The One in All

The One in All
Margaret Fuller, 1810-1850

There are who separate the eternal light
In forms of man and woman, day and night;
They cannot bear that God be essence quite.

Existence is as deep a verity:
Without the dual, where is unity?
And the ‘I am’ cannot forbear to be;

But from its primal nature forced to frame
Mysteries, destinies of various name,
Is forced to give what it has taught to claim.

Thus love must answer to its own unrest;
The bad commands us to expect the best,
And hope of its own prospects is the test.

And dost thou seek to find the one in two?
Only upon the old can build the new;
The symbol which you seek is found in you.

The heart and mind, the wisdom and the will,
The man and woman, must be severed still,
And Christ must reconcile the good and ill.

There are to whom each symbol is a mask;
The life of love is a mysterious task;
They want no answer, for they would not ask.

A single thought transfuses every form;
The sunny day is changed into the storm,
For light is dark, hard soft, and cold is warm.

One presence fills and floods the whole serene;
Nothing can be, nothing has ever been,
Except the one truth that creates the scene.

Does the heart beat, — that is a seeming only;
You cannot be alone, though you are lonely;
The All is neutralized in the One only.

You ask a faith, — they are content with faith;
You ask to have, — but they reply, ‘IT hath.’
There is no end, and there need be no path.

The day wears heavily, — why, then, ignore it;
Peace is the soul’s desire, — such thoughts restore it;
The truth thou art, — it needs not to implore it.

The Presence all thy fancies supersedes,
All that is done which thou wouldst seek in deeds,
The wealth obliterates all seeming needs.

Both these are true, and if they are at strife,
The mystery bears the one name of Life,
That, slowly spelled, will yet compose the strife.

The men of old say, ‘Live twelve thousand years,
And see the need of all that here appears,
And Moxen shall absorb thy smiles and tears.’

These later men say, ‘Live this little day.
Believe that human nature is the way,
And know both Son and Father while you pray;

And one in two, in three, and none alone,
Letting you know even as you are known,
Shall make the you and me eternal parts of one.’

To me, our destinies seem flower and fruit
Born of an ever-generating root;
The other statement I cannot dispute.

But say that Love and Life eternal seem,
And if eternal ties be but a dream,
What is the meaning of that self-same seem?

Your nature craves Eternity for Truth;
Eternity of Love is prayer of youth;
How, without love, would have gone forth your truth?

I do not think we are deceived to grow,
But that the crudest fancy, slightest show,
Covers some separate truth that we may know.

In the one Truth, each separate fact is true;
Eternally in one I many view,
And destinies through destiny pursue.

This is my tendency; but can I say
That this my thought leads the true, only way?
I only know it constant leads, and I obey.

I only know one prayer — ‘Give me the truth,
Give me that colored whiteness, ancient youth,
Complex and simple, seen in joy and truth.

Let me not by vain wishes bar my claim,
Nor soothe my hunger by an empty name,
Nor crucify the Son of man by hasty blame.

But in the earth and fire, water and air,
Live earnestly by turns without despair,
Nor seek a home till home be every where!’

*Further Reading: 

Cranch and Fuller: the noblest woman of her time (American Literary Blog)

Fragment

Fragment
John Keats, 1795-1821

But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination's struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are still the air the subtle food,
To make us feel existence…

[From Endymion, Book II, lines 153-158, 1818.]

Henry David Thoreau

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

The Haunted Heart

The Haunted Heart
Jessie B. Rittenhouse, 1869-1948

I am not wholly yours, for I can face
       A world without you in the years to be,
       And think of love that has been given me
By other men, and wear it as a grace;
Yes, even in your arms there is a space
       That yet might widen to infinity,
       And deep within your eyes I still can see
Old memories that I cannot erase.

But let these ghostly tenants of the heart
    Stay on unchallenged through changing days
       And keep their shadowy leaseholds without
         fear,
Then if the hour should come when we must
         part,
   We know that we shall go on haunted ways,
      Each to the end inalienably dear.

