In The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow has fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter,
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Throng’d the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)

An Art Of Poetry


To Vincent Buckley

Since all our keys are lost or broken,
Shall it be thought absurd
If for an art of words I turn
Discreetly to the Word?

Drawn inward by his love, we trace
Art to its secret springs:
What, are we masters in Israel
And do not know these things?

Lord Christ from out his treasury
Brings forth things new and old:
We have those treasures in earthen vessels,
In parables he told,

And in the single images
Of seed, and fish, and stone,
Or, shaped in deed and miracle,
To living poems grown.

Scorn then to darken and contract
The landscape of the heart
By individual, arbitrary
And self-expressive art.

Let your speech be ordered wholly
By an intellectual love;
Elucidate the carnal maze
With clear light from above.

Give every image space and air
To grow, or as bird to fly;
So shall one grain of mustard-seed
Quite overspread the sky.

Let your literal figures shine
With pure transparency:
Not in opaque but limpid wells
Lie truth and mystery.

And universal meanings spring
From what the proud pass by:
Only the simplest forms can hold
A vast complexity.

We know, where Christ has set his hand
Only the real remains:
I am impatient for that loss
By which the spirit gains.

 

James McAuley (1917–1976)

The Jewel in the Center of the Lotus (Eaters)

There is not a single aspect of the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha’s teachings
which is not contained in Avalokiteshvara’s six syllable mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”… 
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

 No more western Buddhists, please—
I’ve had it up to here.
your grimly earnest souls aren’t saved;
your doctrines: very queer.

That lotus incense makes me sick.
It mingles with the fumes
of Subarus and passing schemes
in tofu-scented rooms.

Come off it, all you dilettantes;
your chanting is off-key.
The Zen is Sham; and God will damn
your choice to simply BE.

The books you offer me are full
of theravada shambala.
The Dalai WHAT? You babble on . . .
Ascetic sands you’re building on.

A bourgeois dalliance at best
this turning toward the Mystic East.
Those jasmine smells, and gongs, and bells,
proclaim a saffron beast.

By Trungpa Rin-Po’s holy yak—
you’ve swallowed sinker, line and hook.
(Along with way too much green tea
and words from some Buddhist book.)

Celebrities that flap about
this form of Dhammapada – Lite
are mere proverbial flitting moths
and dwell in irrelevant night.

Your shaven sensei’s DVDs,
the Pali scarf, the trademark beads
should be compared to junk-food sweets:
what bald hypocrisy it feeds.

Contemplatives in SUVs
(like boiled carp in lacquered bowls)
are pseudo-karma-yankee-sake
poured into empty souls.

So trade your cushions for some Truth.
Unlock your legs. Uncross your mind.
Return to words that can make you see
—or meditate yourselves blind.

Before this cultural rot began,
before your symptoms were full-blown,
our ancestors did cultivate
the gospel’s seed, once sown . . .

In The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow has fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter,
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Throng’d the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,—
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)