*****

The Gatekeeper

The gatekeeper watches the scene below
As old bones crumble and devolve to dust.
The multi-hued leaves of Fall lie still ‘neath
their blanket of cold and crystalline death.

Who comes? Who goes? It matters not, but for
the record he keeps, the task weighs upon
weary winged shoulders. The gatekeeper
sighs, and longs for the day when, he knows, the

trumpet will sound and the book will be closed.
His task complete, he can return to
the world he calls home. Not heaven nor hell,
nor earthly abode, but a place of light.

The ones below will be free. With gates destroyed
there is no need…for a gatekeeper.

Kievas Fargo

*****

Wings

A concrete scribe,
Head bent to the task
Of memorializing what came before
Capturing all that may be.
But disremembering this moment,
Neglecting to look up.

Rigidity masquerading as
Strength and groundedness
So that she never noticed
When her legs grew heavy,
Turning to stone
While her head was bent to the task.

Now something new
And infinitely ancient
Burgeons in the shadow.
A gift that was always hers
Come to liberate from
Her self imposed confinement.

Wings as airy as breath
As white as the light of morning
Unfurl, tremble in the breeze,
Catch the wind.
Shattering any thought
That she is an earthbound creature.

-Rebecca Johnson

*****

Thyme’s Vigil

For ages she
has kept vigil,
collecting bits of
wisdom and
lore that are
worth remembering.

For generations she has
kept watch,
resting her pen
from thyme to
thyme,
reading instead
of writing,
sharing the bits
of wisdom and
lore to any who
will listen.

Today, the
lichen and moss,
the chips and cracks
add testimony
to the truth
of her words.
“They withstand the test
of thyme and life.”

Tomorrow, she will
still be here,
with or without pen
in motion,
reflecting the
Holy Presence
in our lives.

-Cathleen at Back Road Journey

*****

Well done dear beloved soul, well done.
Yes, you accomplished by your physical existence eternally changing the whole of the
universe.
Every thought you thought,
every tear you cried,
every sound you heard,
every feeling you felt,
every decision you made,
every touch,
every connection,
all of it, all that embodied every second of your lifetime matters.
Nothing is wasted,
Rather all is gathered and brought into the realm of grace and love.
As a result a new color now exists on the Creator’s pallet!

Ahhh,
Look, look and behold the beautiful universe as we have never seen it before!

Thank you, dear soul, thank you for your courageous journey.

-Revnawny at Sacramentality

*****

Questions for an Angel

Oh, stone angel with your book,
are you writing about me?

I am just playing
with my friends in this park,
but I keep glancing
over my shoulder at you.

Do you have a long list
of all I’ve done wrong?
Did you notice when
I helped Grandma yesterday?

They say you can see into my heart.
So, you must know when I intend to be good,
but it doesn’t come out quite right.
Does trying count?

Maybe if you smiled a little,
I wouldn’t be as nervous.
I’ve been told that God
has lots of room in heaven.

Oh, stone angel with your book,
can’t you move to another park?

-Pam McCauley

*****

That Statue

One angel statue,
worn by time,
stands lonely on the ledge.

That angel statue
touched by many
looks on through the hedge.

The angel statue,
firm and unyielding,
stares as I walk by

The angels eyes seem trapped,
like wings,
ready to fly

I pass very near
to the angel,
as I go to school each day.

It holds the same pose
from mid- winter
to the end of may

Once it was waiting
but now it is straight
and looks you in the eye.

The time has come,
the time is now,
for the angel statue to fly.

It steps off the ledge,
it spreads its wings
and jumps into the sky.

Now the ledge,
worn by time,
has a statue on its base.

But it’s just a memorial,
another statue
stands in the angel’s place.

The angel statue
is no longer there,
but soaring the heavens above.

It must be flying,
touching the clouds,
filled with joy and love.

I wont forget
the look of that day,
the blueness of the sky.

I wont forget
the radiant joy
when the angel began to fly.

I wont forget
the angels wings
as hard as a well beat rod

And I’ll never forget
that angel’s face
when it heard the call from God.

-Micaela McCauley

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-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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