Bread and Other Miracles

Bread and Other Miracles

by Lynn Ungar

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Overview

Bread and Other Miracles by Lynn Ungar

Ever since I read Lynn Ungar's "Camas Lilies"-a poem that has touched the lives of thousands of people-I've hoped she would publish a collection of poetry. Bread and Other Miracles is a wish come true. These poems come from and speak to many dimensions of what it means to be human. But they have this in common: they take subtle, complex, and elusive experiences and make them accessible without diminishing the mystery. They give the reader a chance to walk around and into the miracles of everyday life, to dwell more deeply in self, other, nature, and spirit. Immerse yourself in this world of words and find yourself more deeply immersed in the world of your own life. -Parker J. Palmer (author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477273586
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/08/2012
Pages: 92
Sales rank: 1,160,007
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.22(d)

Read an Excerpt

BREAD AND OTHER MIRACLES


By LYNN UNGAR

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2012 Lynn Ungar
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-7358-6


Chapter One

    Blessing the Bread

    Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam,
    hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz.



    Surely the earth
    is heavy with this rhythm,
    the stretch and pull of bread,
    the folding in and folding in
    across the palms, as if
    the lines of my hands could chart
    a map across the dough,
    mold flour and water into
    the crosshatchings of my life.

    I do not believe in palmistry,
    but I study my hands for promises
    when no one is around.
    I do not believe in magic,
    but I probe the dough
    for signs of life, willing
    it to rise, to take shape,
    to feed me. I do not believe
    in palmistry, in magic, but
    something happens in kneading
    dough or massaging flesh;
    an imprint of the hand remains
    on the bodies we have touched.

    This is the lifeline—
    the etched path from hand
    to grain to earth, the transmutation
    of the elements through touch
    marking the miracles
    on which we unwillingly depend.

    Praised be thou, eternal God,
    who brings forth bread from the earth.



    Boundaries

    The universe does not
    revolve around you.
    The stars and planets spinning
    through the ballroom of space
    dance with one another
    quite outside of your small life.
    You cannot hold gravity
    or seasons; even air and water
    inevitably evade your grasp.
    Why not, then, let go?

    You could move through time
    like a shark through water,
    neither restless nor ceasing,
    absorbed in and absorbing
    the native element.
    Why pretend you can do otherwise?
    The world comes in at every pore,
    mixes in your blood before
    breath releases you into
    the world again. Did you think
    the fragile boundary of your skin
    could build a wall?

    Listen. Every molecule is humming
    its particular pitch.
    Of course you are a symphony.
    Whose tune do you think
    the planets are singing
    as they dance?


    Hawks

    Surely, you too have longed for this—
    to pour yourself out
    on the rising circles of the air,
    to ride, unthinking,
    on the flesh of emptiness.

    Can you claim, in your civilized life,
    that you have never leaned toward
    the headlong dive, the snap of bones,
    the chance to be so terrible,
    so free from evil, beyond choice?

    The air that they are riding
    is the same breath as your own.
    How could you not remember?
    That same swift stillness binds
    your cells in balance, rushes
    through the pulsing circles of your blood.

    Each breath proclaims it—
    the flash of feathers, the chance to rest
    on such a muscled quietness,
    to be in that fierce presence,
    wholly wind, wholly wild.


    Autumn Equinox

    You may think of it
    as marking the long descent,
    the slide into winter's weariness.
    Such moments are not easy to accept—
    don't we all want to petition
    some cosmic governor
    to grant summer a reprieve?
    But the sentence is always cast,
    the scales will always tip,
    whatever you might think is just.

    In this brief, breath-catching
    moment at the top
    you may recall the slow climb of summer,
    the safe, steady ticking up the tracks.
    The self-possessed might even
    gaze out and glimpse
    the jostling fairgrounds and
    the quiet that stretches beyond the fence.

    Look quickly. Even now the car
    tips forward and picks up speed.
    As the wind in your face increases
    and your stomach leaps, remember:
    This is the ride you came for,
    the fear and the sense of flying.
    Winter won't seem long
    when you slide to a halt
    around the final curve.


    Masks

    What will you wear for Halloween?
    The trees are changing faces, and the
    rough chins of chestnut burrs
    grimace and break to show their
    sleek brown centers. The hills
    have lost their mask of green and grain,
    settled into a firmer geometry
    of uncolored line and curve.

    Which face will you say is true—
    the luminous trees or the branches underneath?
    The green husks of walnuts, the shell within,
    or the nut curled intimately inside,
    sheltered like a brain within its casing?

    Be careful with what you know,
    with what you think you see.
    Moment by moment faces shift,
    masks lift and fall again, repainted
    to a different scene. It means,
    the cynics say, there is no truth,
    no constant to give order to the great equation.

    Meanwhile, the trees, leaf by leaf,
    are telling stories inevitably true:
    Green. Gold. Vermillion. Brown.
    The lace of veins remaining
    as each cell returns to soil.


    Food chain

    Give up pretending.
    Everything, you know,
    everything, sooner or later
    gets eaten. Little fish,
    big fish, no difference—
    the world's mouth
    is on you. Outside the personal,
    it even has a certain glory.

    When the mouse, in its last
    short dash to the grain,
    feels the great rush of wings,
    in the flash before
    the crushing beak descends,
    it is finally, luminously, airborne.

