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Amritapuri Ashram, Kerala, 6:30 am 3 May 2008

Posted by EDITOR in GUESTS, Poetry, Spirituality.

Our guest contributor this week is Emma O’Donnell, a Boston-based theology student.

Amritapuri Ashram, Kerala, 6:30 am

If what we seek
resides in silence
why then this cacophony
of birds, this riotous
explosion of song bounding
off the river at dawn?

Of this auspicious hour
we have learned to expect
stately elegance, as if
each ivory leaf of morning
was meant to unfold
like pages of the good book
after the rigors of night,

but no pious reserve, no marble
rectitude stands against
this reckless birth of day.

From every direction prayers
collide on the wings of crackling
temple loudspeakers, tangling
with the plentitude of birds,
as hot gusts of wind lift
from the river a breath
sweet with putrefaction.

A rooster shrieks, a radio
weaves into the meditation,
and the rising sun, clothed
in a heavy silken haze,
burns with the rushing
onslaught of grace.



1. VARANGALI - 3 May 2008


The poem’s a wonderful cacophany of contrasts (and imagery).

Is worship made purer by its ability to coexist with the grimy reality around the temple, or by piercing through it? In other words, if the river breathes sweet with putrefaction, is there virtue in embracing the physical world?

2. darvish - 4 May 2008

Wonderful :) Truly, grace is everywhere at dawn, as the sun rises and lights our knowledge of it. We feel it in the warmth, see it in silken haze, and hear it in the sounds of birds and the calls to prayer.

Thank you so much for this loveliness to begin my day :)

Ya Haqq!

3. Emma - 4 May 2008

I’m honored to have this piece posted. As a person of faith, (although Roman Catholic rather than Muslim), I’ve found so much on this site that speaks to my own spiritual questions.

in response to Varangali: In writing the piece, I was thinking of the prayer integrating with grimy reality, and in the process, shaking me free of expectaions of some false duality of the spiritual/earthly.

It reminds me of an issue brought up in a theology class this week: As Christians, we speak of taking up the Cross, of taking on suffering to enter into the mystery of Christ. The danger of this occurs when one degrades oneself under the pretense of joining in suffering. For instance, through drug use, imagining that one is identifying with the “saint/sinner” dichotomy.
Bringing it back around to the original comment, how do we engage fully, and yet prayerfully, with life’s dirty realities?

4. ABD - 5 May 2008

we’re pleased to have you, emma.

my favorite lines:

From every direction prayers
collide on the wings of crackling
temple loudspeakers, tangling
with the plentitude of birds,

since we hosted a poet this week, i’m reminded of an earlier guest contributor, tiel aisha ansari: her other|matters poem, bitter wells, as well as the recent post on her own blog on what it means to be a professional poet.

5. Tiel Aisha Ansari - 6 May 2008

Maintaining mindfulness in the midst of distraction, even and especially the distractions offered by our own practice: that’s the job, isn’t it? I like the mix of sounds, some sacred and some profane, yet the dichotomy is eventually rendered irrelevant.

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