Archive for October, 2011


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I heard “Angels in the Architecture,” composed by Frank Ticheli, performed live by the Colorado Christian University Wind Ensemble on Friday night. It was properly introduced and explained by the guest conductor, Ray E. Cramer, who said it records a conversation between Light and Dark. When we listen, we can hear light’s victory; when we keep listening, we hear the dark creeping in. But in the end, the darkness fades. All that is left is the angel, singing.

Angels in the Architecture

“Once an angel has made an annunciation / it’s impossible to tell him he has the wrong address.” ~Dean Young, from “Handy Guide” (in Poetry, Nov. 2011)



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“Poetry is the language of the heart. In Jane Beal’s collection of beautiful birth-song poems, one’s heart is touched by the many emotions surrounding birth. The wide scope of literature from which the “songs” were drawn encompasses many religions and cultures of the world, giving them a spiritual appeal. Your own birth-song is sure to be found here.”

~ Cathy Daub, PT, founder of BirthWorks International and author of Birthing in the Spirit

 “I love it—Jane Beal’s Epiphany is awesome. Her poems “Birth Litany” and “Cradle of Life” are favorites!  I am also fascinated by “Moshe Drawn from the Water.” Jane is such an inspiration and wise woman!  I am honored to know her.”

~ Wendy Seifert, CCE(BWI), BirthWorks Educator

“Jane Beal has written a lovely collection of poems that will inspire anyone interested in the process of birth. She has taken birth stories … and turned them into works of art. ”

~ Vicki Penwell, CPM, founder of Mercy In Action

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Bright Snowfall






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“I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me …  I knew I’d have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed. And that led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and around the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of the mountain I’d never seen before and on top of this mountain there was a garden … [and]  in the middle of [the garden] there was a well.” Eustace Scrubb on the beginning of the dream that led him to becoming un-dragoned in C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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White dawn. Stillness.When the rippling began
I took it for sea-wind, coming to our valley with rumors
of salt, of treeless horizons. But the white fog
didn’t stir; the leaves of my brothers remained outstretched,
Yet the rippling drew nearer – and then
my own outermost branches began to tingle, almost as if
fire had been lit below them, too close, and their twig-tips
were drying and curling.
Yet I was not afraid, only
deeply alert.
I was the first to see him, for I grew
out on the pasture slope, beyond the forest.
He was a man, it seemed: the two
moving stems, the short trunk, the two
arm-branches, flexible, each with five leafless
twigs at their ends,
and the head that’s crowned by brown or golden grass,
bearing a face not like the beaked face of a bird,
more like a flower’s.
He carried a burden made of
some cut branch bent while it was green,
strands of a vine tight-stretched across it. From this,
when he touched it, and from his voice
which unlike the wind’s voice had no need of our
leaves and branches to complete its sound,
came the ripple.
But it was now no longer a ripple (he had come near and
stopped in my first shadow) it was a wave that bathed me
as if rain
rose from below and around me
instead of falling.
And what I felt was no longer a dry tingling:
I seemed to be singing as he sang, I seemed to know
what the lark knows; all my sap
was mounting towards the sun that by now
had risen, the mist was rising, the grass
was drying, yet my roots felt music moisten them
deep under earth.

He came still closer, leaned on my trunk:
the bark thrilled like a leaf still-folded.
Music! There was no twig of me not
trembling with joy and fear.

Then as he sang
it was no longer sounds only that made the music:
he spoke, and as no tree listens I listened, and language
came into my roots
out of the earth,
into my bark
out of the air,
into the pores of my greenest shoots
gently as dew
and there was no word he sang but I knew its meaning.
He told me of journeys,
of where sun and moon go while we stand in dark,
of an earth-journey he dreamed he would take some day
deeper than roots …
He told of the dreams of man, wars, passions, griefs,
and I, a tree, understood words – ah, it seemed
my thick bark would split like a sapling’s that
grew too fast in the spring
when a late frost wounds it.

Fire he sang,
that trees fear, and I, a tree, rejoiced in its flames.
New buds broke forth from me though it was full summer.
As though his lyre (now I knew its name)
were both frost and fire, its chords flamed
up to the crown of me.
I was seed again.
I was fern in the swamp.
I was coal.

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I was recently introduced to the music of the Civil Wars — folksy, simple, beautiful — by my friends Clint and Theresa on a trip through Kenosha Pass and Boreas Pass to Breckinridge in the mountains. I am convinced everyone should have a chance to listen to them. Here are two of their songs … “Falling” & “I Want You Back.”


