Invitation to Poetry: and a donkey shall lead them

Invitation to Poetry

This is our 18th 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 their choice of zine.

The image below was taken at a sheep farm in Arlington, WA, about an hour from Seattle.  We went there as part of a Slow Food event and got to see the dogs herding the sheep which is quite remarkable.  I was most moved however by the donkey they keep in the pasture with the sheep. Apparently he provides some extra protection for them from coyotes because he bonds with the sheep and then his size scares away some of the predators.  At one point the dogs had herded the sheep behind the donkey and the image made me smile. I was reminded of the Isaiah 11:6 quote “and a little child shall lead them.”  I believe in the power of humility and of offering ourselves to the wisdom of animals, so this photo made me wonder what you, my wonderful poet friends might imagine.  Where do you go when you choose to relinquish your own ego and follow a path that might seem foolish?

Feel free to post any of the images and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party!

*****

she tries to please her
to follow her lead
respect each small grunt
to read her eyes
when she fails
she tries to blend in
to melt away
like a blurry picture
she fades in to the background
re-builds her confidence
and then tries again to stand out
to be treasured for her uniqueness
to be enough
to be loved

-Nichol Newcomb

*****

Mule Heart

On the days when the rest
have failed you,
let this much be yours –
flies, dust, an unnameable odor,
the two waiting baskets:
one for the lemons and passion,
the other for all you have lost.
Both empty,
it will come to your shoulder,
breathe slowly against your bare arm.
If you offer it hay, it will eat.
Offered nothing,
it will stand as long as you ask.
The little bells of the bridle will hang
beside you quietly,
in the heat and the tree’s thin shade.
Do not let its sparse mane deceive you,
or the way the left ear swivels into dream.
This too is a gift of the gods,
calm and complete.

-Jane Hirshfield

(submitted by Jen)

*****

THE LADY AT THE COUNTER SAID – “JUST TRY IT!  YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF IRRESISTIBLE!

Irresistible, I just wanted a little attention, I didn’t expect a flock –
Now I’m stuck with all these ewes at every hour ‘round the clock.

I’m mean they’re cute as can be and their bleats are quite proud,
But every step that I take…..well, for cryin’ out loud!

I know they mean well and they think I’m a prince
They screamed and I ran there, kicked the coyote o’er the fence.

So, now – is it the perfume or just ‘cause I’m brave
That I have this great harem I’m signed up to save.

I’ll do it, I’m faithful but wouldn’t you think,
The lady at the counter now owes me a DRINK?!

RILEY at Riley Fact or Fiction

*****

“Turning now to the indication which I have described as a decisive one: here is this soul which God has made, as it were, completely foolish in order the better to impress upon it true wisdom. For as long as such a soul is in this state, it can neither see nor hear nor understand: the period is always short and seems to the soul even shorter than it really is. God implants Himself in the interior of that soul in such a way that, when it returns to itself, it cannot possibly doubt that God has been in it and it has been in God; so firmly does this truth remain within it that, although for years God may never grant it that favour again, it can neither forget it nor doubt that it has received it (and this quite apart from the effects which remain within it, and of which I will speak later). This certainty of the soul is very material.

“But now you will say to me: How did the soul see it and understand it if it can neither see nor understand? I am not saying that it saw it at the time, but that it sees it clearly afterwards, and not because it is a vision, but because of a certainty which remains in the soul, which can be put there only by God. I know of a person who had not learned that God was in all things by presence and power and essence; God granted her a favour of this kind, which convinced her of this so firmly….”

from St. Teresa’s Interior Castle, Fifth Mansions, Chapter One
(submitted by kigen)

*****

Today is My Birthday 

Today is my birthday—I am the donkey
leading the silly sheep.
and yet I am both, leader and lead,
sillier and silliest. 
 
(But just today,
could I be the silly donkey?) 

Today is my birthday—Christ is the donkey,
the sheep, the All. 
 
Today, may the silly wolf
be my friend.

-Martha Louise Harkness

*****

The Innocent

have always followed
the one who knows them.

Their hearts beat
a murmuring whisper:
remember.

Remember you belong
to all that is–
the green underfoot;
the broken blue overhead;
the light that annoints
each blade from within;
and even the one
who willingly leads you
from the rocky crag
to the other end of the meadow,
which you never thought to dream of.

To such a one may we lay down
our need for certainty.
May we lay down our need to folllow—
following the truth of who we are.

We are free,
living among those
who love our one true,
shining self–
yielding sheep and certain donkey
offering the miracle of all we are.

-Kathy Flugel Colle

*****

stampede

the stampeding herd storms
across the landscape of my mind
hurry up!
get it right!
don’t stop!
know it all!
you don’t know anything!
it’s all your fault!
it’s all their fault!
anger
judgment
resentment
each pushing to take the lead
but…
humility quietly presses ahead
slowly
steadily
gently
humility comes alongside with
steady plodding steps
be still and know that I am God
be still and know that I am
be still and know
be still
…and then the stampede stops

-Kayce Hughlett at lucy creates

*****

This donkey has history, from fable to savior this creature was there. It carried
but did not lead.  It was carried and that looked ridiculous. Like an important
piece in a play but never sure where to be placed.

