We are launching a new series this spring with poets whose work we love and want to feature!
Our next poet is Laurie Klein whose work is deeply inspired by mystery and the healing that comes from courting holy disruption. You can hear Laurie reading her poem “How to Live Like a Backyard Psalmist” below and read more about the connections she makes between poetry and the sacred.
How to Live Like a Backyard Psalmist
Wear shoes with soles like meringue
and pale blue stitching so that
every day you feel ten years old.
Befriend what crawls.
Drink rain, hatless, laughing.
Sit on your heels before anything plush
or vaguely kinetic:
hazel-green kneelers of moss
waving their little parcels
of spores, on hair-trigger stems.
Hushed as St. Kevin cradling the egg,
new-laid, in an upturned palm,
tiptoe past a red-winged blackbird’s nest.
Ponder the strange,
the charged, the dangerous:
taffeta rustle of cottonwood skirts,
Orion’s owl, cruising at dusk,
thunderhead rumble. Bone-deep,
scrimshaw each day’s secret.
Now, lighting the sandalwood candle,
gather each strand you recall
and the blue pen, like a needle.
Suture what you can.
Appeared in Where the Sky Opens
Themes of Her Work
I’m currently thinking of poems as Valentines. I want to name what I love in ways that startle and disrupt and heal. I chase economy with ruthless reverence: a few memorable details, a singular question, the felicitous jolt. Perhaps I’m courting revelation, dazzle amid what dissolves. Feeling compelled by what I can sense— but not say—never stops me from trying! Yes, I trip over my own words, then, eventually, hopefully, cajole all my striving toward tenderness, wherein I can kneel, re-graced. Hostage to nothing. And there, await the passing sacred hem, linen’s whisper brushing against my hand.
Poem for Epiphany
Perhaps, rolled in papyrus
or raw silk,
the jeweled boxes arrive as small thuds,
and gifts imprint the dirt floor.
Were the Magi
quiescent?—a hint of Quaker,
a nod to Zen—with nothing
verbal to treasure or
ever replay in their minds
save eloquent exhalations,
the creak of joints,
be they camels or kings,
the serial tick of straw.
For the marveling patience
of plastic wise men
en route, step-by-step,
to my mother’s crèche (despite
my down-the-stairs drop kicks,
behind her back), I reposition
my knees, atoning, wordless
now, as the star comes for me.
Appeared in Books & Culture, 2016
Poetry and the Sacred
For me, entering the presence of the sacred means embracing mystery. And I adore mystery. Poems I love evoke—and expose—irresistible gaps: within my understanding, between the lines themselves, betwixt soul and Truth’s unerring glance. So I try to inhabit a listening simplicity that borders on innocence, nose out clues. Heaven knows, the last word on just about everything still remains to be said. Often, as a gap narrows into connection, an insight arcs—a comet searing my meager horizon. Is it any wonder “scared” and “sacred” share the same letters?
Centuries ago, trembling Magi parsed the star’s mysterious invitation. The seeking, the gazing, the giving—historically, we call this Epiphany: literally, “to show, to make known, to reveal.” And aren’t these the riches poems offer? An unexplained image shimmers, one step or seemingly light years beyond our reach. We turn toward it, and the primed heart, the even more primal gaze, kindles a devotional reset. Reverence radiates. Gregory Boyle, S.J. tells us, “Awe softens us for the tender glance of God,” which, in turn, graces our glance at life’s enigmas: the sacred waiting for us within others, ourselves, and our work.
I Dream You Ask,
But Where Do I Start?
Unglove the knuckles,
torqued and sore. Let the flesh
dip, then lift, a hand dripping
tears, into the basin,
anchored within a pillar of stone.
Such a kindness, this water,
warmed. Sketch the sign: brow
to breastbone, then shoulder
to shoulder—a recollection,
retraced, like a map. Tell me,
which is graver: the soul’s
relief, or its grateful receipt,
re-initialed? Love is an oar
extended, until the lapsed
skiff of a self,
resurfaces chaste, borne
on a christening tide where
memory balloons, everything
new, in one killing swirl
Laurie Klein’s work has appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, hymnals, recordings, and recently, on NPR. A past recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred and two-time Pushcart nominee, she writes from America’s Inland Northwest. Where the Sky Opens is her debut collection (The Poiema Poetry Series), available at Wipf & Stock (always 20% off retail), and Amazon.Visit Laurie Klein on Facebook, or sample her bimonthly blog at LaurieKleinScribe.com
Photo by Dean Davis Photography
Dreaming of Stones
Christine Valters Paintner‘s new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones has just been published by Paraclete Press.
The poems in Dreaming of Stones are about what endures: hope and desire, changing seasons, wild places, love, and the wisdom of mystics. Inspired by the poet’s time living in Ireland these readings invite you into deeper ways of seeing the world. They have an incantational quality. Drawing on her commitment as a Benedictine oblate, the poems arise out of a practice of sitting in silence and lectio divina, in which life becomes the holy text.