Monday, April 11, 2016

I Made Audacity My Roof

                                                       Image result for roof images
There is a poem by Robert Pinsky that I have read and re-read and pondered for many years. It is called "Samurai Song," and, if you'll bear with me, I'll transcribe it here.

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had no
Mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made

My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my


Need is my tactic, detachment

Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

We all know the lack of something or other in our lives. But there are some things we lack that we don't perceive. Moreover, there are ways of compensating or adjusting that we can't easily discern. What struck me about this poem was the apparent ease the speaker has for tending to himself. Oh, to have that ease!

Pinsky is Buddhist and detachment is certainly his strategy. I am not a Buddhist but detachment is something I have worked on for most of my adult life. I see it as a deep grace that it ever occurred to me. Need is his tactic. And God's power is made great in my weakness. (2nd Corinthians 12)

Last week, I had the thought to write my own version of this poem. Not, of course, that I wouldever match the former poet laureate of the United States or that I would even come close to writing a real poem. No, my idea was to think about what I have lacked and how I have tended to that lack. I wanted to articulate how God's grace has worked just a bit in my life. Pinsky's poem is about discipline and control, about effort and searching. My words, on the other hand, are about chance. I find, however, that both he and I end up very near our original locations. Here is what I wrote.

When I had no understanding
I bent to understand the ground.
When I prayed no prayer
I walked.

When I found no comfort
The cold comforted me.
When I felt no spirit

I breathed.

When no one pardoned me
I sought pardon from the sky.
When I roiled in sin

An angel took away my blame.

When words failed me

Jesus saved me.
When I looked for love

I found a monastery.

My purpose in posting this very personal story is to encourage you to do something similar. I began with two lists: "I had no" and "I". After making the lists, I simply drew from them, leaving aside most of the words and finding some new ones. I wasn't particularly interested in a "product" but in voicing how grace is certain and blessings are unexpected. 

It's possible that I could write another one some day. It's also possible that I won't, that this was enough. My basic theology is that God, having created the world, is always with us, that there is no actual emptiness anywhere. Writing this was an act of faith for me, and maybe an act of belief as well. 

Here is more about Robert Pinsky.