A member of our local Buddhist meditation center shared this wonderful poem at the center’s winter solstice party. I wrote to Stephen Philbrick, who lives nearby in Cummington, and he’s kindly given me permission to reprint it below.
Don’t Try So Hard
It comes in a shiver sometimes,
Sometimes in a winter windowpane
Wild with the unseeable frozen there:
The shapes above clouds,
The score of wind and the words, too;
The plot of waves and the brain that
lays and abandons them:
Don’t try so hard.
Sometimes it falls,
A flake at a time,
Into your life when you’re asleep.
Sometimes it comes as a winter blankness,
Waiting for storm, or ice, or thaw,
or even wind.
And then the air by itself groans
And the trees speak out of themselves;
The swamp shudders and the woods come to.
Sometimes it comes when you least expect it;
And sometimes it doesn’t.
Quiet, still, no voice (not even small),
No whirlwind, no reply, no burning.
Just a bare winter bush.
The space between stars,
Where noise goes to die;
And the space between atoms,
Where the charges thin out:
These are places, too.
The moment in the movement of the soul
When it all seems to stop, seized up.
This is true, too. Ice is, also. And dormancy.
I don’t mean the stirring of seeds beneath
But the place between and the moment
And I don’t mean a lightning bolt,
But what it passes through.
I don’t mean a dream, but dumb sleep.
After the end and before the beginning
Is time, too.
Let it alone, don’t try so hard.
This is God, too,
All of you is.
Stephen Philbrick has been the minister of the
West Cummington Church for the past 15 years. Before this he raised
sheep in Cummington for many years. His books include: No Goodbye (The Smith); Up To The Elbow (Adastra Press); THREE (Adastra Press, 2003); and Backyard Lumberjack (Storey Publishing, 2006) a prose collection co-authored with his son, Frank.