Devotion (aka The Devotion of Father Teresa) by Mark Nielsen, June 2009
I’ve got this poem here—
says “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”
But what of obsession?
If I pick at the scab of identity
attentively each day
for my entire adult life
is that a good kind of attention?
Is the Self served by attention to itself?
I dry flowers and save feathers
with the intention of using them
to remember, to craft, to resurrect…
to re-create an emerging vision,
and artfully attend to our mutual Father.
But when does the memory —
the work of art (of science, of law) —
become an idol, a distraction,
a pale, unhealthy imitation
that expresses only its own idea
and veers too far from the real?
Yet if I do not humbly attend also to what is broken,
to what is still visible in the flow and glow
of the fading embers, in the moonless night,
to what is wounded in the world and in the heart —
Father Teresa tending to his wilting garden –
then who will?
(debts and apologies to Mary Oliver , whose line about “attention” in the prose poem Upstream inspired the above verses. And don’t miss the links above to other spirituality websites, including the Kent Keith/Mother Teresa poem Anyway, and the lyric to Bruce Cockburn’s 1999 song Embers of Eden. )