Praise This Life
for Pat Schneider, 1934-2020
The bowl looks down from the highest
shelf, nearly beyond your reach.
Had it been meant for ringing,
its maker would have cast its bronze
as a bell, but this bowl is meant for singing
a tone, like you were meant to sing in poems.
Shades of night are crowding in, but
fugitive light from a single lamp gleams
on metal as you lift the bowl down.
The gift once given to you, you give to me,
laying it in my palms like an old book of psalms,
hymns of praise illuminated by paint and gold.
One last time you tap the wooden mallet
on the side of the bowl—strike, too harsh
a word. A deep voice rises up to bless
and soothe. The bowl always answers
when called upon, more faithful than a muse.
We sink into the stillness of the sound.
This is the patience of ordinary things.
They live among us, awaiting our full attention;
are faithful until we pass them on, with full affection.
And like this plain bronze bowl, held by hands
that love but dare not cling, their voices always
praise this life when asked by the heart to sing.
Play notes: The poet Pat Schneider, whom I counted as a friend, passed away in August. I didn't learn of her death until October. When I sat down to write a tribute poem for her, my way of grieving, my mind filled with the night she gave me her singing bowl. It was the last time I saw her in person. I sound that bowl each morning upon rising from bed. Also in the background of this poem were some of Pat's writings, including her poem "The Patience of Ordinary Things" and a blog post in which she describes "trouble ... [as] the key that opens the door for praise to come through." Rest in peace, Pat. No more troubles.