I’ve chosen that double-dip name for my blog (Sophy-wisdom), first because Sophy is my Christened name, spelt like that, with a “y,” and then because all my life I’ve been straining and struggling to find wisdom.
Don’t you love to get unexpected letters? They come to me mostly by email now, and always still spreading Hope and Love, and always with a little Mystery. And now, I give you two stories, one from Sweden and the other from Germany of long ago, for in these troubled times it is wise to remember that we are surrounded by angels. Two angels accompany you from the moment you are born, your special companions, and in times of peril they can call a cavalry of angels to your aid. The question is — Who will see them in disguise? Who will hear them when they speak? Here is the first story:
Dear Sophy Burnham,
Being a refuge war baby in Germany, I know of angels from very early on. At age 4 or 5, I fell out of my crib. My left arm swelled up so my mother took me to the hospital. I stayed in the hospital for 18 weeks before they sent me home, saying I am going to die of bone cancer. This was in 1948/49. Continue reading
I’m passing on the link to an article I wrote, for the publishing addict.com site. It’s called “Grim Commonsense” but I assure you there is nothing grim about it — but rather delight and joy. Here’s the link, if anyone is struggling to write.
Not long ago a Dutch woman wrote me about a book she is writing, in which she interviews women named Sophie (Greek for wisdom), asking, What is Wisdom? And, Given your name, Have you thought about Wisdom?
I won’t tell you my answer to her question. I gave one. But I’m interested in what others think.
Tell me, What is Wisdom? I’ll collect the answers from all you non-sophies and post them here. And maybe I’ll divulge my answer as well.
On the election of Trump. (11/09/16)
Oh, in the darkest of days,
When weeping is the only action known to eyes,
And inside your chest the twisted rag of your heart wrings itself
In agony, when Hope is lost and Faith’s gone roaming
In the deserts of Imagination,
How is it that You find a way
Dear God, to touch the lyre of my soul?
I glance up, eyes blurred by tears,
Toward the picture hanging on the wall above my desk,
“The Hand of God,” I call it – this ocean depth,
deep, black and billowing beneath
A sky with outspread fingers formed of clouds
Shredding—it is the blessing
Of God’s palm outstretched. I see it every day
But now it hits as if I’d never noticed it before:
“I’m Here,” it says, “All’s well. Be still.”
I open the computer then to find a stranger’s letter
Thanking me for words in books I’d written
So long ago I don’t remember what they said.
He gifts me with his angel tale of hope and energy–
This when my heart is breaking, rainbows needed now.
In the deepest Valleys of the Dark
You are with me, angel,
Singing in small silent sounds and only heard by
The one to whom you Sing. O Mother!
O Goddess! O Daddy! Care for me. For us.
I am afraid.
I am afraid for my beautiful country,
For Democracy, afraid of the rise of Ignorance
And hate, oblivion of Wisdom. O Help us, Dearest Love,
To remember kindness. Is that too much to ask?
Help us to be kind
To one another.
LOOK! My poems are published!
Available on Amazon, through Finishing Line Press, FLPbookstore@aol.com at bookstores, or from Me, autographed!
I’m so happy, I’m wagging my tail. For me, Poetry comes right after music on the stairwell of ART, with music is at the TOP. Imagine! A publisher wanted my poems!
Would you like to read on or two? Scroll down. I’ll give you 3 (just after these flattering blurbs). They are all vastly different, but all about Love-struck. Even if you don’t buy, please write a review for Amazon. If I get 50 reviews, Amazon kicks the book up in its advertising.
PRAISE FOR FALLING: LOVE-STRUCK
Sophy Burnham has given us a collection of poems to read under the eyes of God.
Her words teach us to breathe and how to catch our breath. Her poetry tells us to stop and enjoy the miraculous. Burnham makes us think of Bly and all those writers who love nature. Come listen to the ringing of her soul. There are beautiful dreams giving birth in these poems.
