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FRANCE

Poetry by Blake Steele

written in France, 1994

 

                         A...

                         ABOUT THE PIO RETREAT HOUSE VISION

                         A FUNERAL IN FRANCE

                         A CHRISTMAS SONG FROM BRITTANY

                         A MEDITATION ON FRANCE

                         A POEM FOR MANY YOUNG FRENCH WOMEN

                         A SONG FROM SAULAGES, FRANCE

 

                         C...

                         COMMENTS UPON GOD FROM FRANCE

 

                         G...

                         GOD IS CONCERNED WITH A MAN'S FAITH

                         GOD LOVES MY BODY LIKE HE LOVES

                                   THE BLAMELESS STONES

 

                         I...

                         I HAVE A CHANCE TO BE RESPECTABLE

                         I LAY WITH THE CROWN OF MY HEAD

                                       AGAINST OLD, CASTLE STONE

                         IMAGES FROM LUCERAM, FRANCE

                         IN THE END, A SOCIETY IS JUDGED BY THE STATE

                              OF ITS ELDERLY

                         I STOOD TODAY WHERE DEBUSSY WALKED

                                  FOR INSPIRATION

                         I WILL SING OF FRANCE

 

                         L...

                         LISTENING AT FORT LA LATTE - BRITTANY, FRANCE

 

                         M...

                         MOON LIGHT AT VAN GOGH'S GRAVE

                         MY LIFE POURED BACK UPON ME

                         MY SOUL PRAYS BEST

 

                         N...

                         NOTRE DAME des SABLONS

 

                         P...

                         POEMS FROM FORT LA LATTE, BRITTANY, FRANCE

 

                         T...

                         THE ABBAYE SENANQUE

                         THE CIRCLE'S COMPLETION

                         (At a hunting lodge in France)

                         THE COMMISSION

                         TO THE RARE SOUL THAT CARES AND BREAKS THROUGH

 

                         U...

                         UPON A SPIRITUAL TRAGEDY

 

                         V...

                         VINCENT

 

                         W...

                         WHEN I BECOME THE EARTH'S OWN LOVE

 

                         Last Poem in file: ABOUT THE PIO RETREAT HOUSE

                        

 

 

Blake Steele

P.O. Box 201

Bend, OR 97709

503-382-2864

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               NOTRE DAME des SABLONS

                               Provence - Aigues-Mortes

                                

                               St Louis had them build her,

                               stone upon stone,

                               up she arose,

                               a stalwart lady,

                               fit to last ages.

                               Her silent spaces hold

                               a myriad of memories.

                               So many souls,

                               passing through the eras,

                               have felt wondrous things here...

                               perhaps as I have felt today:

                               the memoried stories

                               that make this lady live

                               --and centuries of prayers

                               which have soaked into her stones.

                        

 

                        

 

                        

                         VINCENT

                         St. Paul's, St. Remy De Provence

                                        I.

                         I walked today where a tormented genius walked,

                         where he strove to gather his soul into some

                         semblance of peace.

                         The place was peaceful enough.

                         It might have been peaceful for him then,

                         but unmitigated passions are not easily subdued.

                         I know that if a man

                         does not gain mastery over old passions

                         (the ones with tough roots

                         twisting deeply into his brain),

                         they can warp him into the semblance

                         of a colorful fly--

                         a fly which catches a sensitive eye

                         with rainbows of light on its wing--

                         yet in time, bears a worm which infests carrion.

                         Passions debase us if gone awry...

                         yet, directed a right, they might lift us

                         into a swirl of starlight.

                         Out in the garden

                         I observed that the mad man learned the rough

                         stroke of his brush

                         from the bark of old olive trees...

                         Light was his love--color-laden light!

                         When one loves an element,

                         its essence pours through.

                         His passion for color must have been great

                         --beyond our imagining!--

                         for color grew to such a force through his eyes

                         that it crashed through all normal, mental defenses

                         until light itself drove him mad.

                                        II.

                         I sat for a long time in the dark chapel

                         where he must have often thought and prayed,

                         and sent my voice to echo in the same vault

                         where his voice was raised.

