Thursday, May 30, 2013

Of the Meek, The Strong, Poems ... "And they're gone like smoke..."

Here are two pieces by two of my favorite poets (and songwriters, in the case of Leonard Cohen). Grace-filled, literally and figuratively.

Who the Meek Are Not

              Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
              in the rice paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
              make the wheat fall in waves
they don't get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
              nun says we misread
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
              To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
              in a meadow, who—
at his master's voice—seizes up to a stunned
              but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
              in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
              and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order.

"Who the Meek Are Not" by Mary Karr, from Sinners Welcome. © Harper Collins, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
From "The Writers Almanac"

"Ballad of a Runaway Horse"
(Leonard Cohen)

Say a prayer for the cowgirl her horse ran away
She'll walk till she finds him her darlin' her stray
But the river's in flood and the roads are awash
And the bridges break up in the panic of loss.

And there's nothin' to follow nowhere to go
He's gone like the summer gone like the snow
And the crickets are breaking her heart with their song
As the day caves in and the night is all wrong.

Did she dream it was he who went galloping past
And bent down the fern broke open the grass
And printed the mud with the well hammered shoe
That she nailed to his speed in the dreams of her youth.

And although he goes grazin' a minute away
She tracks him all night she tracks him all day
And she's behind to his presence except to compare
Her injury here with his punishment there.

Then at home on a branch on a high stream
A songbird sings out so suddenly
And the sun is warm and the soft winds ride
On a willow tree by the riverside.

Ah, the world is sweet and the world is wide
He's there where the light and the darkness divide
And the steam's comin' off him he's huge and he's shy
And he steps on the moon when he paws at the sky.

And he comes to her hand but he's not really tame
He longs to be lost she longs for the same
And he'll bolt and he'll plunge through the first open pass
To roll and to feed in the sweet mountain grass.

Or he'll make a break for the high plateau
Where there's nothing above and nothing below
It's time for their burden the whip and the spur
Well she ride with him or will he ride with her.

So she binds herself to her galloping steed
And he binds himself to the woman in need
And there is no space just left and right
And there is no time but there is day and night.

Then she leans on his neck and whispers low
Whither thou goest I will go
And they turn as one and the head for the plain
No need for the whip oh no need for the rein.

Now the clasp of this union who fastens it tight
Who snaps it asunder the very next night
Some say it's him some say it's her
Some say love's like smoke beyond all repair.

So my darlin', my darlin' just let it go by
That old silhouette on the great western sky
And I'll pick out a tune and they'll move right along
And they're gone like smoke and they're gone like this song.

Say a prayer for the cowgirl...

My favorite version is from Emmylou Harris' "Cowgirl's Prayer" album.

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