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
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.
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
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.
POETRY EXPLORING AN ECOLOGICAL FAITH
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
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