I fear the papparotizzi caught the donkey in a moment that should not have been
photographed. The caption read: the blind leading the blind.

-Tom Delmore at Crow’s Perch

*****

This time I’ll be prosaic rather than poetic and begin by admitting maybe particularly since I’m woman, that ego-not ego brings such a constant, often bewildering, seemingly insolvable push-pull. I love the earthy roots of the word “humility” connecting us, binding us to the soil – hummus – safely (I’d hope!) securing us into the ground. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received was from a woman who attended a church I served; she told me she was amazed I got the call because she had some awareness of their pretentious history and aspirations, and during my interviews I was “so real!” That’s akin to being in the earth, the physical place where resurrection to new life of necessity must begin; being “real” (in Spanish the word spelled r-e-a-l means “royal”–Daughter of Heaven!) relates to letting go of the unnecessary layers of your self, freely allowing yourself to be seared by the fires of the Spirit of Pentecost, purified by the heat and born again from the ashes. Several places I’ve quoted “Endless Love,” sung by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie; the recurrent phrase in the song, “and love, I’ll be a fool for you,” is exactly what God becomes for us in Jesus Christ. Both within and without the Church, foolish frequently is many people’s perception of life in Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism explains how salvation history (and the liturgical year) moves from Christmas, with the mystery of Spirit in flesh, to Ascension, with the mystery of flesh in Spirit! May the example of Jesus Christ become our experience, as well!

-Leah Sophia at This Far By Faith

*****

As a
strange,
gentle protector,
she comes
among us.
and we are
mostly unawre
of her power
to protect
for she lives
and eats
and breathes
so naturally
alongside us,
one of us
given for us…

-Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes

*****

She’s not an ugly duckling,
not exactly.
Knobby knees and short grey fur,
tall, with big ears and a braying laugh–
She just doesn’t (quite) seem to fit in with the sheep.

She’s not a misfit,
not exactly.
Long legs for speed, relatively speaking,
a big body and bigger voice,
She doesn’t fit, she leads.

An ungainly gift,
a reminder that we don’t always see with perfect clarity.
And where we wonder, we can grow.
I wonder what she thinks
about living with all those sheep?

-Anne Sims at Stories and Faith

*****

productive, weight-bearing, exciting Stuff.
 

Stuff that hinted at prestige, power and popularity.
My heart wasn’t in it any more.
So I quit.

I took the off-ramp.
I put myself out to pasture.
To be who I am
The way God made me
And am actually loving this new track I’m on…
Because it is not Stuff that consumes me any more.

It’s God.

It’s People.

It’s the wind instead of air conditioning.
It’s leaning back on a tree instead of an easy chair.
It’s the sunshine instead of a furnace.
It’s picking dandelions instead of roses.
It’s knowing that I have grass stains all over me.
It’s knowing other’s have grass stains too…
and wanting to help them be clean.

I’m just one herbivore
telling other herbivores
where to find the dandelions…

-Deb at Another Unfinished Symphony
*****

Just one of me
so many of you
still you let me walk alongside
I am glad for the company.

We are all the same,
and somehow not
I am very much bigger
louder when I talk

I only want
to walk in the middle
one day to be a part of
to blend in with the group.

-Mary Beth at Terrapin Station

***** 

Set apart from the herd.
I am a solitary animal.
No one knows
the vexations of my spirit.
or can surmise the pleasures I afford myself.

Yes, we breathe the same air and eat the same grass.
But what can we say to each other
that extends beyond a comforting familiarity?

How can we come to truly know each other
apart from this convenience?

We look beyond the fences
to the threats that linger just out of our senses
and we find ourselves
circling back
to each other.

We are each other’s world and once we acknowledge that
there is no place else to go.
We can rest safe in the eyes of each other’s memory.

-Geoff Rimositis at First Unitarian Church of San Jose

*****

Lead them? 

Who, am I?
Not, what I
dreamed
A race against
the green hills
on long, flashing legs
power, and speed.
Or a studied, dignified
walk, in rolling pastures
with staff, and dog
at whistle, musing
over a little book of poetry
as white clouds
grazed aground
my feet.
Instead,
here I am.
Battered, and a little sore.
Neither glossy polished
race horse,
nor idyllic shepherdess
on the green. Just me,
a little battered,
and so very grey.
No races here, no daydreams
of these silly, scattered
sheep, only safety
and our next meal
and a longing, longing
for the shepherd’s call.

-Tandaina at Snow on Roses

*****

Watchful strong Spirit
in you we trust

You live among us
knowing us and knowing our ways
Our need for food and nurture
Our needs for space and closeness
Our individuality and our collective identity

Lead us in our everyday routines
and beyond the bounds of our paddock
Secure in our knowledge of your care
Free in our knowledge of your love
Enlivened by your presence among us

Amen

-Mavis at Set the Bird Free

*****
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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16 Responses

  1. As a
    strange,
    gentle protector,
    she comes
    among us.
    and we are
    mostly unawre
    of her power
    to protect
    for she lives
    and eats
    and breathes
    so naturally
    alongside us,
    one of us
    given for us…

  2. This donkey has history, from fable to savior this creature was there. It carried but did not lead. It was carried and that looked ridiculous. Like an important piece in a play but never sure where to be placed.
    I fear the papparotizzi caught the donkey in a moment that should not have been photographed. The caption read: the blind leading the blind.