                         I felt he must have been impelled in his work

                         by a great weight of guilt!

                         Love graces us with balance in its ardor,

                         but the soul will pass all extremities

                         striving to appease a shame.

                         Genius needs solid ground from which to launch

                         bright rockets in the night.

                         His ground gave way at last, and strokes of

                         color drowned him in a sea of seething energies.

                         (This poor man passed through a colorful hell

                         on his way to paradise).

                                       *

                         And now, safely distant from his lonely eyes,

                         or the anguished sounds of his raving,

                         our shoes slide upon polished tiles

                         (though his sandals were heavy with clay),

                         as we gaze at the marks of his strident passion

                         --and are dazed!--

                         called to awareness by the flattery of fame

                         to feel for a moment, something beyond paint!

                         And so, we have built him monuments,

                         celebrating the genius which drove him insane.

                        

 

                         

 

 

                         GOD IS CONCERNED WITH A MAN'S FAITH

                         Provence, France - 10/6/94

 

                         God is concerned with a man's faith.

                         It is not by feelings that things are changed

                         except the feelings be driven

                         by forces of faith!

                         Perhaps I learned this in solitude

                         amongst ancient hills--

                         or perhaps by the failures

                         of my feelings.

 

 

 

                        

                         10/7/94

 

 

 

                         COMMENTS UPON GOD FROM FRANCE

 

                         God flies on the wings of the wind

                         through the candy shop of His own creation--

                         tasting everything!

                         And to God, the poetical child,

                         it is deliriously delicious:

                         The piercing purity of starlight;

                         the slow ecstasy of growing grass;

                         the stately, erotic wisdom of the trees;

                         the numbling, fumdubbery of rattling stones.

                         All the flavors dance through His brain,

                         --delighting Him!--

                         amidst a great weight of sadness,

                         as the compassions of His heart

                         brood painfully upon

                         the numb, ruinous nature of men.

 

 

 

                          10/7/94 

 

 

                         UPON A SPIRITUAL TRAGEDY

 

                         I shall write again and again

                         about these truths of God:

                         the poetical child,

                         the passionate lover,

                         the rejected one.

                         The churches of France are dark, depressing

                         relics.

                         Why is there no music reverberating

                         from these ancient stones?

                         Perhaps there has been too much killing;

                         too much pretence of holiness;

                         too much religious hypocrisy.

                         There is a great beauty of spirit missing!

                         There is an essential meaning missing!

                         What remains is the unresolved grief

                         of young girls

                         raped by ravenous warrior monks.

                         What remains are old stones

                         upon which the brains of children

                         were beaten out

                         by the commands of popes.

                         And whose eyes shall gaze through glimmering dark

                         to see visions of justice and beauty

                         in communities of spirit

                         celebrating ancient glories and new frontiers

                         if not the children of rich and vile legacies

                         who are young, poetical lovers...

                         you who are passionate, rejected ones.

 

 

 

 

 

                    THE CIRCLE'S COMPLETION

                    (At a hunting lodge in France)

 

                    I wandered out into sheep fields at night

                    to stand in the wind and gaze up

                    at limitless stars.

                    Then it hit me, as a circle was completed

                    and the energies of a lifetime's worth

                    of longing released.

                               *

                    To spin, to spin in joyous rage

                    under the wheel of infinity:

                    a wild center of streaking sparks

                    and holy flame!

                    There is an ecstatic furnace burning in my bones.

                    It is a fire of remembrance

                    breaking through a thousand griefs:

                    I know the light in me now is the root

                    of all human joy, the occasion of every sorrow!

                    The ruthless Mistral wind

                    rips away my masks

                    that the unknown may be momentarily known

                    in a drunken ecstasy of prophetic words.

                              *

                    The wind relentlessly blew

                    for three days straight

                    as I settled back into a semblance of sanity.

 

 

 

 

 

                         ------------LUCERAM---------

 

                        

                         IMAGES FROM LUCERAM, FRANCE

 

                         There is a luminous church

                         which stands in the center of this village

                         and tolls out the rhythm of its bells

                         into the night sky.

