Thursday, January 16, 2014

a Thursday treat: 2 Jessica Powers poems

a flock of doves came to visit me in my backyard last week
                   DOVES 
A dove in the air, 
A dove in the sea, 
And a dove in your glance 
When you look at me. 
Feather of dusk, Wings in the grain, And a crumpled bird In the wake of pain. 
Everywhere doves With their drifting wings; In a dream, in a song That a poet sings; 
In the touch of death, In the kiss of love, And God Himself As a snow-white dove.
  ~Jessica Powers, in The Lantern Burns

Jessica Powers, Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (1905-1988), was a Discalced Carmelite nun and a member of the Carmel of the Mother of God  (Pewaukee, Wisconsin). She produced 7 volumes of poetry: The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, The House at Rest, The Lantern Burns, The Place of Splendor, Mountain Sparrow and The Little Alphabet (a book of children's poems), as well as a small collection of Christmas poems,  "Journey to Bethlehem."  

I first encountered Powers through her hopeful poem “Repairer of Fences,” in The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, completed shortly before her death. 

THE HOUSE AT REST 
      On a dark night  
     Kindled in love with yearnings – 
     Oh, happy chance! – 
     I went forth unobserved, 
     My house being now at rest. 
                 ~St. John of the Cross  
 
How does one hush one’s house, 
each proud possessive wall, each sighing rafter, 
the rooms made restless with remembered laughter 
or wounding echoes, the permissive doors, 
the stairs that vacillate from up to down, 
windows that bring in color and event 
from countryside or town, 
oppressive ceilings and complaining floors?   
 
The house must first of all accept the night. 
Let it erase the walls and their display, 
impoverish the rooms till they are filled 
with humble silences; let clocks be stilled 
and all the selfish urgencies of day.   
 
Midnight is not the time to greet a guest. 
Caution the doors against both foes and friends, 
and try to make the windows understand 
their unimportance when the daylight ends. 
Persuade the stairs to patience, and denythe passages their aimless to and fro. 
Virtue it is that puts a house at rest. 
How well repaid that tenant is, how blest 
who, when the call is heard, 
is free to take his kindled heart and go.
No. Padre Island, December 2013