- Ethelbert Miller Board Chair, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
The voice in this poem speaks out of the wisdom of a life lived passionately and consciously in the body, a voice in love with the world, attuned to loss and woundedness, open to relationships – from lovers to granddaughters – and animated by the childlike wonder of a true mystic. To read these poems is to fall in love again – with the earth, with our fragile and beautiful humanness, with words and yes, with the lively mystery that some of us call “God.”
Kathleen Henderson Staudt, author of Waving Back: Poems of Mothering Life and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.
It’s so hard to choose only TWO POEMS out of almost 40, but if you like them, please buy my book. And review it on Amazon (because it really makes a difference. If I can get 50 reviews, Amazon starts advertising the book).
The basement stair
There was a day when I, a little child,
Was dancing in the sunbeam’s shaft that filed
Or streamed across the chambered hallways of my mind
(I was all joy; no worlds were left to find)
And, laughing, whirled in rhythm with the luminous floats—
The spirit lights like golden notes
Singing in the high air.
“What are you doing on the basement stair?”
It was my mother’s voice. “How dare you? Just in underpants
And playing in the dust! You feel enhanced,
I s’pose, to be here smeared in dirt!”
She muttered more. I rose protesting pride against my hurt,
And still she would not stop. “I’ve never seen the like!”
I felt tears back against the dike
Of my control, then overflow, broken on her reproof.
I dressed. She stood aloof.
And then I saw the lights were only motes
Gray dirt or grime against the cellar door, the kind of grit that floats
In any moldy air. The sun was gone.
So, too, the siren song.
It happened long ago, but oh! What I would give
To hear that song again and like a child sieve
Dancing sunlight out of golden beams,
In dirt stand dazzled at God’s dreams.
Be still and
breathe. Is anything more important
than this (one breath)? You’d think
we’d think about it
The way we do when
held down by your
bullying older brother in rough-
house joy, except
you’re thrashing flailing
gasping—oh god! For
clear lovely and invisible sustenance
sucked greedy into collapsing lungs, the way
the asthmatic hauls in
each one a shuddering
prophecy of when you won’t be able,
the dark descending
as it floats from the skin of your shell
to that moment when breath no longer matters
- I’m losing my words
Or my mind, one or the other,
Groping for a name, a noun.
The adjective that used to
Leap like a young goat
The cliffs of joy
Onto the page is
Now a stuttered shadow
Of a memory.
They come back, the words return
Drunk and reeling after a night at the bars.
They lurch into the empty streets
bottle-swinging, shout: Adjacent
Awake in bed I grind my teeth
Helpless against the green glass
Shattering on the dawn curbs
When what I needed was now hours gone.
They slink off laughing like felons
On the prowl.
2. I dream how when I die the words will all come back
Falling in apple blossom blessings
Floating, falling through the silence
White cranes curving
To my tongue
Taut and tangy to the touch.
They’ll flap one indolent wing
To keep aloft
Swoop, settle on my scorched skin
Like burning kisses:
. . .
3. In my dream the words snow
Silently from gunmetal skies, drift in piles
light wind-whipped powder-soft,
These carriers of the fierce music
Of my life.
Buckled and booted for war
The huntsman’s horn, the screech of wheel,
Laments of loneliness and love.
They are choral bells pealing forth their
Hope faith fears.
They are canticles to
We’ve known before
This one around.
In my dream
I wonder if it’s words I’ll miss
Or whether words will wing
In whatever heaven I’m assigned.
I’d even want another incarnation
Here if I could hear
Words tumbling from your
Beautiful sweet mouth, pouring
From the bellows of your throat.
Here is a quote from Shantideva, writing that our motivation, whether good or bad, determines the fruit of our actions:
Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
And this, from the Dalai Lama,: “There is no need for temples; no need for complicate philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. My philosophy is kindness.”