                         I hear the dark voices of lost boys

                         who seem oblivious

                         to the harmony at the hub of things;

                         I see dark-eyed girls

                         who nervously smoke cigarettes

                         and look for golden trinkets

                         in the markets of larger towns.

                         High above the village,

                         on the side of a wind-swept mountain,

                         a hermit sits by candlelight

                         reading old manuscripts

                         and longing in prayers

                         for a soul who might taste with him

                         the freedom of the spirit

                         in a flow of olive oil,

                         a paradise for the tongue

                         in a teaspoon of honey.

                         

 

 

 

 

                         IN THE END, A SOCIETY IS JUDGED BY THE STATE

                         OF ITS ELDERLY

                         Oct. 31st, 1994 - Luceram, France

 

                         Some people live

                         by the regular rhythm

                         of the tolling of bells

                         from ancient church steeples;

                         others spend their days

                         hypnotized by the glaring flux

                         of TV screens.

                         Some old men till a patch of terraced garden,

                         nurturing forth miracles of fruit and flowers

                         which they spontaneously share with their neighbors

                         in love.

                         While other old men

                         are strapped in wheel chairs

                         and drool on their shoes

                         while they stare blankly at linoleum floors.

                         There are old women

                         who prepare savory meals for grandchildren

                         from recipes their great grandmothers

                         handed down and ingrained in them,

                         while others

                         peel off tin foil

                         and microwave peas.

                         And in this world there are old men

                         with luminous eyes

                         who restore stone huts

                         built by medieval shepherds

                         high in rough mountains,

                         men who pass through twilight

                         into deep night

                         musing upon the light of candles

                         and the stars;

                         while others move into retirement homes

                         and play bingo on Wednesday nights.

                         There is a world conceived by God

                         which belongs

                         to the souls of poets,

                         and there are countless other spheres

                         conceived by souless men.

                         I, for one, have tasted

                         sanity and peace

                         amongst the peasant people

                         of a distant land.

 

 

 

 

 

                         I HAVE A CHANCE TO BE RESPECTABLE

 

                         I have a chance to be respectable

                         --rather than a wild old man

                         with fire in his eyes

                         who listens to the souls of trees

                         and of the stones.

                         I knew a woman once

                         in the shape of a young pliant tree.

                         She tossed her hair and laughed

                         if I spoke of anything other then the wind.

                         What would she say

                         if she saw me sitting by the fire

                         working on a budget?

                         She would shake her leaves

                         until black birds

                         rustled out of her and cawed!

                         Yet, one must think of security

                         in old age: perhaps a good pension,

                         insurance to pay the doctors,

                         the nursing home and the mortician

                         their dues.

                         Or, if one had enough love,

                         one could carve a terraced paradise

                         inch by inch out of a stone wall

                         and plant there fabulous laughing flowers

                         amidst a riot of grape vines

                         and hot, black, swelling figs.

                         And if a pilgrim climbed up there

                         amidst the mists of the mountains

                         and over slick river stones

                         by the caterwaul of waterfalls,

                         one could give that pilgrim a drink of new wine

                         and toast together young women and beautiful trees

                         by the light of fire on a stone hearth,

                         and in wild, old eyes.

 

 

 

                         ----------GARD-----------

 

 

                               MY SOUL PRAYS BEST

 

                               My soul prays best

                               where winds howl

                               without rest,

                               and tree branches

                               scratch and scrape at the sky...

                               and sheep clatter by

                               on well-worn stones

                               of paths that wind

                               through the memories of my mind.

                        

                        

 

 

                         A SONG FROM SAULAGES, FRANCE

 

                         I must sing the red berries

                         and green grass,

                         and blue sky,

                         and clouds which pass,

                         and the skirts of a girl

                         and a Sheppard’s staff,

                         and an old woman's smile

                         and baby's laugh,

                         and the weathered stones

                         and a mossy branch:

                         I must sing it all

                         if I get the chance;

                         I must sing it all

                         if I get the chance.

