Camp Netimus PA - 2010 - Grass Along the Black Banks_sm




by L.M. Browning

Excerpt from Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith

Image: Grass Along the Black Banks © by L.M. Browning



I. The Face of Faith


The grassroots of humankind’s spirituality

―this ecological faith―

was founded not by prophets

but by peasants…

by those who had nothing

and so discovered the worth

in the naturalness growing round them.


A homely faith that is without pomp,

the sacred objects of which

are the ubiquitously growing

wood, grass and berries,

the many-formed breasts and birds

and the life-guarding elements

fire and water.


The presence of the sacred mother and father

―the divine beings―

was discovered by those whom dwelt in hovels…

a rustic folk, uneducated

but with a keen eye and open heart.


Farmers not scholars;

family men not clerics;

paupers of low class

with dirty hands, calloused feet,

yellowing teeth and matted hair.

…a rustic folk, though heart-hardy.


II. Where Belief is Found


It was there―

while tiling the fields,

raking the muck,

feeding the pigs

and tending the fire

that the rumination of purity began.


It was while

the warm wind blew,

the wildflowers bloomed

and the clockwork of the stars moved in turn

that these hardened folk

felt the presence of some greater power

and began a contemplation of the sacred

that would be passed down

to every generation to follow after them.


In and amongst the lush green of the wood

they could sense some magnanimous spirit at work.

In the return of the spring after the winter

they could sense this being’s merciful nature.


They knew of their small place

within the intimidating grand scope of the world

and they recognized the being whose

all-encompassing hands

hold all things in balance.


Gleaning an understanding of the unfathomable

through what their eyes could see and heart could feel

the simple folk became the wise.


Their respect for the wild realm

and the force governing it

verged on reverence and,

alight with a desire to know the being

whose aura they sense within all things,

spirituality was born.



Centuries since the discovery

of the sacred within the meadows,

the strongest faith is still had

by those of meager means.


We can try to dig up

the grassroots from which we sprung

but they go too deeply into us to ever be eradicated.


Generations later,

we are quite removed from the hovel

yet we cannot change the blood

of the herdsman and farmers

that runs through our veins.


We strive to escape our poverty

yet we who have suffered it

can be understood by no other kind.

I can understand a poor mother

better than I can a rich man.

I began to rise from my poverty

into the ranks of middle class

yet found I could not relate to one

whom had never known the struggle.


Leading me to realize that I belonged in the slums

with the desperate and the dying;

for, though they have not a shilling,

they know how difficult this life can be.

And consequently, they were the only ones

whom could appreciate what my life had been.


A fraternity of the damned and disowned,

only we can know what each other has faced.

Made brothers and sisters through our shared trials,

which the imagination of the sheltered mind cannot fathom,

we can look into the eyes of one we meet

and see if he or she is kindred to us.


Visiting that lowest level of survival,

wherein our last remnants of pride are stripped from us

as we are forced to beg for scraps worthy of only a mutt,

leaves a mark upon one ―a look about the eyes―

which others whom have also been there can recognize.


Preferring the harsh honesty

and rough living of the peasants,

I would rather be given a crust of bread by a beggar

than be bought a banquet by a benefactor;

for the beggar gives from his heart,

while the rich man has made his money

by living without one.


III. Going Back to Go Forward


Unable to flush the blood

of the pleasant from my veins

I shall honor what I am,

return to the cottage

and perhaps find in that modest hut,

the place where I belong.


I seek to return to my humble beginning

so to commune with the sacred in its primal form.

To depart the civilized world

where we live boxed up away from the earth

and return to the dirt floored hovel.

Never again to touch the steel knobs of a faucet

―one for hot and one for cold―

but to draw my water

from the steams and stone-walled wells

cool water in the winter,

warm in the summer.


Kept too long in these polyester sheets,

I miss my bed of prairie grass

and my blanket of the summer sun.


I miss washing the dust from my feet upon returning

from a barefoot walk along the well-worn paths.

Sweeping through the thick growth―

the tips of each pronged leaf

bejeweled with morning dew,

soaking my shirt and pant legs as I brush past.


Come, dance around the bonfire with me

―surrender yourself,

indulge the instincts you have long ignored.


Come, I have tilled the soil

now you follow behind me

and sow the seeds.


Come, resume your place―

walk out into the torrential rains

and be re-baptized into the natural faith.


Do not deny your rustic soul

that yearns for the smell of the hearth

and the feel of cool dirt between your fingers.

Remove yourself from your modern prison,

which suppresses every instinct of your native self

and become the old ways…

embrace the folk from whom you descend.


We built this modern world

thinking it would fulfill us,

only to discover that this way of life

brings emptiness, not ease.


Yet instead of dismantling this world we made

and returning to the old ways

we suffered ourselves to stay

and let the great machine keep churning.


We coined the modern adage,

“you can’t return home,”

condemning ourselves to a way of life

where joy is seldom found;

closing a door

that would have always remained open to us…

a door that still can be reopened,

if only we admit that we are a people of the earth

and what we need to be fulfilled

lies within the simple ways we left behind.




Oak_cov_webOAK WISE

Foreword by Irish Writer and Filmmaker Alan Cooke
Revised & Updated – Second edition featuring a new foreword and previously unpublished poems.
ISBN 978-1-938846-05-2 | 6 x 9 | 230 Pgs | List Price: $14.95
*Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Gold Medal for Poetry
*2012 Pushcart Prize Nomination

Now Available in paperback, Audio Book and ebook.

Signed Editions Available Publisher-direct Here>>

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