Courage

Courage
Anonymous

Courage is the strength to stand up
When it's easier to fall down and lose hold.
It is the conviction to explore new horizons
When it's easier to believe what we've been told.
Courage is the desire to maintain our integrity
When it's easier to look the other way.
It is feeling happy and alive, and moving forward
When it's easier to feel sorry for ourselves and stay.
Courage is the will to shape our world
When it's easier to let someone else do it for us.
It is the recognition that none of us are perfect
When it's easier to criticize others and fuss.
Courage is the power to step forward and lead
When it's easier to follow the crowd; their pleas resound.
It is the spirit that places you on top of the mountain
When it's easier to never leave the ground.
The foundation of courage is solid,
The rock that doesn't roll.
Courage is the freedom
Of our mind, body, and soul!

Learnstrong.net

Ever since I discovered Learnstrong.net last spring, I have been immersed in a World of Ideas, the Harvard Classics, AP English Literature, Faith and Meditations, Poetics, Poets and Poetry of many eras, Writers of Fiction, and so  much more. Following are just some of the wonderful lectures that I have had the pleasure of watching:

303 Intro to Learning, Intro to AP Lit, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Longfellow, Robert Frost, Ray Bradbury, Mark Strand, Thomas Lux, Rita Dove, Dorianne Laux, Joy Harjo, Czeslaw Milosz, Richard Wilbur, Jimmy Baca, W. B. Yeats, John Donne, The Wanderer and other Anglo Saxon Poems, King James Bible, Psalms, Martin Luther King Jr., John Edwards, Edward Taylor, John Milton, Intro to Faith, Sermon on the Mount, Prodigal Son, Buddha and Gita Meditations, Reading God, St. Teresa's Raptures, Sidney and Shelley’s Defense of Poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Odes, Tennyson, Wilfred Owen, Shakespeare, Machiavelli’s Prince, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Anne Bradstreet, Sara Teasdale, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Bronte, Gilman’s Yellow Wallpaper, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, Umberto Eco, Denise Levertov, Lisel Mueller, Susan Griffin, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Marianne Moore, Emma Lazarus, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, Theodore Roethke, Li Young Lee, Intro to Plato, Count Leo Tolstoy and the list goes on.

I have so much more to learn and I look forward to studying:

Augustine’s Confessions, Thomas A. Kempis, Western Thought, Plato’s Republic and the Allegory of the Cave, William Blake, Dante, Byron, Keats, Gabriela Mistral, and St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, to be sure.

It is a well-known fact that the more you read, the better writer you will be. If you are interested in any of these subjects, I highly recommend Learnstrong.net with Dr. Tim McGee. So pop on over to the website and do a search, and you will be pleasantly surprised!

Happy lifelong learning!

So Beautiful You Are, Indeed

So Beautiful You Are, Indeed
Irene Rutherford McLeod, 1891–1968

So beautiful you are, indeed,
That I am troubled when you come,
And though I crave you for my need,
Your nearness strikes me blind and dumb.

And when you bring your lips to mine
My spirit trembles and escapes,
And you and I are turned divine,
Bereft of our familiar shapes.

And fearfully we tread cold space,
Naked of flesh and winged with flame,
. . . Until we find us face to face,
Each calling on the other's name!

