Yesterday, at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier where I serve as music director, the structure and content of the service was different from usual. Our minister was on vacation. In place of a sermon, nine members of the church spoke briefly, responding to the last line of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day:”

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

One of the speakers, who I will not identify in case he doesn’t want to go public beyond the walls of the church, cited a poem by Antonio Machado. I beg flexibility from the readers of A Year of Guys and make today’s Machado reference not one about the Baltimore Oriole’s third basement Manny Machado, but the Spanish poet Antonio  Machado, who lived 1875- 1939.

I have no further thoughts of my own beyond the desire to share three of Machado’s poems that were recommended by the gentleman who spoke. The first eerily communes with a text I set to music, described in my February 24th entry “A Wee Little Bang:”

“Traveler, your footprints”
Traveler, your footprints
are the only road, nothing else.
Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk.
As you walk, you make your own road,
and when you look back
you see the path
you will never travel again.
Traveler, there is no road;
only a ship’s wake on the sea.
Here are two others by Machado:
“Last night as I was sleeping”
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

“Is my soul asleep?”

Is my soul asleep?
Have those beehives that labor
at night stopped? And the water-
wheel of thought,
is it dry, the cups empty,
wheeling, carrying only shadows?

No, my soul is not asleep,
It is awake, wide awake.
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,
its clear eyes open,
far-off things, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.

 

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