                         I must sing the smell

                         of bleating sheep,

                         and sing the thoughts

                         old men keep

                         while whittling wood

                         on worn stone steps,

                         I must sing the promises

                         God has kept

                         to bless mankind

                         with all we need

                         from fertile earth

                         and sprouting seed.

                         I must sing the sound

                         of a rooster crow

                         and cackling geese

                         and cows that low,

                         and sing the smell

                         of aged French Brie

                         and old red wine

                         that pleases me.

                         I must sing color and feel

                         and smell and sound

                         and a medieval tower

                         in the middle of town

                         and the weathered stones

                         and a mossy branch--

                         I must sing it all

                         if I get the chance,

                         I must sing it all

                         if I get the chance...

 

 

 

 

                        

                   ---------NORTHWARD THROUGH CASTLE COUNTRY-------

Blake Steele

P.O. Box 201

Bend, OR 97709

503-382-2864

 

 

 

 

 

                    A POEM FOR MANY YOUNG FRENCH WOMEN

 

                    How I love the Gaelic eyes,

                    those large brown eyes,

                    those cow-like eyes

                    above the delicately pointed nose.

                    I've seen many beautiful women,

                    but none like the French!

                    It is a profound tragedy

                    that so few

                    have developed much soul.

                    I saw a little actress dressed like a nun once.

                    By the look in her eyes

                    I think she had a lot of soul--

                    or perhaps it was the deep drama

                    of her costumed habit  

                    which made a whimsical richness of soul

                    appear as something real in her eyes.

                    Women who cannot sing like a drunken lark

                    in a cafe

                    because of the pain of too much self-awareness

                    lack a certain, essential substance

                    which alone can satisfy

                    the heart-hungry heart.

                    Such is the curse

                    of being too beautiful

                    or aspiring after

                    mere appearances of beauty.

                    I once heard an old crucifix say,

                    "We have come here

                    only to grow beautiful souls..."

 

 

 

 

 

Blake Steele

P.O. Box 201

Bend, OR 97709

503-382-2864

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         A MEDITATION ON FRANCE

                        

                         How can one be French

                         and not luxuriate in the senses?

                         France is wild with beauty!

 

                         It is no wonder that Catholicism

                         is the one religion of France.

                         The denial of sensual pleasure

                         brings its own shadow of guilt and shame:

                         the perfect foil

                         for a fully sensual people.

 

                         Yet, who is it that made this potent feast?

                         I believe that it is God

                         who best loves the riot of flowers

                         entwined with old stone walls

                         and has splashed colors of lichen moss on stone

                         like a mad Van Gogh frenzied to say,

                         "My eyes are drunk with the energy of light!"

 

                         I believe it is a radiant Maker

                         who formed these French trees shapely

                         and ladens their wispy fingers

                         with the jewels of fall.

 

                         Yet, these sensual people

                         have put God in dim, old chapels,

                         to let him slowly die

                         on fading canvasses

                         once painted by artists

                         enflamed with divine passions.

 

                         So Christ, the jubilant lamb,

                         drinks down the darkness

                         of a people who long to play naked

                         in the straw fields of summer

                         and to drink the wine of life

                         with the innocent laughter

                         of children.

 

 

 

                         --------------BRITTANY---------------

 

 

 

                         I STOOD TODAY WHERE DEBUSSY WALKED FOR    

                         INSPIRATION

                         (Garde Guerin, Brittany, France)

                        

                         I stood today

                         where Debussy walked for inspiration.

                         What else could he see

                         but the sky, and the sea, and the stone.

                         And the sky, and the sea, and the stone

                         milked their poignant sweetness out of him,

                         and he sang...

                         Claire de Lune.

 

 

 

 

                        

 

                         A FUNERAL IN FRANCE

 

                         On a gray day of cold rain

                         I passed a crowd laying flowers

                         on a new tomb

                         to the blare of a bugle.

                         Perhaps this is why

                         so many people here

                         have crucified our Lord

                         with dead thoughts

                         in countless cafes

                         and cathedrals--

                         they have suffered too much sorrow.

                                    *

                         Driving in my little green car,

                         I have observed the land

                         littered with gravestones

                         from countless wars.

