“Lift up your head and laugh!”
He spoke as a prophet.
But what did he know those thirty odd years ago?
What did he know of my future?
I was still so young then
With only a taste of raw and broken
And visions of a whole life open before me
Certainly not knowing quite what to expect
But with dreams and plans nonetheless:
Happily ever after with maybe
A few little bumps along the way…
Why not? And why not laugh?
Life could be, would be, one grand adventure.
It’s been a rather curious life indeed
This grand adventure of mine.
Now I shake my head and laugh
At myself, at how I clung to so much
That prickled and burned and then gave way.
Yet mysteries and marvels
Came to me when least expected
Laughter mixed with tears and sighs
And more than a few bumps along the way
So much good and so much grief mingled in
So much for dreams and plans!
A worthwhile journey still,
Just not how I thought it would be.
It’s not just me, I know
I watch the world walking by
And I try to understand, wonder
Where it is going: out and about
And home again, home again
A million silent stories walking by
A million mingling stories of mourning and mirth.
I have lived long and learned much
And I find myself speaking to the young ones
With their whole lives open before them
The words of the timeless sage
Thirty hundred years ago:
“There is a time for everything…
A time to weep and a time to laugh.”
They have seen me weep, and I will weep again.
But for now, I will lift up my head and laugh.
In this poem, I was thinking back to my college days when I was 20. I was going to a teeny tiny little church then (only a few families and I), and it was the pastor who spoke these “words” (as the charismatics call them) over me and fueled my youthful idealism. 🙂 That summer, I flew “up home” for a family reunion, where this picture with my mom was taken. (I know we look like sisters. I’m the one on the right.) While I was away, the church suddenly disbanded. Poof! My life moved on from there with marriage and children and grandchildren, and I’m not sure I ever saw that pastor again, though I know he is around.
The poem, mostly written this past December, had a different ending – a metaphor about fountains bubbling up and down – a little schmaltzy and out of place, if you ask me… This new last stanza, written today, is a reflection of what we have been learning in the middle school history and literature class I teach. We were discussing the problems in 20th century history, and contrasting our two most recent novels, Blue Willow (a sobering yet hopeful story of migrant workers during the Great Depression) and Homer Price (a hilarious and preposterous tale of boyhood written just before America’s entry into World War II). “There is a time for both,” I told them, quoting a few lines from Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time to think long about the hardness of life and what we should do about it, yet a time to enjoy rejuvenating humor, too. A time to lift up our heads and laugh. (I just did. Our young neighbor came to the door with these mouse shoes on.)
If you like this poem, you might like these with similar themes:
- Shimmer and Shadow
- Pilgrimage and Jubilee
- This Is My Song and I Sing
- Between the Seed and the Tree
- It Became to Me a Dark Thing
- Do Cry