Invitation to Poetry: Honoring the Ancestors

Welcome to our 40th Poetry Party!

I select an image and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your poems or other reflections. Add them in the comments section and a link to your blog (if you have one).  Make sure to check the comments for new poems added and I encourage you to leave encouraging comments for each other either here or at the poet’s own blog.

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog if you have one and encourage others to come join the party! (permission is granted to reprint the image if a link is provided back to this post and full credit is given – © Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts)

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Poetry Party Theme: Honoring the Ancestors

This past weekend I was away leading an art and movement retreat for an amazing group of women.  Together we embraced the threshold space of the Celtic feast of Samhain and the Christian feasts of All Saints and All Souls Days.  In the Celtic tradition this time of year the veil between worlds is especially thin and we can feel the presence of the ancestors more strongly.  Later the Christian church claimed this wisdom for its own liturgical rhythm and we celebrate and honor those beloved dead who have gone before us.

When you stand at the threshold space between this world and the next – who is there to greet you?  Who are the ancestors – genetic, spiritual, creative – who offer you guidance and support through the challenges of life?

I invite you to write a poem in honor of one of your ancestors in particular or in celebration of the great “cloud of witnesses” and “communion of saints” who gather with us.

The photo above was taken in Ireland on my journey there in 2007.

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

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34 Responses

  1. I am from the Methodist background and I wrote this for All Saints Day

    For All the Saints

    Same weekday, same church, same sea of faces
    Same group of ladies, their favorite pew
    Something is wrong, someone is missing
    Another loss from their beloved crew

    How do I bear another saint’s death?
    Gone before my need of them fades
    No thought given, a future without them,
    Expected presence throughout the decades

    The film of my memory begins
    Scratched and faded, black and white
    Those I once loved, yet no longer here
    Images welcomed, my thoughts invite

    Little girl tugging at a woman’s apron,
    Taste of pudding, attention giving.
    More than meals made in that church kitchen,
    Naomi to Ruth, mentors for living

    Placing tiny seeds in the cup’s moist cotton
    Signs of new birth, the teacher extols
    Unaware of the second crop growing,
    Sowing of her faith in my young soul

    The scent of wood as the campfire crackles
    Counselors and teens, praise songs inspire
    Tear stained faces reflecting the flames
    My passion for God fueled by Spirit’s fire

    Older woman seated by the younger
    Holding my new baby, touching my soul
    A simple cradle cross held in the palm
    Her words of compassion make the gift whole

    Did I perceive these models of Christ?
    Promises at my baptism fulfilled.
    Recognize the legacy as it passed,
    The saint’s faith, future’s hope instilled

    Memories of my parent’s regrets
    Of those that passed, names I barely knew
    It is now my turn to feel their sorrow
    Finally understanding how love grew

    Like stories repeated through ages past
    Saints preserving God’s written Word
    Whether we read it from Bible or screen
    Gift at peril of fire and sword

    Songs of our faith penned from their souls
    Wesley’s hymns to everyday’s song
    Heart words to a rock beat by Michael W.
    Fashioned a place our praises belong

    Baptism perpetuated at creek bed or font
    His Spirit, gender friendly, color blind
    Whether hands clasped or waved overhead
    Manicured, calloused, crude or refined

    The saints did not lose their lives in an instant
    They spent lifetimes investing in us
    Passing not merely from life unto death
    They passed on their faith and with it their trust

    Please accept these, our humble gifts of thanks
    Your lives remembered, your absence mourned
    For not only in your living, but dying
    Is the hope of our Church re-born

  2. I just returned home from burying my grandmother last Saturday. She’s been so very influential in my life and I am comforted by the idea that we are still connected. This is for her.

    She rises each day and greets the dawn, here, not there.
    With a steaming cup of coffee in her hand she opens her Bible.
    Even with the care she shows, it is worn from the years of use.
    She listens and receives comfort and encouragement.
    Breathing in hope, she opens her diary and writes her prayers, here, not there.
    Every day, all my life long, my name joins the names of those she enters on the blank page.
    Ritual, blessing, my name is lifted and placed in the golden bowls filled with the prayers of the saints.
    The smoke from these prayers is fragrant in the courts of our Creator, there, not here.
    I am present, for all time, lifted up and yet still here, not there.
    Today she is there, not here. I ache and rejoice, caught in the pain and the joy.
    Today she stands in the presence of our Creator, wreathed in the smoke of a lifetime of prayer.
    I breathe in hope and say my prayers, here, not there.
    Rising up, they join her. As I too, will join her one day, there, not here.

  3. It’s so good to be here again. My offering is trying to go up here: http://meansofgrace.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/next/. (The internet is currently failing to cooperate.)
    I found myself in a similar position to Laure. My mother’s death began in this season and there are still parts of that that I haven’t written. I did write this:
    The door leading out of this life
    is a place I have spent time near
    but never clearly seen,
    and I have to wonder if any
    of us on this side have.
    I suspect (and hope) this threshold
    can only be seen as and after we cross it.
    I lingered long enough to have
    invested time wondering
    what my greeting might be.
    The solemnity of that moment,
    hopefully distant,
    might lend itself to reverent silence,
    but I find myself wishing for the
    ongoing clamor of a party,
    for the welcoming noise of friends,
    long separated, catching up.
    And I imagine the stories I’ll tell
    and the stories I’ll hear,
    and live in anticipation
    of what will come next.

    (Over the summer I changed my name. I previously participated as Ymp. I get closer and closer to settling in.)

  4. Thank you for the your inspiration, space and care.

    You walk with me
    Morning and night
    Day after day
    Season upon season

    I can count on your smile
    With the rising of the sun
    I rely on your ever changing moods
    Your enduring presence is my anchor

    You walk with me
    Stranger and untouchable One
    Yet you are lover, mother, brother
    Bestowing me with grace and comfort

    If not for you, I would not be
    The depth of my day would be flat and empty
    No mysteries past, no sense of belonging present
    With my grateful heart I welcome and walk with you

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