                                    *

                         The bugle blows

                         as more tears fall,

                         watering their longing

                         for good wine, pungent cheeses,

                         and the making of love.

                                    *

                         I wonder what they say

                         to bless the soul that flew away?

                                    *

                         Some of the crowd goes to briefly hear 

                         organ music swell through high domes

                         and look once more with frozen faces

                         at the frozen face of God

                         staring from statues of stone...

                         while far above,

                         in a French-blue sky,

                         Christ laughs as He

                         embraces another astonished child

                         into the warm beauty

                         of His fluid heart.

                        

                        

                         

 

 

                              (also in Christms.poe)

 

 

                              A CHRISTMAS SONG FROM BRITTANY

 

                              One winter night

                              Christ was born,

                              sparrow in the sky

                              and the snow on the thorn,

                              and a big bright star

                              up in the sky

                              as three wise men

                              were passing by.

                              And a shepherd boy

                              out with his goats

                              heard praise to God

                              from Seraphim's throats,

                              while doves in the rafters

                              sang musical sighs

                              as Christ came forth

                              from Mary's thighs.

                                    *

                              Sing Alleleujah,

                              and dance around,

                              angels in sky

                              and sheep on ground,

                              sing love-warmed praise

                              with human voice,

                              let God and beast with man

                              rejoice!

 

                        

 

                        

                         I WILL SING OF FRANCE

 

                         I will sing red berries

                         and old stone walls,

                         saphire blue skies

                         and passing, painted clouds.

                         I will sing of twisted trees,

                         blameless, and shamelessly thirsting

                         for light.

                         I will sing the singing of young forests

                         and sit with the ancient, deep stillness

                         of cathedral stones:

                         I have pressed my ears there

                         that I might learn to hear

                         700 years of prayers reverberating.

                         I will sing the rhythmic ringing

                         of a lead sheep's bells amidst

                         vast silences,

                         and the sweet smell of cobble stones

                         after a sheep drove.

                         I will celebrate the quick,

                         quizzical smile of a young nun

                         and the cautious kindness

                         rising in a grandmother's eyes,

                         and sing of a beauty

                         so long cultivated into the grain of things

                         that even the trees remember to be elegant

                         in late fall, and old, dead corn

                         is as vibrant as a famous, fabulous tapestry

                         long hung on a chateau wall.

                         My heart must sing slow songs

                         in living remembrance

                         of a long bath in the constant beauty

                         of light: exploded spatterings of golden leaves;

                         a land so saturated with color

                         that it seeps out of everything

                         like honey drools from a comb.

                         I'll sing of lavender fields,

                         and green castle-moat waters

                         of the Lady of the Lake

                         where Lancelot grew a virtuous mind.

                         I have gathered a vial of it

                         and put it in a treasure box with olives

                         from Renoir's garden that I might share

                         pure imaginative energies

                         with some wide-eyed child.

                         I will sing of a rhythm of church bells

                         that still may call a man's heart to prayer,

                         and of well-loved little garden plots

                         where each person has a place of sanity

                         to say, "By these plantings,

                         and these rows

                         you shall know my soul."

 

 

 

 

 

                         I WILL SING OF FRANCE       pg 2

 

                         I will sing of wilderness grasses

                         so well refined they keep their shapely form

                         and remember not to grow

                         beyond beauty-defined bounds.

                         I will sing of the womb

                         where beauty once poured

                         out of Heaven upon medieval minds

                         and showed them precisely

                         where to build sanctuaries

                         on needles of stone

                         and rain-wetted lips of vast gorges.

                         I will sing of rock vaulted ceilings

                         and steaming stone floors

                         where hot sheep cheese is spilt and hosed away.

                         I'll sing to you what's in my bones...

                         a land of story book villages

                         where children's dreams were crafted out of stone,

                         a country where young families

                         live in 17th century houses of barons

                         and work dark, rich earth:

                         a land of sheep farms, goat farms,

                         cow farms, horse farms, farm farms,

                         lavishly shouting, "Famous food!" and...

                         "Glory to the highest!"

