Today, two poems about joy.
The first one might take you down, but can I suggest you stay with it for a while. Let it rest before you move on to the second.
Most of us are not used to reading poetry, but for most of the history of written language, it has been used as an aid to meditation and mysticism. The Hebrew Bible is at least one third poetry, for instance, more than likely copying the practices of the Babylonian culture that dominated them, from which fragments have survived too, most notably the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Other traditions are more familiar with this practice, particularly the Sufis within Islam, who have inherited the most astonishing work of poets such as Attar, Rumi and Sanai.
If you are approaching poems as a spiritual practice, it might be worth remembering the tradition of lecto divina, or holy reading, in which we read a passage 3 times, attending to our bodies and looking for words that resonate. The simplest easy to do this is to read a poem, and allow one sentence to speak to you. Wait for a moment, then read again.
There is a discussion to be had here about what is ‘scripture’ and whether it is appropriate to use poetry written by someone like me in this mystical way. That is a discussion for another time.
Joy to the world
‘Joy to the world’ always sounds
ridiculously over-inclusive, from my
lowered down in these city streets
obfuscated by all that is ordinary.
How about some joy more localised?
to the state I’m in?
What currency is joy counted in anyway?
What mortgage payments might it make?
Will it float me far away on free air miles?
Will it sprinkle fairy dust on these small days of winter?
Or is it some celestial scratch card
Always scratched by
Like a shepherd, I would not recognise it
even if the Angel Gabriel visited me on lonely hillside
Even if it fizzed in the mountain brooks
like victory Champagne.
Let alone if glimpsed in bloody froth
as it slapped down on some filthy stable floor
at the ragged end of a distant empire.
No choir, just the cries of a too-young mother
And a fart from the odd ruminant.
Joy to the world indeed.
Joy is not a bauble
Not a bubble, too soon burst
Never manufactured cost effectively
It is not bought or sold
It is not gold
Joy is not a jacket
You pick from a handy peg, it is
Never something worn externally
It is always a surprise
Joy requires no skill
Its practice is not taught
It is not being ‘happy’ or content
It is just being open, to the
Beautiful and broken
Joy is an ambush
Hidden in plain sight
Wrapped up in the most unlikely things
It often comes with grief, not even
Joy is a squirrel
Transcending a tree
It is music played directly on the spine
You do not need to look, because
It stabs you the gut