Every few weeks or so, I’ll add a poem to this page for anyone to ponder who hits this site. Here’s why — and of course with much of what I do, there is a story behind it.
When I was an undergrad at the University of South Carolina, I had a professor tell me you should read a poem every day. Back then, I thought that was TOTALLY useless. I mean, like WHY, right?
Now, though, I realize how wrong I was.
These days, before I dive into any writing work, I always look to grab a poem, and I’ll read it again and again — and again. Sometimes, I’ll even read it out loud. I do that because I want the rhythm of the poem’s words stuck in my ears like the syncopated beats from a jazz-cat drummer.
Years ago, when I was an editor, the young journalists I worked with would walk into my office and hear Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” spilling from the boom box on my desk. They’d often ask why — and make fun of me.
That was always so easy. Old guy. Young journalists. You get the idea.
Anyway, any time they asked, I’d tell them their stories need rhythm, and they need to read their stories out loud. I need to read their stories out loud. And when their stories sound like “All Blues” from “Kind of Blue” in my head, I know their stories are close.
The poems I read every day help me remember that kind of stuff. It helps me carve out time in my day to reflect. When that happens, I think about a tree.
It’s in the photo above. It’s one of the huge oaks I see when I go to Charleston, my hometown. It’s in the cemetery, just to the left of the final resting place of my mother, father and brother.
The cemetery is known as Live Oak, and it sits a few miles north of my old high school, Middleton High, down Highway 61 in West Ashley, the tree-shaded section of Charleston where I grew up and came of age. West Ashley is me.
Now, to our poem.
It comes from John O’Donohue, one of my favorites.
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.