An American Poem

An American Poem
Eileen Myles

I was born in Boston in
1949. I never wanted
this fact to be known, in
fact I’ve spent the better
half of my adult life
trying to sweep my early
years under the carpet
and have a life that
was clearly just mine
and independent of
the historic fate of
my family. Can you
imagine what it was
like to be one of them,
to be built like them,
to talk like them
to have the benefits
of being born into such
a wealthy and powerful
American family. I went
to the best schools,
had all kinds of tutors
and trainers, traveled
widely, met the famous,
the controversial, and
the not-so-admirable
and I knew from
a very early age that
if there were ever any
possibility of escaping
the collective fate of this famous
Boston family I would
take that route and
I have. I hopped
on an Amtrak to New
York in the early
‘70s and I guess
you could say
my hidden years
began. I thought
Well I’ll be a poet.
What could be more
foolish and obscure.
I became a lesbian.
Every woman in my
family looks like
a dyke but it’s really
stepping off the flag
when you become one.
While holding this ignominious
pose I have seen and
I have learned and
I am beginning to think
there is no escaping
history. A woman I
am currently having
an affair with said
you know  you look
like a Kennedy. I felt
the blood rising in my
cheeks. People have
always laughed at
my Boston accent
confusing “large” for
“lodge,” “party”
for “potty.” But
when this unsuspecting
woman invoked for
the first time my
family name
I knew the jig
was up. Yes, I am,
I am a Kennedy.
My attempts to remain
obscure have not served
me well. Starting as
a humble poet I
quickly climbed to the
top of my profession
assuming a position of
leadership and honor.
It is right that a
woman should call
me out now. Yes,
I am a Kennedy.
And I await
your orders.
You are the New Americans.
The homeless are wandering
the streets of our nation’s
greatest city. Homeless
men with AIDS are among
them. Is that right?
That there are no homes
for the homeless, that
there is no free medical
help for these men. And women.
That they get the message
—as they are dying—
that this is not their home?
And how are your
teeth today? Can
you afford to fix them?
How high is your rent?
If art is the highest
and most honest form
of communication of
our times and the young
artist is no longer able
to move here to speak
to her time…Yes, I could,
but that was 15 years ago
and remember—as I must
I am a Kennedy.
Shouldn’t we all be Kennedys?
This nation’s greatest city
is home of the business-
man and home of the
rich artist. People with
beautiful teeth who are not
on the streets. What shall
we do about this dilemma?
Listen, I have been educated.
I have learned about Western
Civilization. Do you know
what the message of Western
Civilization is? I am alone.
Am I alone tonight?
I don’t think so. Am I
the only one with bleeding gums
tonight. Am I the only
homosexual in this room
tonight. Am I the only
one whose friends have
died, are dying now.
And my art can’t
be supported until it is
gigantic, bigger than
everyone else’s, confirming
the audience’s feeling that they are
alone. That they alone
are good, deserved
to buy the tickets
to see this Art.
Are working,
are healthy, should
survive, and are
normal. Are you
normal tonight? Everyone
here, are we all normal.
It is not normal for
me to be a Kennedy.
But I am no longer
ashamed, no longer
alone. I am not
alone tonight because
we are all Kennedys.
And I am your President.

Thomas Aquinas

"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship." ~ Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Theodore Roethke

"What’s madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?" ~ Theodore Roethke (1908–1963)

Buddha

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~ Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha)

Thought

Thought
Siddhārtha Gautama

As fletchers make their arrows straight,
the wise make straight their wavering and unsteady thought,
which is difficult to guard and difficult to restrain.
Like a fish taken from its watery home
and thrown on the dry ground,
our thought quivers all over
in order to escape the dominion of Mara

It is good to control the mind,
which is difficult to restrain, fickle, and wandering.
A tamed mind brings happiness.
Let the wise guard their thoughts,
which are difficult to perceive, tricky, and wandering.
Thoughts well guarded bring happiness.
Those who restrain their mind,
which travels far alone without a body, hiding in a cave,
will be free from the restrictions of death.

If a person’s mind is unsteady,
if it does not know the true path,
if one’s peace of mind is troubled,
wisdom is not perfected.

There is no fear for the one whose thought is untroubled,
whose mind is not confused,
who has ceased to think of good and bad,
who is aware.

Knowing that this body is like a jar,
and making one’s thought strong as a fortress,
attack Mara with the weapon of wisdom,
protect what is conquered and stay always aware.
Before long, unfortunately, this body will lie on the earth,
rejected, without consciousness, like a useless log.

Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy,
or a hater to a hater,
a wrongly directed mind will do greater harm.
Neither a mother nor a father
nor any other relative will do so much;
a well-directed mind will do us greater service.

I Will Not Give Thee All My Heart

I Will Not Give Thee All My Heart
Grace Hazard Conkling, 1878–1958

I will not give thee all my heart   
For that I need a place apart   
To dream my dreams in, and I know   
Few sheltered ways for dreams to go:   
But when I shut the door upon           
Some secret wonder—still, withdrawn—   
Why dost thou love me even more,   
And hold me closer than before?   