                         A people of fabulous faces

                         who go on hiding Christ

                         in dark, empty sanctuaries

                         until He shows himself young again,

                         and naked

                         with innocent eyes.

                         I will sing of sassy women...

                         I will sing of France!

 

 

 

           -----------------------------------------------------      

 

 

 

 

 

     POEMS FROM FORT LA LATTE, BRITTANY, FRANCE:

 

     God loves my body like he loves the stones and the sea and wind.

     My body is of the earth and earth shall reclaim it.

     And my soul is of the sea and rain; the earth and sky.

     And my spirit is of the winds and the heavens

     and is longing to be poured through my soul and body into the earth,

     to bless the peoples and animals and birds and the land.

 

     I felt the ancient stones commission me to sing their stories.

     And the sea silently said, "Sing my wild beauty and my mysteries."

     And the earth said, "Sing my roughness and my dark moistness."

     And the sky said, "Sing my freedom!"

     And through them all the deeper silence sounded

     --and that was the voice of God!

 

     So I pressed my flesh into the moist grasses                        

     and rubbed my bones against hard, ancient stones

     until my body melted into the opening earth

     and my life force passed into her.

     And she was full of voices--an endless dialogue

     between the long dead and the holy ones who shall never die.

     And the earth cried out when she felt me touch her...

     And her cry was a dim echo of a higher cry

     coming down from some golden light in the still center of the sky.

 

 

 

 

                         POEMS OF THE POEM:

 

                         I. THE COMMISSION

                        

                         I received a commission today

                         from out of the silence

                         of ancient stone walls,

                         and from the soft, aromatic earth,

                         and from the grasses

                         laying over the shoulders of the world

                         like long, wild hair,

                         and from the high, holy flutter

                         of pigeons wings.

                         And they were asking,

                         "Who shall sing for us

                         our plaintive laments

                         and our joys in the words of men?"

                         And so I cried,

                         "I shall sing for the wind

                         and sky,

                         for the stones

                         and grasses

                         if I can but hear your ancient voices!"

                                  *

                         So I listened as a field listens

                         to its verdancy grow;

                         as a tree harkens to its roots,

                         until my spirit passed from me

                         into the heart of a stone

                         and found a silent word there

                         in which all words of men

                         are nullified

                         and born.

                         Then I pressed my nose

                         between moist, fragrant grasses and the stone

                         and breathing deeply there

                         found a second word.

                         And in the sudden sound of pigeon's wings

                         a third word came.

                         Just these three words.

                         It is enough...

                        

 

                        

 

                         II. LISTENING AT FORT LA LATTE - BRITTANY, FRANCE

 

                         I listened long

                         and entered for a moment

                         the heart of castle stones,

                         seeking to sense in them the things

                         they have known through centuries.

                         One rosy stone spoke to me,

                         "I have long felt the bite of sea winds

                         and the sting of wind-driven rains."

                         Another rough stone said

                         "I once felt the blood of men

                         run down these walls

                         and have since gazed only at

                         the empty sky.

                         A third stone said nothing,

                         for the sound of children on the shore

                         had taken my heart away from it.

 

 

 

                         III. GOD LOVES MY BODY

                         LIKE HE LOVES THE BLAMELESS STONES

                         (A meditation from Fort La Latte)

 

                         God loves my body

                         like he loves the blameless stones,

                         and the luxuriant, soft grasses,

                         and the freedom of the wind.

                         The shame of flesh

                         is the shame of holy men

                         who feared passion

                         and saw more virtue in pain

                         than in ecstasy.

 

                         But I have listened to wild grasses

                         growing against rough, castle stones

                         and heard them sing in holy ecstasy and pain

                         as they held to each other

                         in the spirit of their creaturely prayer.

 

                         And so I laid my naked body next to them

                         and sank into their song.

                         I felt the supple greenness of the grasses

                         softly entering my belly

                         and the silent, jubilant stone

                         singing in my bones.

                         Just then, a wind blew through my head--

                         and love ravished me.

