Friday, February 16, 2024

Big Birds!

 Hello all Friday Poetry Friends and visitors. I'm throwing together a post today, last minute. Why not?!!

I've been trying to write daily as per the Stafford Challenge. I watched Kim Stafford's presentation, but I haven't followed too closely beyond that. Nonetheless, I'm writing more, and that is a good thing. 

So... I watch the eagle nest which is streamed from Duke Farms, near me. Today there's snow in the nest, the wind is up, and the parent eagle is snuggling dried grass around the edge of the incubation area. One day, not long ago, I caught the sight of the nest with two beautiful eggs, but no parent. It took my breath away! Then a happy resolution. So I wrote this little poem:

Two bare eggs in a cold nest

Enters a flourish of feathers

Gentle turning of an egg

Two eggs snuggled

I smile 

-Karen Eastlund, draft

Another day, on my walk along the river, I saw a blue heron in a tree. I'm still struggling to express my impression of that heron, but in my various attempts I wrote this limerick. Call it a draft... it's a draft!


Hunched in the cold on a limb

From his crown to his toes he looks grim

But one jab from his beak

And your chances are weak

When he stalks he can feast at his whim.

- Karen Eastlund, draft

That's it for me today. Find the whole gang at Margaret Simon's Reflections on the Teche

Don't miss her co-mingling of joy and grief in two lovely poems. Thanks for hosting today, Margaret!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Song of the Gypsy: Reverie

 Hello everyone, and welcome to February! I don't know about you, but the months tend to sneak up on me. Where did January go?  Nonetheless, each day is a gift, as is the first day of February. Thanks to Patricia Franz for hosting our Spiritual Journey group. She offered "love is" as a prompt, but I chose to take up another of her topics: reverie. Find her "love" post and links to other contributors 

You are no doubt familiar with the painting titled The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau as seen below. This image of reverie fascinates me and connects me with a song, and since "song" is my OLW this year, I hope to tie it all together.

Rousseau described The Sleeping Gypsy this way: “A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her, overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic.” 

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau

Good art reaches out to each of us uniquely, and I wrestled with this painting some years ago. The moon glow gives an ethereal quality to the scene. The lion is alert, but calm. The woman fully at rest. And the river is tranquil. What's it all about?

A song/hymn came to me, an old hymn: words by William Williams, 1745.  Music by John Hughes in 1907.

"Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak, but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy powerful hand"

The gypsy knows her vulnerability, and weariness has overtaken her. She has reached the river. Is she is ready to cross over? The lion, in all its strength and majesty, reminded me of Aslan in the C.S. Lewis books. The lion is fierce but will not devour her. Instead, it watches over her, guards her on this beautiful evening. 

Another verse of the hymn:

"When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side"

I was familiar with this hymn's tune and enough of the lyrics that I was able to connect it with Rousseau's image.  In 2016 I wrote a poem using some words of the hymn as well as some lines from Psalm 23. I've updated it for this post and reworded a line from yet another song to end it. 


At last the river!

The sojourner rests

Deep in sleep

Under the round moon


A silent sentinel

Eyes fierce as fire

Watches over her




Her dreams weave 

and flow:


"...Pilgrim through this barren land

Guide me, O thou great..."


Even though I walk through the valley

You are with me


"I am weak, but Thou art mighty..."


Your rod and your staff

Comfort me…


Surely goodness and mercy...

Shine on me this night


I'm finally going 

over home.

Karen Eastlund



There are many recordings of this hymn on YouTube. I hope you like this one with breaking waves in the background, sung by the Fountainview Academy. (How on earth did they get a piano on the beach?)

Another song to pair with this image is Wayfaring Stranger.  Here it is, sung beautifully by Rhiannon Giddens. I chose to end my poem with a slight rewording of the final line from this song. 


I am a poor wayfaring stranger
A-trav'ling through this land of woe.
And there's no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright world to which I go.
I'm going home to see my father (mother, sister, brother etc.)
I'm going there no more to roam;
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather 'round me
I know my way is steep and rough;
But beauteous fields lie just beyond me
Where souls redeemed their vigil keep.
I'm going there to meet my mother
She said she'd meet me when I come
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home.

I want to wear a crown of glory
When I get home to that bright land
I want to shout Salvation's story
In concert with that bloodwashed band.
I'm going there to meet my Saviour
To sing His praises forevermore
I'm only going over Jordan
I'm only going over home.


May your dreams be full of song and hope.  I wish you a wonderful February.