    In the broad, voiceless,
    hours of the night
    you have always known
    the red beak of
    your consummation
    awaits you. The choice,
    very simply, is this:
    What will you give
    your own beloved
    bones and blood to feed?


    Thanksgiving

    I have been trying to read
    the script cut in these hills—
    a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
    and the solid lines of soil, spoken
    in the thud of apples falling
    and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.

    The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
    as they gather in the fallen grain,
    the blackbirds sing it
    over their shoulders in parting,
    and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
    where it is written in the trees.

    Transcribed onto my human tongue
    I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
    or a child's prayer before bed.
    Across the gathering stillness
    simply this: "For all that we have received,
    dear God, make us truly thankful."


    Incarnation

    The trees have finally
    shaken off their cloak
    of leaves, redrawn
    themselves more sternly
    against the sky. I confess
    I have coveted this
    casting off of flesh,
    have wished myself
    all line and form, all God.

    I confess that I am caught
    by the story of Christmas,
    by the pronouncement of the Spirit
    upon Mary's plain flesh.
    What right did the angel
    have to come to her
    with the news of that
    unprovided, unimaginable
    birth? What right
    had God to take on flesh
    so out of season?

    When Mary lay gasping
    in water and blood
    that was of her body
    but not her own,
    did she choose one gleaming,
    antiseptic star to carry
    her through the night?

    The flesh has so few choices,
    the angels, perhaps, none.
    The trees will shake themselves
    and wait for spring.
    The angels, unbodied, will clutch
    the night with their singing.
    And Mary, like so many,
    troubled and available,
    will hear the word:

    The power of the Most High
    will overshadow you


    and in her flesh, respond.


    Salvation

    By what are you saved? And how?
    Saved like a bit of string,
    tucked away in a drawer?
    Saved like a child rushed from
    a burning building, already
    singed and coughing smoke?
    Or are you salvaged
    like a car part— the one good door
    when the rest is wrecked?

    Do you believe me when I say
    you are neither salvaged nor saved,
    but salved, anointed by gentle hands
    where you are most tender?
    Haven't you seen
    the way snow curls down
    like a fresh sheet, how it
    covers everything, makes everything
    beautiful, without exception?


    Blessing the candles

    Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu
    b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik neir shel shabbat



    Here, in the last
    gentle light past sunset,
    at the end of the week,
    in the last years of the century,
    it is hard not to grasp
    after the receding light.
    It is hard not to wonder
    what is left: two candles burning.
    Insufficient light to plant
    or cook or paint the kitchen—
    anything purposeful, that might
    claim some conviction of the future.

    There is so little we create:
    a few lines that take on life,
    a bookcase that stands steady.
    There is so little that remains,
    and always someone wanting.
    I could hand out quarters
    on the street all day
    and no one would be saved
    or safe or whole.

    Outside, the street lamps
    are blinking on into a false
    pink phosphorescent cheer,
    and we are sitting silent
    in the wake of the candles'
    first flare. I am watching you
    looking at the candles,
    or the darkness in between them.

    This is the blessing that we
    have kindled: this particular dark.
    This space between two poles
    which we, who are not angels
    can inhabit. If you stand facing me,
    this is what you will find:
    the gap between us where
    our common lives take shape,
    the space between us that
    we reach into for love.

    Outside, the royal blue is deepening
    to black. The stars begin to form
    their million year old light
    into constellations which we,
    in our demand for form and story,
    have decreed. And you and I
    are caught between the candles
    where we cannot help but live,
    in the close and infinite abundance
    held between the kindling
    and the dying of the light.

    Praised be Thou, eternal God,
    who has sanctified us with
    thy commandments, and required
    of us the kindling of lights.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from BREAD AND OTHER MIRACLES by LYNN UNGAR Copyright © 2012 by Lynn Ungar. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Blessing the Bread....................3
Boundaries....................5
Hawks....................6
Autumn Equinox....................7
Masks....................8
Food Chain....................9
Thanksgiving....................10
Incarnation....................11
Salvation....................13
Blessing the Candles....................14
Bats....................16
Winter Into Spring....................17
Groundhog Day....................18
Breaking Ground....................19
Lent....................20
Tortoises....................21
Camas Lilies....................22
Passover....................23
Crab Grass....................25
The Mad Poet's Love Song....................26
Shoes....................28
Elephant Seals....................29
Plain Flight....................30
Noah....................32
Watermelon....................34
Cormorants....................35
Common Prayer....................37
Blessing the Wine....................38
Hansel and Gretel....................43
The Wall....................45
Hope....................46
Riddle....................47
Knowledge....................48
Ritual of Safe Passage....................50
Mars....................52
Forgiveness....................53
Earthworms....................55
Mozart & Manor....................56
Rhythm....................57
Sparkles....................59
Oval Beach....................60
Raspberry....................62
Ivy....................63
Before Chanukah: After the Election....................64
Annunciation to the Shepherds....................65
The Camels Speak....................66
Revelers....................68
The Audience....................69
Rock Garden....................70
The Fence....................71
Puppy....................72
Rollercoaster....................73
Center Street....................74
Proficiency....................75
Quilting....................76
Moses....................77
Yo-Yo Ma at the Inauguration....................78
Your House....................79
Sewing....................80
The Last Good Days....................81

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