I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

by R.S. Thomas

 

This poem came to mind during some precious moments earlier this week, when my darling five-year-old son Finbar was playing in the other room and I heard him softly sing to himself? his toy cars? his wooden blocks? ‘I love you, I love you’ over and over again – and it really made me linger and savour the priceless sweetness of it.

It’s a poem close to my heart, after I was asked to read it at the funeral of a dear friend’s mother. I appreciate how well crafted it is, its richness of metaphor, and how it is in service to a gloriously simple moment, so easily overlooked. Those moments are maybe not as rare as pearls, in fact, they might be everywhere when we worry less about past and future and instead be here, and notice. And I feel – and hear around me – that the autumn season offers even more windows into that brightness which ‘is the eternity that awaits you’…

Reflecting on how come this poem is so alive to me, I’m pretty sure that it is because I learned it by heart to speak, rather than read, at the funeral. It was several years ago now, but a poem once learned doesn’t leave without a trace. I also find that a poem lands more deeply when I write it out by hand, or read it out loud, “twice as slow as you want to” as my husband reminds me when I start. I guess poems are asking to be savoured, and lingered with…

Phyllis Cole-Dai, who co-edited the wonderful anthology of mindfulness poems called Poetry of Presence, writes in her foreword that “to fully experience any poem, we must stop whatever else we’re doing and give it our full and gracious attention, start to finish, just as the poet did when writing it.” And the American poet Muriel Rukeyser adds to that: “This moment is real, this moment is what we have, this moment in which we face each other, and if a poem is any damn good at all, it invites you to bring your whole life to that moment, and we are good poets inasmuch as we bring that invitation to you, and you are good readers inasmuch as you bring your whole life to the reading of the poem.”

So may you have good poems to bring your whole life to, and many precious moments to savour as the autumn is settling in…

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