Haven’t you seen me sleep walking
Cause I’ve been holding your hand
Haven’t you noticed me drifting
Oh, let me tell you I am

Tell me it’s nothing
Try to convince me
That I’m not drowning
Oh, let me tell you I am

Please, please tell me you know
I’ve got to let you go
I can’t help falling
Out of love with you

Why I am feeling so guilty
Why I am holding my breath
Worry about everyone but me
I just keep losing myself

Tell me it’s nothing
Try to convince me
That I’m not drowning
Oh let me tell you I am

Please, please tell me you know
I’ve got to let you go
I can’t help falling
Out of love with you

Oh, won’t you read my mind
Don’t you make me lie here, and die here
Please, Please tell me you know
I’ve got to let you go
I can’t help falling
Out of love with you

The Civil Wars

“I Want You Back”

When I had you to myself
I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd
But someone picked you from the bunch
One glance was all it took
Now it’s much too late for me to go and take a second look

Oh baby give me one more chance
Won’t you please let me in your heart
Oh darling I was blind to let you go
Now that I see you in his arms
I want you back
I want you back
I want you back

Trying to live without your love
Is like one long sleepless night
Let me show you boy
That I really know, I know wrong from right
Cause every street you’re walking on
You leave tear stains on the ground
Follow boy, I didn’t even want
Didn’t even want you around

Oh baby give me one more chance
To show you I love you
Won’t you please let me in your heart
Oh darling I was blind to let you go
Let you go baby
Now that I see you in his arms
Oh now that I see you in his arms
I want you back
I want you back
I want you back

The Civil Wars

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About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden

Pieter Brueghel

 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1560s)

The Story of Icarus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses VIII: 183-235 

Meanwhile Daedalus, hating Crete, and his long exile, and filled with a desire to stand on his native soil, was imprisoned by the waves. ‘He may thwart our escape by land or sea’ he said ‘but the sky is surely open to us: we will go that way: Minos rules everything but he does not rule the heavens’. So saying he applied his thought to new invention and altered the natural order of things. He laid down lines of feathers, beginning with the smallest, following the shorter with longer ones, so that you might think they had grown like that, on a slant. In that way, long ago, the rustic pan-pipes were graduated, with lengthening reeds. Then he fastened them together with thread at the middle, and bees’-wax at the base, and, when he had arranged them, he flexed each one into a gentle curve, so that they imitated real bird’s wings. His son, Icarus, stood next to him, and, not realising that he was handling things that would endanger him, caught laughingly at the down that blew in the passing breeze, and softened the yellow bees’-wax with his thumb, and, in his play, hindered his father’s marvellous work.

When he had put the last touches to what he had begun, the artificer balanced his own body between the two wings and hovered in the moving air. He instructed the boy as well, saying ‘Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes. And I order you not to aim towards Bootes, the Herdsman, or Helice, the Great Bear, or towards the drawn sword of Orion: take the course I show you!’ At the same time as he laid down the rules of flight, he fitted the newly created wings on the boy’s shoulders. While he worked and issued his warnings the ageing man’s cheeks were wet with tears: the father’s hands trembled.

He gave a never to be repeated kiss to his son, and lifting upwards on his wings, flew ahead, anxious for his companion, like a bird, leading her fledglings out of a nest above, into the empty air. He urged the boy to follow, and showed him the dangerous art of flying, moving his own wings, and then looking back at his son. Some angler catching fish with a quivering rod, or a shepherd leaning on his crook, or a ploughman resting on the handles of his plough, saw them, perhaps, and stood there amazed, believing them to be gods able to travel the sky.

And now Samos, sacred to Juno, lay ahead to the left (Delos and Paros were behind them), Lebinthos, and Calymne, rich in honey, to the right, when the boy began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher. His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air. Even as his mouth was crying his father’s name, it vanished into the dark blue sea, the Icarian Sea, called after him. The unhappy father, now no longer a father, shouted ‘Icarus, Icarus where are you? Which way should I be looking, to see you?’ ‘Icarus’ he called again. Then he caught sight of the feathers on the waves, and cursed his inventions. He laid the body to rest, in a tomb, and the island was named Icaria after his buried child.

(trans. A.S. Kline)

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“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans,
and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
Langston Hughes

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” read by Langson Hughes

Commentary on the poem: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/rivers.htm

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

“A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Abiola Valentine’s Reading of “A Dream Deferred”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9n0Lgj-suw&feature=related

Compare “A Dream Deferred” to “Dreams” (as read by Langston Hughes): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpjFS3CQkKE&feature=related

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Langston Hughes

A Reading of Mother to Son: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bhbDIlmtlY&feature=related

Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyqwvC5s4n8

Harlem Renaissance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlPaSgnjuOI&feature=related

“Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

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