I hope you’ll find beauty and solace in these wildly different poems, as I have. They are each, in their way, about patience.
But first, a tiny joke! My sweet friend sends me one each day as I’m living the sofa life.
The past, present, and future walk into a bar…
It was tense.
Patience Taught by Nature
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.
How to Give Thanks for a Broken Leg
by Barbara Kingsolver
Thank your stars that at least your bones
know how to knit, two sticks at work:
tibia, fibula, ribbed scarf as long as a winter.
The mindless tasks a body learns when it must.
Praise your claw-foot tub. Tie a sheet around its belly
like a saddle on a pig, to hammock your dry-docked
limb while the rest of you steeps. Sunk deep
in hot water up to your chin, dream of the troubles
you had, when trouble was still yours to make.
The doctor says eight weeks. Spend seven here.
Be glad for your cast that draws children with
permanent markers, like vandals and their graffiti
to the blighted parts of town. They mark out
their loves and territories, and you, the benevolent
mayor, will wear these concerns in public,
then throw them away when your term is up.
Concede your debt to life’s grammar, even as
it nailed you in one fell stroke from subject to object.
Praise the helping verbs, family hands that feed;
the surgical modifiers that pin you from shattered
to fixed to mended. Praise the careless syntax
of a life where, through steady misuse, a noun
grows feet: it turtles and outfoxes and one day,
with no one watching, steps out as a brand-new verb.
Psalm 130, King James Version
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
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Barbara Kingsolver’s poem is from her wonderful new collection –