When I of Love demand the least,   
Thou biddest him to fire and feast:           
When I am hungry and would eat,   
There is no bread, though crusts were sweet.   
If I with manna may be fed,   
Shall I go all uncomforted?   
Nay! Howsoever dear thou art,           
I will not give thee all my heart.

To Be Nobody But Yourself

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." ~ e. e. cummings (1894-1962)

Guide to a Poetic Life

Guide to a Poetic Life

Which poems or songs have been significant for you throughout each stage of your life?

Find poems that mean the most to you and write a paragraph or short story about why that particular poem is meaningful for you and how it pertains to your life.

The key is finding poems that resonate with your own feelings or experiences throughout the various stages of your life.

Infancy

Childhood

Adolescence

Young Adult

Adult

Middle Age

Old Age

Death and Dying

Rebirth - Poems about new life and resurrection


*Note: To see my sample of My Life in Poems click here.

Download a worksheet for the Guide to a Poetic Life here and create your own mini-anthology of poems that you love.

My Life in Poems

My Life in Poems by Denise Fletcher

I originally wrote this paper for my Art of Poetry MOOC Class with Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky in 2014. He encouraged all the students taking the course to create our own mini-anthology of poems that are meaningful to us, and share how our own life experiences relate to each text. Following are twelve poems that are significant to me, along with a brief summary. Thank you for reading!

My Life in Poems

I grew up on nursery rhymes and fairy tales full of imagination, and as I grew older I loved to sing. I joined choir and drama in high school and I took speech class in college, where I learned to memorize and recite my favorite poets like Kahlil Gibran. In fact, my head is full of hundreds of folk songs and sacred hymns. I appreciate the meditations of John Donne and Anne Bradstreet. I am drawn to the Classics and the Romantics. Even now at age 60, I cling to the lyrics of inspirational poetry. Poetry is prayer to me. I have chosen poems that have been instrumental in my life. These are poems that I always return to at various times; poems that are lifesaving to me in many ways, as I struggle with disabling health conditions. Poetry brings me joy in times of happiness and solace in times of despair. Poetry is a lighthouse on the sea of uncertainty.

After the Sea-Ship
Walt Whitman, 1819–1892

After the Sea-Ship—after the whistling winds;         
After the white-gray sails, taut to their spars and ropes,     
Below, a myriad, myriad waves, hastening, lifting up their necks,  
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship:       
Waves of the ocean, bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,                    
Waves, undulating waves—liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,  
Where the great Vessel, sailing and tacking, displaced the surface;           
Larger and smaller waves, in the spread of the ocean, yearnfully flowing;
The wake of the Sea-Ship, after she passes—flashing and frolicsome, under the sun,         
A motley procession, with many a fleck of foam, and many fragments,     
Following the stately and rapid Ship—in the wake following.

[From Leaves of Grass,  1900]

This poem by Walt Whitman repeats waves frequently to imitate the effect of the vessel on the water….a wonderful use of onomatopoeia. He takes the reader away and makes you feel like you are right there alongside the fishermen, floating in the great expanse of the ocean. He uses consonance in the whistling winds and the ship flashing and frolicsome … with fleck of foam and fragments. Beginning with the repetition of the word after, he returns to it again near the end of the poem: after she passes, giving the ship female characteristics, laughing and buoyant with curves. This poem is significant to me, because when I was only five years old, I rode the great USS Ship from Germany to New York with my military family. I will always remember the port-hole in our room and watching the great waves of the sea. After living in Germany for five years, my parents returned to their roots and raised seven children in Minnesota. Those wonderful memories gave me a wanderlust for travel and the great ocean. Something pulls me to the sea. I have lived on the coast of Oregon, and now live near the ocean in Florida. 

*Note: To continue reading, download my ebook for free here.

