One of the guides I turned to when I was preparing for my pilgrimage to Iona was John O’Donohue. One morning, I opened his book of poetry, Conamara Blues, and I found one of my favorites, “Inner Circle.” In that poem, he refers to life as “a festival of vivid presence.” I thought that this is a lovely way to describe the day to day journey of the body, the heart and the soul. He suggests that the heart holds the wisdom we tend to look for in God, scripture, even in time and the reward – and the consequences – of our doing-ness. Instead, the poet suggests that we lighten the burdens of mind and body by being still and listening. By practicing “vivid presence,” we learn to hear what is true.
Here is John O’Donohue’s “Inner Circle” followed by a poem I wrote that was inspired by his vision.
Inner Circle, John O’Donohue (from Conamara Blues)
Stranger sometimes than the yellow crochet (*)
Of glimpses that civilize the dark, or the
Shelter of voices who stall the dead
Silence that longs to return to stone,
Stranger is the heart, a different scripture,
Weighed down by thoughts of gods
Who will never emerge, to recommend
One way above another to anywhere,
Lest they distract from the festival
Of vivid presence, where journeys are not
Stretched over distance, and time
Is beyond the fatality of before and
After, and elsewhere and otherwise
Do not intrude on day or night.
*crochet: a small hook; an odd, whimsical or stubborn notion
Vivid Presence, Linda Mastro, March 4, 2010
There are no vendors
or carnival rides
at the festival of vivid presence.
In the hush of the cornfield,
flattened by amusements
come and gone,
another image shimmers
on the horizon.
Down the gravel lane
a man walks toward the
unafraid of the red glow
at the end of the day.
He welcomes the solitude
and the graying darkness
on the shoulder of the quiet country road
where no traffic disturbs the stillness.
The man turns east and walks
to a new day.
One step then the next
marks the present.
The psalms of each heart beat
carry him home.