 

 

 

 

                         IV. WHEN I BECOME THE EARTH'S OWN LOVE

 

                         I sat with my back against castle stone

                         and gazed out into gray skies

                         as I ran my fingers slowly into

                         a fresh opening of earth

                         and smelt woman and sheep.

                         Then the earth spoke,

                         saying that it was she who had birthed me

                         and claimed me again

                         as all the sensual goodness of me

                         melted back into her innocent warmth.

                         She said, "It is I who am the fertile wife

                         of naked sky,

                         waiting for the clean seed of his rain."

                         And she held me like a mother,

                         singing her lullabies through the throats

                         of gulls and the flutter of dove's wings.

                         And her song said,

                         "The Holy Maker loves you

                         as he loves my blameless stones

                         and the patient brethren of my trees

                         and all the wayward people

                         of my lands."

                         So I wrapped my body in her grasses

                         like a lover,

                         feeling with my whole being

                         the roots of ecstasy and birth.

                         Then she pushed a sharp stone into my breast

                         that she might recall me to my suffering

                         and my coming death

                         when I shall become her own love

                         as she pours my breath out

                         in her passion for the skies.

 

 

 

 

 

                         V. I LAY WITH THE CROWN OF MY HEAD

                         AGAINST OLD, CASTLE STONE

 

                         I lay with the crown of my head

                         against old, castle stone

                         and the nap of my neck

                         in soft, moist grasses

                         and watched a fisherman

                         slowly trawling by.

                         "A man should be alone

                         to clear his mind

                         in patient meditations,"

                         I thought, wondering

                         if he had

                         a beautiful-hearted woman

                         waiting at home

                         in the fragrance of her flowers

                         and pungent aromas

                         of her love.

                         Full of these thoughts

                         I turned my face into the grasses

                         and smelt the raw earth

                         at the base of a stone.

 

 

 

                        

                         ---------AUVERSE SER OISE---------

 

 

 

 

 

                         MOON LIGHT AT VAN GOGH'S GRAVE

 

                         I felt his ruddy spirit

                         quietly glowing

                         in the light of a full moon,

                         that passionate man

                         whose sandals were heavy

                         with the clay of wheat fields,

                         whose garments smelt

                         of sweat and paint

                         and the faint, sweet

                         fragrances of pipe smoke.

                         He knew nothing

                         of the praises of men,

                         only the sacrificial faith

                         of his brother

                         who loved him with countless deeds

                         and believed in him

                         by bestowing the gift of freedom

                         to follow the colorful

                         muses of his passion.

                         The artist was blind

                         --as we all are blind--

                         busy in his ruminations

                         to let some beautiful thing

                         pass through his spirit,

                         through his hands,

                         in his time.

                         He wallowed in the mud and blood of it,

                         doing what all men of vision and passion

                         have done,

                         suffering to create

                         something that time may well but

                         swallow down into its dark belly

                         of forgetfulness.

                         He lavished color on canvasses 

                         to relieve his pain

                         while God wrestled with him

                         to make a soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    ---------Reflections from Oregon---------

 

 

 

 

 

 

               THE ABBAYE SENANQUE

 

               There is an old Abbey in France where ordered souls sing

               ordered songs. I love the stillness, the sheer harmony.

               Yet, I hate worn stones that tigers no longer prowl upon.

               Where is the horse shit? Where the sounds of geese

               arguing? Why aren't there wild young girls running out of

               doors at the soulful sounds of monk's chants to weep out

               their hopes and griefs in the fields?

 

               Children should bring flowers here: pile them in

               mountainous heaps in the middle space between heavy, cold

               stones and the luminous windows. There should be milk

               here, and good wine set on long tables for a love feast in

               the sanctuary of man becoming God's body.

 

               The four halls of the cloister should ring around a garden

               of sunflowers, figs and lemon trees. Yellow angels would

               sing in one hall; blue/green angels weep in another. And

               in the red hall and the black one, secrets and passions

               would fly upward to God.

 

               I've heard of an Abbey Master who once ran naked into a

               snow storm shouting Hallelujahs unto the night sky. They

               ought to bring his burning body back to teach this choir

               how to weave a stringent and whimsical chaos of dreams

               in and out of their ancient chant melodies.

