love song for galway kinnell

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

gkinnellWhen Shakespeare wrote in his Sonnet 18 that loveliness lives on in the immortal lines of the poet, I think he was writing about Galway Kinnell, the American poet who died Wednesday of this week at the age of 87.  As a passionate reader, Kinnell is one of those writers I longed to sit under trees with.  To sit under a tree on a summer afternoon, listening to him talk or tell stories.  To notice perhaps his gentle eyes tracing the flight of birds overhead or his strong wrinkled and freckled hands trembling a little as they smooth down the grass along the edge of our blanket.  I’d tell him how I never could get the man I keep to like the name Maud, how I can’t stop dreaming about hair sprouting in the moonlight, how haunted I am by the wind crying across stones.  The wages of dying is love, he’d say.  We’d read from a book I’ve brought, his Selected Poems.  And we’d start with the first poem “Two Seasons” and read straight through sunset to the last poem, “Flying Home.”  Mine is a 1982 paperback, black with creased corners and pencil-marked pages.  Would he linger at all over my notes, I doubt.  In the margin on page 129 nothing stays the same    impermanence   A faded blue post-it note on page 115 The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell

When a beautiful soul departs the earth there’s always that sad reminder of our own mortality, but when we share pieces of ourselves with others, when we extend our hands and utter words, when we write them down, especially, a part of us lives on.


Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars for ever and ever.

~ Daniel 12:3


Two Seasons (1946)


The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled


I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.


Flying Home (1980)

It is good for strangers
of few nights to love each other
(as she and I did, eighteen years ago,
strangers of a single night)
and merge in natural rapture—
though it isn’t exactly each other
but through each other some
force in existence they don’t acknowledge
yet propitiate, no matter where,
in the least faithful of beds,
and by the quick dopplering of horns
of trucks plunging down Delancey,
and next to the iron rumblings
of outlived technology, subways up for air,
which blunder past every ten minutes
and botch the TV screen in the next apartment,
where the man in his beer
has to get up from his chair over and over
to soothe the bewildered jerking
things dance with internally,
and under the dead-light of neon,
and among the mating of cockroaches,
and like the mating of cockroaches,
who were etched before the daybreak
of the gods with compulsions to repeat
that drive them, too, to union
by starlight, without will or choice.

It is also good—and harder—
for lovers who live many years together
to feel their way toward
the one they know completely
and don’t ever quite know,
and to be with each other
and to increase what light may shine
in their ashes and let it go out
toward the other, and to need
the whole presence of the other
so badly that the two together
wrench their souls from the future
in which each mostly wanders alone

and in this familiar strange room,
for this night which lives
amid daily life past and to come
and lights it, find they hold,
perhaps shimmering a little,
or perhaps almost spectral, only the loved
other in their arms.


Flying home, looking about
in this swollen airplane, every seat
of it squashed full with one of us,
it occurs to me I might be the luckiest
in this planeload of the species;
for earlier,
in the airport men’s room, seeing
the middle-aged men my age,
as they washed their hands after touching
their penises—when it might have been more in accord
with the lost order to wash first, then touch—
peer into the mirror
and then stand back, as if asking, who is this?
I could only think
that one looks relieved to be getting away,
that one dreads going where he goes;
while as for me, at the very same moment
I feel regret at leaving
and happiness to be flying home.


As this plane dragging
its track of used ozone half the world long
thrusts some four hundred of us
toward places where actual known people
live and may wait,
we diminish down into our seats,
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours,
and yet we do not forget for a moment
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter:
where I will meet her again
and know her again,
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars.

Very likely she has always understood
what I have slowly learned
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away
as one can get on this globe, almost
as far as thoughts can carry—yet still in her presence,
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her
as by things she had already reminded me of,
shadows of her
cast forward and waiting—can I try to express:

that love is hard,
that while many good things are easy, true love is not,
because love is first of all a power,
its own power,
which continually must make its way forward, from night
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult
And as the plane descends, it comes to me,
in the space
where tears stream down across the stars,
tears fallen on the actual earth
where their shining is what we call spirit,
that once the lover
recognizes the other, knows for the first time
what is most to be valued in another,
from then on, love is very much like courage,
perhaps it is courage, and even
only courage. Squashed
out of old selves, smearing the darkness
of expectation across experience, all of us little
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts
of landing to the imponderable world,
the transcontinental airliner,
resisting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly,
to where
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears
all its tires know the home ground.

originally published in New York Review of Books, July 17, 1980 • Volume 27, Number 12

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at:,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at:,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at:,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf

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keep me reasonably gentle o lord

I came across this prayer today, full of self-deprecating wit and wisdom.  Would that I and anyone else in occasional need of gentle reminders toward kindness and humility should print it out and tape it to our foreheads.

