Friday, September 27, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Beach and Violence

I was looking for a poem about the beach, because we're going on our staff retreat this weekend at the beach.  But at the same time I was feeling despondent about what I've been reading since last Saturday about the carnage in Kenya, the violence interrupting a beautiful Saturday morning, the shoppers gunned down, and who knows why.  Kenya is the place where I first knew beaches, when we drove or took the train to Mombasa, spoiling me forever with the wide, white, expanses of sand and the warm Indian Ocean.  Kenya is the place where I first knew many things.  It was a beautiful, wonderful place to grow up, and I will always love it.  And it hurts to watch the suffering there right now.

This poem by Rabindranath Tagore perfectly captures the combination of the beauty and the pain, the children heedlessly playing on the beach, unaware of the potential of even those waves to bring death.  I'm thinking of the child in Westgate Mall who said to the killer with a huge gun, "You are a bad man."  And in response the murderer gave the child a chocolate bar and let him go.

"Death is abroad and children play."  As the Book of Common Prayer says, "In the middle of life, we are in death."

After the Tagore poem, I'm including the Kenyan national anthem, which is the least bellicose national anthem I've ever heard.  It's really a prayer.  You can read the words below the video.

On the Seashore
By Rabindranath Tagore

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous.  On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances. 
They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby's cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.

O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.

Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend.

Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

Amy has today's roundup here, at the Poem Farm.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Poetry Friday: Monet

I found this poem a couple of weeks ago by following a link from The Opposite of Indifference.  In "Monet Refuses the Operation," by Lisel Mueller, Monet is telling his doctor that he doesn't want his vision to be "corrected," because he likes the way he sees the world.

I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent.  The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.

I love the idea that Monet has taken his whole life to "arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels," and to discover that "Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun."  I wonder what aspects of aging I could see as benefits, if I just squinted my eyes the right way.

When I wrote this post, I didn't know who was hosting the roundup today.  What a coincidence!  It's Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  Go here to read what great poems everyone has today.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Poetry Friday

I had Parent/Teacher conferences today and was frantically rushing to get my grades up to date beforehand - so for today I just have a link to what everyone else posted.  Happy Poetry Friday!

What Everyone Else Posted

Friday, September 06, 2013

Poetry Friday: Seamus Heaney

I'm sure there will be a lot of Seamus Heaney posts today, since he died last week.  Someone posted this one on Facebook.  I wasn't familiar with it, but it's perfect for the occasion, speaking as it does of impermanence and seizing the moment.

Blackberry Picking
Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it

leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots

where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

we trekked and picked until the cans were full,

until the tinkling bottom had been covered

with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

like a plate of eyes.

You can read the rest, and hear it read aloud, here

Bonus: this great story by a writer who tried - and failed - to get an interview with Heaney, but got a poem instead.

Today's roundup is hosted by Author Amok