Wellspring: Poetry for the Journey
The beauty of great poems is not that we are provided the answer, but that we are given a question to consider.
—Allison Seay in "Wellspring," the weekly poetry guide
St. Stephen's Church offers this weekly resource written by our Associate for Religion and the Arts, Allison Seay. The guides may be used by Emmaus Groups or other small groups, or for individual study and reflection. You can read more about poetry at St. Stephen's here.
To subscribe to the weekly poetry email, follow this link. (Please note that the May 21 edition is the last one until September.)
May 21, 2018 edition
MorningSalt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.
As Wellspring comes to a close for this program year and as I prepare for a slower-paced summer of reading and writing, I leave you with this beautiful meditation by Mary Oliver—an accessible and clear poem that I think of as starting in morning and ending in eternity, starting in the kitchen and ending in bliss.
I have had moments like the one this poem illustrates (though I fear I could not have written a poem about them)—moments of awe, of miracle, moments when everything did feel— even if but for a moment—wonder-filled, everything shaded with the tint of the divine, moments of ecstasy that could not be explained, nor recreated.
Pentecost, one of the three major feast days in the Christian church, was yesterday; it is the day we commemorate and celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples who are bewildered, amazed, astonished and wondering what it all means. I like this poem as a companion: there’s nothing bewildering here, except for the moment itself. And the astonishment is not because of “divided tongues, as of fire” but instead the simple wonder of a cold kitchen in morning, the cat and her milk, the grass, the salt shining. What, indeed, does it all mean.
Perhaps one does eventually run out of “wild words” to describe the amazement of existence. Or perhaps one keeps working anyway, keeps looking for more, keeps watching and, having witnessed the now-awakened cat leaping “for no apparent reason across the lawn,” keeps wondering what more could one do, what else but this, what else.
I wish my readers a season of joy, poetry, rest, and wonder.
About the Poet
Mary Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, is a best-selling poet and one of America’s most beloved writers. Though born in Ohio, she spent much of her life in New England and now lives in Florida. For more than 40 years, she lived with her partner, the photographer Molly Malone Cook, until Cook’s death in 2005. She visited St. Stephen’s in a rare public appearance in 2011.
 “Morning” by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press. Used by permission.
By Allison Seay, Associate for Religion and the Arts, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church© 2018
Download a print-friendly version of the May 21 guide here (Morning by Mary Oliver)
Download a print-friendly version of the May 14 guide here (How Many Nights by Galway Kinnell)
Download a print-friendly version of the May 7 guide here (The Good Life by Tracy K. Smith)
Download a print-friendly version of the April 30 guide here (A Poem of Thanks by Wendell Berry)
Download a print-friendly version of the April 23 guide here (These Poems by June Jordan)
Download a print-friendly version of the April 16 guide here (Do You Love Me? by Robert Wrigley)
Download a print-friendly version of the April 9 guide here (Essentials of Spraying and Dusting by Nathaniel Perry)
Download a print-friendly version of the April 2 guide here (blessing the boats by Lucille Clifton)
Download a print-friendly version of the March 26 guide here (Highway 90 by Linda Gregg)
Download a print-friendly version of the March 19 guide here (The Snow Storm)
Download a print-friendly version of the March 12 guide here (After All [Everything])
Download a print-friendly version of the January 22 guide here (Geography by Natasha Trethewey)
Download a print-friendly version of the January 15 guide here (The Americans by Natasha Trethewey)
Download a print-friendly version of the January 8 guide here (Mosaic of the Nativity by Jane Kenyon)