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, you know better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But you know, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask you for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.


― Margot Benary-Isbert

And when all else fails, there’s always the ever graceful, gentle wit of Ann Landers: “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”

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what time will make of you

We read for a million reasons. To seek solace and companionship and affirmation. To bring alive or overcome the deepest darkest recesses of our minds. Reading is the best foil to the human condition . . . . It nurtures curiosity, gives wings to the search for knowledge, and improvement, the exploration of the world within and the world beyond. It’s the easiest form of escapism. There’s no better place to start than a book.

~ via

Photo1A friend and member of a small group I facilitated during Lent gave me a spirituality book I can’t wait to blog about, but it’s one of those books that will take some mulling over.  I’m only about 50 pages in, too, and who knows . . . it may take a terrible turn and render me a fool if I write about it too soon.  I’m not one to care too much about looking a fool, but still, I am loving this book right now and want to get it right.  It’s profound.  It’s provocative.  It made me weepy with resonance in the beginning chapters.  It’s about the power and imperative of storytelling.  It’s about narrative and myth, imagery symbol and metaphor.  It’s about the eternal presence of the divine and in particular, the manifestation of the eternal in the presence of Jesus and the story of his life and teachings.  It’s about spiritual awakening and transformation.  So far it’s solace, companionship AND affirmation, and I will blog about it soon!

Instead I’m going blog about this insightful piece below from the French philosopher-scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  His name gets tossed about on blogs I read, and I gather he’s considered somewhat of an iconoclast for his forward thinking.  I confess I am unfamiliar with his ideas on the whole, but when I read this particular piece yesterday I thought, this is something to write about!  You can see on my morning mug the word P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E.  It’s a daily practice for me for sure, so I share the passage with you and the story I wrote after reading it.


Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ original source unknown

I have always considered myself an impatient person and was a child known for being around the corner in my mind before my body could catch up.  I still cringe thinking about all my stubbed toes. The banged foreheads.  Bruised shins and scraped knees.  I was a tiny mess of frenetic energy.  I even started two small fires in our house because I was too busy to wait around the kitchen.  One fire started while I was making popcorn on the burner.  We had one of those cool banjo-style popcorn poppers that were popular in the 1970s, the ones that you had to shake back and forth over the electric coil.  Who has time not to mention the arm strength for all that?  I guess I got tired and left the popcorn to pop itself.  The second was an oven fire.  It started during a summer when my brothers and I really had the run of the house all day while our teenaged sister slathered herself in baby oil and read Cosmo out by the pool.  Our house was fun but sort of dangerous, I guess.  A veritable Lord of the Flies in suburban Silicon Valley.  Anyway, on this particular summer day I wanted to make cookies, and somehow I got a batter together and put them in the oven.  On broil!  I just wanted them to cook faster, you know.  But again, I was too busy and ran off to play somewhere.  Eventually we smelled smoke coming from the oven door, and when my brother opened it, FLAMES SHOT OUT!  The story gets even better, because my brother really loved that TV show Emergency and wanted to be a firefighter, so he ran outside to the back patio for the garden hose.  He may have even stopped to put on a helmet and gloves, I can’t recall.  But I remember him running into the house with that green garden hose and squirting it into the oven until the fire went out.  It was so heroic and made me love him even more.  But more than anything else, I was devastated over my cookies, I mean, looking into that oven and seeing their charred and soggy remains still stuck to the pan like obsidian rocks.  As we cleaned up the mess, I thought to myself, If only I had stuck around we’d be eating these right now instead of scraping them into the trash!

In truth, aren’t we all trying to accomplish things in a hurry?  Don’t you just love a good shortcut?  I know I do.  And that’s why I was moved by this piece from Teilhard de Chardin because it reminds me of the importance of patience, trust and faith.  Whether you are someone on a spiritual path or someone just trying to put dinner on the table for your family, it helps to remember, we can’t speed up the clock or cut corners.  Above all, “we need to trust the slow work of God.”  Have faith in what time will make of you because in the end, all will be well.  Even if you broil your cookies.


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