  3. Dear Donkey, this is not a poem because one will not come to me. But I wanted you to know that I love your steady gait, your stubbornness and your velvet nose.

  4. stampede

    the stampeding herd storms
    across the landscape of my mind
    hurry up!
    get it right!
    don’t stop!
    know it all!
    you don’t know anything!
    it’s all your fault!
    it’s all their fault!
    anger
    judgment
    resentment
    each pushing to take the lead
    but…
    humility quietly presses ahead
    slowly
    steadily
    gently
    humility comes alongside with
    steady plodding steps
    be still and know that I am God
    be still and know that I am
    be still and know
    be still
    …and then the stampede stops

  5. Christine~The beautiful sheep-donkey photo stirred me deeply; what a profound image~Thank you…Kathy

    The Innocent

    have always followed
    the one who knows them.

    Their hearts beat
    a murmuring whisper:
    remember.

    Remember you belong
    to all that is–
    the green underfoot;
    the broken blue overhead;
    the light that annoints
    each blade from within;
    and even the one
    who willingly leads you
    from the rocky crag
    to the other end of the meadow,
    which you never thought to dream of.

    To such a one may we lay down
    our need for certainty.
    May we lay down our need to folllow—
    following the truth of who we are.

    We are free,
    living among those
    who love our one true,
    shining self–
    yielding sheep and certain donkey
    offering the miracle of all we are.

  6. Thanks, Christine, for the exquisite, totally lovable donkey photo!
    An absolute dolt as far as the wisdom of the world is concerned, St. Teresa of Avila opens this vista into a most wonderful interior light:

    “Turning now to the indication which I have described as a decisive one: here is this soul which God has made, as it were, completely foolish in order the better to impress upon it true wisdom. For as long as such a soul is in this state, it can neither see nor hear nor understand: the period is always short and seems to the soul even shorter than it really is. God implants Himself in the interior of that soul in such a way that, when it returns to itself, it cannot possibly doubt that God has been in it and it has been in God; so firmly does this truth remain within it that, although for years God may never grant it that favour again, it can neither forget it nor doubt that it has received it (and this quite apart from the effects which remain within it, and of which I will speak later). This certainty of the soul is very material.

    “But now you will say to me: How did the soul see it and understand it if it can neither see nor understand? I am not saying that it saw it at the time, but that it sees it clearly afterwards, and not because it is a vision, but because of a certainty which remains in the soul, which can be put there only by God. I know of a person who had not learned that God was in all things by presence and power and essence; God granted her a favour of this kind, which convinced her of this so firmly….”

    from St. Teresa’s Interior Castle, Fifth Mansions, Chapter One
    ~ submitted by kigen

  7. “when you choose to relinquish your own ego and follow a path that might seem foolish?”

    I, your pal, RILEY, choose to relinquish my ego now and submit this silly bit of foolish fun –

    THE LADY AT THE COUNTER SAID – “JUST TRY IT! YOU’LL FIND YOURSELF IRRESISTIBLE!

    Irresistible, I just wanted a little attention, I didn’t expect a flock –
    Now I’m stuck with all these ewes at every hour ‘round the clock.

    I’m mean they’re cute as can be and their bleats are quite proud,
    But every step that I take…..well, for cryin’ out loud!

    I know they mean well and they think I’m a prince
    They screamed and I ran there, kicked the coyote o’er the fence.

    So, now – is it the perfume or just ‘cause I’m brave
    That I have this great harem I’m signed up to save.

    I’ll do it, I’m faithful but wouldn’t you think,
    The lady at the counter now owes me a DRINK?!

    RILEY
    RFF

  8. I love the idea of the donkey providing protection and reassurance. Reminds me of one of my favorite poems –

    Mule Heart

    On the days when the rest
    have failed you,
    let this much be yours –
    flies, dust, an unnameable odor,
    the two waiting baskets:
    one for the lemons and passion,
    the other for all you have lost.
    Both empty,
    it will come to your shoulder,
    breathe slowly against your bare arm.
    If you offer it hay, it will eat.
    Offered nothing,
    it will stand as long as you ask.
    The little bells of the bridle will hang
    beside you quietly,
    in the heat and the tree’s thin shade.
    Do not let its sparse mane deceive you,
    or the way the left ear swivels into dream.
    This too is a gift of the gods,
    calm and complete.

    Jane Hirshfield

  9. she tries to please her
    to follow her lead
    respect each small grunt
    to read her eyes
    when she fails
    she tries to blend in
    to melt away
    like a blurry picture
    she fades in to the background
    re-builds her confidence
    and then tries again to stand out
    to be treasured for her uniqueness
    to be enough
    to be loved
    ~Nichol Newcomb

Comments are closed.