I am just returning from a poetry reading.
Every week I go to Oakleaf retirement community next door to the church to preach in a worship service led by our church. I have come to know Yvonne Hardenbrook, a resident there who happens to be a poet. She told me today that she had a reading so I went to it. What a gift to my soul.
Yvonne is in her late 70's I think. She has had significant health issues - most notable back problems that have caused her pain and forced her to be unable to walk easily. She lost her beautiful singing voice some years ago and has many limitations on the life that she used to lead.
She is a poet and has written beautiful, evocative poems about so many of her life experiences. I sat in the activity room with about 15 senior citizens who were all enthralled by her words.
She wrote a poem about the death of her son at 6 years of age
She wrote about being in a psych unit following surgery
She wrote about being on a double ferris wheel and compared it to her first sexual experience
She wrote about playing hide and go seek as a child
She wrote about her mother making her father remove a bathtub full of stagnant water from the front yard.
And I looked at these grey heads and lined faces remembering their own lives and pain and joy and felt blessed to be there.
Yvonne had given me a book of her poems a year ago and so I include one of her poems here. She read this today.
What We Miss Awake
by Yvonne Hardenbrook
What we see
is never all there is.
We drowsily salute the bright-edged
clouds of dawn, in full sun
close our eyes. Again
at sunset we comment on the flame,
say nothing of the subtle
What we miss awake
we see in dreams, distorted
for paid seers to explain
If not drreams then letters,
your words of love I saw and never
recognized. These forty years
the ink has dried on pages folded
tight and ribbon-tied.
They spillinto the fire, the ribbon
last. I tell you, I did not see
till now the face of love.