 

 

 

MY LIFE POURED BACK UPON ME

 

My life poured back upon me in a sheep field in France: all the longings of 30

years, living as a stranger in a foreign land that is my country. The stars

shimmered down upon a drunken man this life that was theirs and his, the

light that angels sing and men must learn to feast upon. I spun under the

weight of it and felt with my tongue a primitive film of goat's cheese still

coating my gums. It was as the bread of life. Night was the wine. Wind

whistled its own wild confirmation.

 

Some dark dog's howl was my own howl of pain that night, for the burden of a world I couldn't carry. The growls of hunting dogs unsettled sheep, unsettled

my wounded and innocent heart. I remember my friend's laughter, his own

drunken howls with the wind as he danced the dance poets and prophets have danced before him--he was dancing himself alive!

 

I am back in this American wilderness, this dull ache of sleep now. There is

work here: Waking up work, shouting in the morning work, alarm clock work,

cold water in your face work; yet I slip into the sleep so easily. I can

barely pray for my life to pour back down upon me between the jet streams

overhead. I can barely feel black earth seeping up dark trees. And in these

streets, no dogs howl.

 

 

 

 

TO THE RARE SOUL THAT CARES AND BREAKS THROUGH

 

I remember France now, dimly, too dimly--I haven't wanted to love it too much!

But the ecstasy is remembered now as my mind turns upon it: the effusive bath of beauty; the naked thrill of color coursing through my mind. I remember the empty villages waiting for men to love them, for woman to paint them wildly yellow or red. I remember the occasional warm-eyed ones. They were too rare.

 

 

Too rare is the soul that breaks through social proprieties to care. Too rare

the spontaneous conversation about something real.

 

I remember talking on a mountain top here, the other day, above Bend--where I once sang praises into the teeth of the wind--with a woman who had suffered doubts and loneliness and somehow felt what was behind my grim mask, what nestled under my wild hat. She got right to the point, like a prophetess. I liked that. I was too spellbound to speak the truth that melts snow under your feet. But she uttered spirit to my spirit and I'll always remember her for that.

 

 

 

                              9/13/96

 

                              ABOUT THE PIO RETREAT HOUSE VISION

 

                              This is about the Spirit of Life

                              that is fully free

                              in the Law of the Being of God--

                              in a dynamic, flowing,

                              every changing harmony of Love,

                              incarnating through the blend

                              of many elements:

                              a house, its setting, the architecture,

                              its decor, stones, the earth,

                              wind, the clouds and color of the sky,

                              a garden, bees, bird song,

                              crickets, chickens clucking,

                              the baa of lambs,

                              human words spoken--the people!

                              God's presence everywhere realized:

                              in the spirit of prayer, good cooking,

                              earthy fragrances, tantalizing tastes,

                              fine wine, hot home-baked bread,

                              open-hearted sharing with

                              those hungry for God and Holy freedom!

                              daily readings, poetry by night,

                              musing, dreaming, singing,

                              the fire-light, stories,

                              making love to God,

                              savoring each person,

                              each thing, each moment,

                              the music, the dancing, the laughter,

                              laying on of hands, deep listening

                              for the heart's sounds, one voice of wisdom

                              through many voices, many life-stories,

                              confessions of truth, fearless honesty,

                              a breaking open of soul, the tears,

                              the war dance, soft comfort,

                              long walks, solitude in Creation,

                              arms raised unto the God of Grandeur,

                              spinning under the night sky,

                              the infinite clouds of stars, wonder!

                              silence in the inner rooms and good sleep;

                              the excitement of first light,

                              morning chants, prayers and praises,

                              thanks and hopes,

                              hand in hand out into the community:

                              singing songs to the afflicted,

                              music for the dying,

                              flowers for the aged,

                              joy for children,

                              jokes and laughter,

                              sharing the breakthrough:

                              You are here! O, Lord!

                              Here!

                              And look! It is we who are becoming

                              the expression of God

                              we have been seeking--

                              the Kingdom now, amongst us.

                             

 

 

                         

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