Poems by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Notes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

On Friendship

"But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."  ~ Dinah Mulock Craik (1826–1887), A Life for a Life, 1859

Percy Shelley

"Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted." ~ Percy Shelley, A Defense of Poetry, 1821

Send us out

Send us out
Sheila Cassidy

Lord of the Universe
look in love upon your people.
Pour the healing oil of your compassion
on a world that is wounded and dying.
Send us out in search of the lost,
to comfort the afflicted,
to bind up the broken,
and to free those trapped
under the rubble of their fallen dreams.

Salutation to the Dawn

Salutation to the Dawn
Kalidasa

Look to this day! For it is life,
  the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the varieties
and realities of your existence.
  The bliss of growth,
  The glory of action,
  The splendour of beauty,
are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
and tomorrow is only a vision,
 but today well-lived
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Ancient Sanskrit poem

Podcast: Grief and Healing

Poetry Podcast on Grief and Healing

Two of my poems are included in the latest poetry podcast on Grief and Healing. It is hosted by poet Barbara Leonhard and she does a fine reading of the poems by several poets.

This podcast episode explores the grief and loss we are experiencing mainly due to the current pandemic and social upheaval. Our wellness is at stake, and those with pre-existing conditions are vulnerable. How can we maintain good health and navigate our grief when we experience loss of loved ones and disruptions in our daily life? Poetry can help us nurture compassion and heal on our sacred journeys.

To listen to the podcast click here or visit Barbara's poetry blog: Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver to learn more. She is open to submissions, if you are a poet and would like to share your memoir writing. There are at least twelve other episodes from past podcasts, if you want to check out the other topics here.

Fragment

 "...Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they're so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet..."

~ Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)

[From Repression of War Experience]

Vanishes

Vanishes
Tim McGee

“Where the uncountable reckoning,
Numberless, vanishes.”
    -
Rilke's Duino Elegies, Fifth Elegy


Even though we are less (and less) sure what it is
(Anymore) we know that without a song, a poem,
A tune, we would be more lost than we know we
Are.  Sidney’s Defense of Poesy seeks to explain

Why poets (and their songs) are necessary.  You
Need a poem to argue against poetry: you need a
Mind to argue there is no mind!  When poets and
Their quests cease, all joy vanishes like a wave on

That shoreline.  Our play in the fields of language
Is more sacred than an argument of defense.  We
Can’t help physical breathing, or mental breathing

In the form of reason, and certainly can’t abide
The vanishing of our spiritual breathing, so we
Scribble and gasp for one more word to whisper!


Bio

Dr. Tim McGee has been teaching high school students since the late ‘80s. He also teaches English composition, literature, and philosophy to College students.  He has received endorsements or degrees from Abilene Christian University, York College, the University of Nebraska, and Trinity College in English and psychology, philosophy, and theology. He graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska, where he earned his master's degree in education, and he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Theology from Trinity College. Professor McGee has been nominated for several teaching awards, including Master Teacher. He has published in several journals, including The English Journal and Poet's Magazine. He received the National Endowment for the Humanities reading award and the Wyoming Arts Council New Fiction Award. Dr. McGee is the founder of Learnstrong.net, and serves as an educational consultant and a motivational speaker to students and teachers.


*Note: Listen to Dr. Tim McGee recite his poem (in part B) of the Learnstrong.net lectures on Sidney’s Defense of Poesy, Part A and Part B. Read The Defense of Poesy by Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586) on Luminarium here.

Prayer for the Home

Prayer for the Home
Edgar A. Guest, 1881-1959

Peace, unto this house, I pray,
Keep terror and despair away;
Shield it from evil and let sin
Never find lodging room within.
May never in these walls be heard
The hateful or accusing word.

Grant that its warm and mellow light
May be to all a beacon bright,
A flaming symbol that shall stir
The beating pulse of him or her
Who finds this door and seems to say,
"Here end the trials of the day."

Hold us together, gentle Lord,
Who sit about this humble board;
May we be spared the cruel fate
Of those whom hatreds separate;
Here let love bind us fast, that we
May know the joys of unity.

Lord, this humble house we'd keep
Sweet with play and calm with sleep.
Help us so that we may give
Beauty to the lives we live.
Let Thy love and let Thy grace
Shine upon our dwelling place.