Posts Tagged ‘philosophical musings’

Two thoughtful poems by Rhoda Orme-Johnson: When We Are Insubstantial & When You Are Young

February 11, 2022

What happens to us when we reach the latter part of our life and reflect on it from a different perspective? I came across two thoughtful poems written by Rhoda Orme-Johnson published in Conestoga Zen, an anthology edited by Rustin Larson. These poems resonated deeply with me and I was given permission to share them with you: When We Are Insubstantial & When You Are Young.

When We Are Insubstantial

When we are insubstantial 
Between this life and the next, 
I may regret the times we lay together 
And I did not reach for your arm, 
Warm and solid beneath the flannel, 
And draw you to my breast. 

I may regret getting up 
To do whatever 
I thought I had to do, 
And not lay there, 
Drawing in the night air and the scent 
Of Carolina Jasmine. 

I may regret that I hurried 
Though my days 
And did not linger on the porch, 
Soaking up the sunshine 
And the birdsong 
And the aroma 
Of sun-warmed pines. 

It is easy to forget, 
In the pressure of daily life, 
That our precious time 
On this green planet Is limited, 
That our contract here Is fixed. 

We came together 
To grow, to give, 
To pay some old debts, 
To leave the world a better place 
Before we go. 

It is easy to forget 
We came here to live.  

When You Are Young 

When you are young, 
Everyone you know 
Is alive 
When you are older, 
Many you really know 
And care for 
Have died. 

When you are young, 
Everyone you know 
Is alive and present, 
In and out of the house, 
On the phone, 
In your thoughts, 
In your heart.  

The first death comes hard. 
The lifeless corpse 
Under the makeup. 
Life breath gone, 
Spirit hastily fled, 
As from a burning building, 
Leaving nothing behind. 

Except an eternal presence 
In your thoughts, 
In your heart, 
In your dreams. 

After his sudden death 
My father met me in a dream. 
He sat on a park bench and I loved him.  
He didn't speak.  
I tried to tell him something important,  
But I couldn't remember  
What it was.  

I want to call my mother 
And tell her my news, 
Share the worries and the joys,  
But there's no phone 
That can connect with her now. 

In albums the photographs 
Of dear friends look out, 
Full of life and ambition, 
Unaware their time will soon be 
Cut short. 
Faces of grandchildren 
Growing up far away 
Tease and stir the heart.  

When you are young,  
Everyone you know 
Is alive and present. 
When you are older, 
Everyone you know  
Is present 
Somewhere. 

Rhoda read both poems concluding a presentation she gave at MIU a while ago. I remember having been there. It was a wonderful evening. She also read Sweet Mystery, mentioned below.

Anna: An Immigrant Story

Rhoda recently published Anna: An Immigrant Story. It’s a book about her grandmother, who immigrated to America a century ago with her five children. The story unfolds during one day of her life in 1951. Readers are introduced to family members coming and going through the house in Cleveland, Ohio, and accompany Anna’s memories back to the Old World, to the “shtetl” or Jewish settlement where Anna grew up. Find out more in this article: Fairfield woman publishes book on her immigrant ancestors.

The Flow of Consciousness in Literature

In a September 9, 2020 interview with Mario Orsatti on TM Talks, Dr. Rhoda Orme-Johnson explains how the study and experience of poetry and literature create transcending and a deeper appreciation of consciousness, language, and the world around us. She reads several poems, one of which is When You Are Young, at 42:02. The 50:41 talk is available at Enjoy TM News: The Flow of Consciousness in Literature.

Sweet Mystery

Earlier on in their discussion, at 19:58, Rhoda tells Mario a story of how her mother had showed up at Maharishi’s Swiss HQ to see her daughter and grandchildren. Everyone was busy working on projects. At David’s suggestion, Rhoda organized a luncheon for her mother with friends.

In answer to a question about love and marriage, her mother shared a childhood story with everyone. Recalling it later on, Rhoda had turned it into a poem, which she reads at 20:36. It’s about that experience her mother had had as a young girl in Ukraine. She had accompanied an older girl, who, as it turned out, was secretly meeting up with a boyfriend. She saw them embrace from a distance. That encounter and a young girl’s reaction to it, blended with descriptions of the nature around them, form the concluding chapter to Rhoda’s immigrant story about her grandmother. It’s a beautiful narrative poem about love titled, Sweet Mystery.


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