Thirty-Two Blessings

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Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.
(Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)

That I am begotten by love,
Sustained

That my heart beats
And my feet move

That the air is rich
For me to breathe

That love is patient,
That love is kind

That I can know
What goodness is

That I have companions
Beside my walk

That song is true
(Only hear the birds!)

That the world is full
Of light, of play

That colour
Amazes

That I have climbed
Mountains and trees

That my eyes receive
The signals of life

That yellow flowers I cannot name
Line my road, my way

That I can talk for hours
To God

That I am small
And He is not

That language is beauty
And also meaning

That I have never suffered
As I should

That again the sun has chosen
To rise

That I must never
Truly fear

That I have been given
Home and name

That I belong
Where I am found

That sun and rain
Are common gifts

(That roads are built
That we may walk

And we may sit
In neighbourhood)

That even sparrows have a home
(How much more I, a child of grace?)

That I am held
In arms like His

That hope is stored
Where none can harm

That life is hid,
Yet lived today

That I can look up to a sky
And think – Sublime!

That all this glory
Is yours and mine

That in these thirty-two years of grace
It is not I but Him –

For this and more,
Much thanks.

Searching for Sully Prudhomme

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I had assumed, perhaps unwisely,
that because he won the highest prize he
must be somewhere I could find him
(online, perhaps, or in the library).
Yet, though some sites had heard of him
and books in French lurked here and there,
the only place I could repair
for works in English was a book
which promised much and almost looked
the part, but when I peered within,
turned out to hold, far from the great
Nobel-awarded poems recorded
in an English style surpassing,
all the marks of awkward parsing
which befall Google Translate.
And so the book that I’d downloaded
took such beauty and imploded
all of it to demonstrate
that though they equal (or may beat)
our speed at calculations
and number machinations
computers don’t know poetry
and fail at translation.
Also, because this hopeless fraud
of literature was somehow bought,
it seems my task now to express:
if greatness is so soon forgotten,
and language can be made so rotten,
all that we can hope to do
is sell our taste to Google too.

NB: PoemHunter.com has a handful of translations from Prudhomme, the first writer to win the Nobel in 1901, and there’s several wonderful renderings of his beautiful poem “The Broken Vase” for those who want to discover a forgotten great.

Hidden Grace

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Senseless acts of beauty went
unnoticed as the runners ran
and golfers golfed
and my head span.
Full of self I stormed upon
the beaten earth and missed the shades
of microscopic brown and green,
the flower hidden in the leaves,
the pounding in the runner’s ears,
the grace which binds me to these years
and notices it all.

On an enclosure of bees in a honey store

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly.
(Emily Dickinson)

Busy as themselves, they bustle
in explosion of hum and hive.
Contained, less fearsome, they pattern out their piece of wall
in splendour of black and Emperor’s yellow.
Intricate weaving, a tight-packed fabric of sweetness and protection,
this is nothing to startle at.
Yet children cannot play with them or with each other,
and deathly stings signal the sickness, not create it.
Until lion and lamb are united,
and babies can rest in the serpent’s nest,
until we have no fear of bees killing or dying,
until then we wait, and watch glory from afar.
Beauty still buzzes and demands our sight.

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Colour and Quiet

The ferris wheel was lit tonight
      and in the Melbourne sky
it sparkled bright like cellophane;
     the stars hid in reply.

The moon no longer blazed, fire-red,
     for rain had quenched the ground,
and stillness sat with dancing light
     in quaint, harmonious sound.

Why night must come, the stars can't say -
     they dazzle all the while;
yet city lights distract our eyes
     and paint the evening's smile.

And ferris wheels - bright, moving, bright -
     share with the night their hue,
yet quietness echoes with peace
     and space has beauty too.

And so I sat while nighttime sang;
     the Sovereign of the Day
gives light and shade alike and proves
     His glory in each way.