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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)


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. Thank you for offering the space for the gathering of these poignant words, memories, hopes…

    Lingering at the edges

    and deep in the center of my being,

    you are speaking of family stories,

    told again and again,

    reminding us from where we come

    and who belongs to who,

    helping us see

    the bigger picture of our family.

    But there are

    two particular gifts that shaped me

    in ways I am now

    beginning to understand:

    The purchase of a used piano

    for our family,

    for me,

    because I always

    played your piano when

    we came to visit.

    The offer to pay for

    voice lessons when I started college,

    because you were more

    aware than I

    of my need to sing,

    of my need to find my voice.

    Now, when I sit at the

    piano you gave us,

    now when I sing in the choir

    or at home,

    I receive the gift behind the gifts:

    the invitation to become myself.

  2. Across the Threshold

    The door is open.
    The light shines through,

    Part of my heart
    has already crossed
    this threshold,

    But my foot does not pass
    and my eyes cannot see

    Death is always
    such an abrupt

    A severing of the
    tangled tendrils
    of our lives.

    I hear the voice
    of a precious child
    calling my name.

    I long to reach
    across the stars
    to hold this one again.

  3. It is easy to spend time here and then, to listen, mindfully….
    Thank you for these offerings.

  4. the smiles of warmth and warning touch inbetween my wake
    freed souls of great thinkers and trapped spirits of unique actors
    like soft kisses upon my chest that burn though for the hearts sake
    and inspire timeless pressure of drive into the lungs of living
    … i am a daughter of the dead
    made of flesh from history
    i am a sister of the living
    inventing a new story …

  5. Dear Chrisitne, Thank you for this lovely prompt. It has inspired me to write a poem for my uncle, Calmer Overlien. He was a Methodist minister in rural Wisconsin. He once told me that I have the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, 5: 22, 23. If I do have these, it is only a mirror reflection of his own dear Spirit.

    The Fruit of the Spirit

    Wherever there is love,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is joy,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is peace,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is patience,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is kindness,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is generosity,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is faithfulness,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is gentleness,
    I see you there.
    Wherever there is self-control,
    I see you there.
    In the openness of my heart
    with compassion at the start;
    making all things right;
    where darkness flees from Light, indeed,
    Wherever Jesus reigns
    even in the depths of pain.
    I see you there.

    I feel you here, embracing me, and
    know your pride, deep inside—
    The smile on your bald head, glowing;
    your eyes through thick lenses, all-knowing!
    So how can I miss you,
    Uncle Cal? But I do.

  6. On Your Passing

    Birds sing again this morning
    as they always do.
    We have chosen this day to go down to the river.
    Bread, fruit and a bottle of wine
    packed in your beloved blue blanket.
    We are full of warm smiles.

    As I watch you dip a toe into the unknown waters, I gasp.
    I cry out “No!”
    I cannot believe the inevitable is happening.
    Then I watch the foot, the ankle, the leg . . . .
    till the waters finally pull you in and under
    where hard as I try, I cannot find you.
    I jump into the water, certain I can pull you out,
    but the river dries up and I am left all alone.

    I stay in that strange place for a long, long time,
    until I hear your voice telling me to listen. Listen!
    Without even trying, I hear.
    I hear my own breath, the beating of my heart.
    I feel the lightness of my own energy
    and I know that I finally found you.

  7. A Permeable Threshold

    Across the threshold –
    beyond the divisor of here from there –
    a beautiful woman has stepped.

    She had been full of life,
    and shared that life with many.

    She had been faithful in the little things,
    and many big ones also.

    She had given her heart to God,
    and by extension to her husband.

    She had poured herself into lives
    of family, friends, and even strangers.

    She had a disease,
    one that took her memories.

    Her brain began to fail,
    taking her ability to express her soul.

    Her life expanded in the spiritual world,
    as her mental isolation shrank her participation in the mundane.

    She crossed the threshold,
    and Saw for the first time.

    She bursts fully-formed into a realm we can’t see,
    fully participating in Resurrection

    Her soul cleansed,
    she gives voice to words in true language.

    Now free from disease,
    she joins a vast choir in song.

    Although I cannot see her,
    her presence is felt throughout my being.

    Although many others do not know her,
    every person I meet is touched by her.

    Across the threshold –
    beyond the divisor of here from there –
    Leta Darlaine has stepped.