Last spring we launched a series with poets whose work we love and want to feature and will continue it moving forward.
Our next poet is Mary C. Earle whose work is centered on embodied spirituality and aging. Read her poetry and discover more about the connections she makes between poetry and the sacred. Listen to her read "To Chama River Valley" below.
To the Chama River Valley
I want to lie down
on your rocky hillside
and pull your dark skin up over my body
like one of my grandmother's quilts.
I want to snuggle down
with the worms and the beetles
laying my flesh on your flesh,
skin to skin,
listening with a child's hopeful heart
for an ancient lullaby,
an even older rocking sway,
a tender whisper,
a kiss goodnight.
Themes of Her Work
I turned 70 last November, and around that time I began to be invited to speak about aging. This has felt to me like a sacred call, because I did not go looking for these assignments! It is, in part, a natural progression of my interest in embodied spirituality, and in the marvel that is our singular physical habitat—the body that is sacred gift. So, I'm attending to aging—of bodies, of the earth, of relationships, of my own gardens, of nations and political interactions. I'm noticing anew people who are fresh and fruitful into their 80s and 90s.
When I lie down that last time
upon the folds of hill country earth,
I want to hear the cypress lullaby
as my bones let go.
I want cardinal praise, red and raucous,
filling the air
as my dust returns to dust.
I want the breeze that whistles down the creek bank
to gather up my ashes in its eternal song,
to gather and cast in one sweet movement,
scattering those atoms that were briefly mine,
into the soil as old as the hills.
The Soul Has Seasons
Like blackberry brambles the soul has seasons
when its leaves grow scarce.
Even then, a smallish body will find shelter there,
deer mouse chittering, or the tiny wren, piping its song.
For what, if not that singing, does the soul dare
a new season's greening?
Poetry and the Sacred
I have loved poetry since I was a young girl, in part because it sings. Even when there isn't a rhyme scheme, poetry is the fruit of us humans listening for the melody of the Great Song that sings everything into being. Poetry reminds us to listen. So, when I encounter a poem whose images and phrasing stir something within me, I am both listening to that Song, and invited to share its sacred melody.
So often a poem names something that I need to have named, or focuses my attention on something I've failed to see. I write in order to pay attention. I write poems so that I may know what I see. Poetry enhances the practice of mindfulness. Just yesterday I read "Small Kindnesses" by Danusha Lameris for the first time. That poem made me stop, give thanks, rejoice, and resolve to attend to small kindnesses.
Poetry reminds us that language is gift. The poet calls us to remember that language shapes action, and that how we see shapes what we see (as John O'Donohue observed). Reading and writing poetry invites me to be open and vulnerable, to receive and to bow before great Mystery.
On the Road to Bardsey Island
Something new and old flows in me here.
Something as fresh as springs in the rock.
Something as aged as this craggy coast.
Something as elemental
as it was in the beginning.
On the road to Bardsey Island,
I can hear the tromping of pilgrim feet.
I hear the prayers of many,
and I wonder at this holy band,
these saintly presences who walk with us,
telling their stories, urging us to see,
tugging at our hearts and souls
and reminding us that the news is good.
I feel roots sprout from my feet
and leaves bud just below the surface of my skin.
Sap begins to flow within,
coursing through scorched veins,
easing pain and inflammation,
bringing new life so sweet it almost hurts.
About Mary C. Earle
Mary C. Earle is a writer, poet, gardener, knitter, teacher and retreat leader. She lives in San Antonio, TX with her husband Doug, their border collie Fiona and cat Leftovers. She is the author of seven books and co-author of two. Her first book of poetry, "Do You Sing Your Own Song?", is forthcoming from Material Media Press in December 2019. For more about Mary and her work, check her website: MaryCEarle.com. To order Do You Sing Your Own Song? or any of Mary's books, click here>> . All of Mary's books are also available through Amazon.com and other online vendors.
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.