Just this week, I received a wonderful story to share: a car, an 18-wheeler, an accident–and then what? I remember getting two letters once from two different people who each recounted the same story–of a car that against all the laws of physics passed through another so that though they saw the faces in the other car as it shifted through their front seat, averting a crash.
For days this letter from Victoria (a stranger to me) has made me happy, and I’m glad she says I can post it. I can’t do better than quote from her letter to me.
At 17, I was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder. I had my first panic attack while driving a car, and I began to fear driving so much that having a panic attack when behind the wheel became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I went through years of therapy before learning how to deal with it. I am 41 now, and always have a small fear in the back of my mind when driving, though I know to reverse the symptoms of a panic attack if needed.
On May 20, 2016 I drove my son an hour and a half on the Interstate to meet his biological father for his weekend visitation. The highway is very congested on Friday evenings, and that evening was no different. As I headed home, I was traveling in the left lane. The speed limit is 75, and I was going about 80. The truck in front of me changed to the right lane, which seemed to be opening up, so I followed. Suddenly he swerved back into the left lane, and there I was, twenty or thirty feet from a car-carrying 18-wheeler that lay sideways across the road. The left lane was jammed.
I screamed “Oh my God, oh my God!” and closed my eyes.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13.2
Don’t you love the stories where a stranger knocks on the door to tell you just what you need to do to save a situation–or a life? I tell of several in A Book of Angels, one, around 1906, concerned a little girl dying of scarlet fever. She was so sick that her little coffin and white shroud was ready. One day a knock came at the door. The maid answered. “You can’t come in. The house is quarantined.”
“I’m a doctor,” said the stranger, giving his name and the township where he lived. “Go to the backyard and pluck a tail-feather from the rooster.” (In those days everyone kept chickens in their yards.) “Wrap the child’s throat in hot, wet flannel, and when she coughs, pull out the phlegm in her throat with the feather. She will live.” He went away, and the little girl’s father did as directed. She recovered. But that’s not all.
A few weeks later her father hitched up the horse and drove to the nearby town to thank the good doctor, only to be told that the man had died several years before. As for the little girl, to the end of her days, and she lived into her nineties, she kept the tiny shroud in which she should have been buried. And who was the doctor, an angel? A spirit? A guide?
Now a new story has come my way, about a war-refugee in Germany during the War.
A few days ago I received an email from Davila (a stranger) writing in response to a story in A BOOK OF ANGELS of the Jamaican char who came into my dying mother’s hospital room and with a few words healed our relationship. I can’t do better than to print the whole email, and not only because the writer is so grateful. Here is her story of another healing angel: (Sorry I can’t find the tag on the new wordpress thingey that lets you choose to read on. Darn!)
I have just begun reading A Book of Angels, and after a particular passage, I feel compelled to share this story:
My mother died this March 2, 2016. She and I were very close. On February 25 she was admitted to the ICU in the hospital with pancreatic cancer. She died seven days later in a beautiful hospice room. Even as I write this now I realize that today is March 25, exactly one month from that night she went in the ambulance.
The day we moved her from the hospital to a hospice a few miles away, my older brother and sister stood with my father discussing some details with the doctor. I stood by my mother’s hospital bed, crying, she opened her eyes, though she was heavily sedated, and I called my family back in to see. Her eyes rested on each of us, and she tried to speak to us but was unable to, because of the breathing tube. It was the last moment she was awake and looking at all of us together before she died, and it felt like a small miracle.
My family went on ahead in the car. I stayed with my mom. Just before the ambulance guys arrived to move her, a priest came in to give her a blessing. I am not Catholic, but I took some comfort in the prayers. But what soothed me more was the sturdy nun with deep chocolate brown skin and a smooth round face who walked in behind him. She came directly to me and stood quietly beside me. As the priest finished his blessing, the ambulance drivers arrived. I felt her beside me, and I wanted her there.
There was a flurry of straps and tubes and hospital machine noises as the nurse and paramedics moved my mother and her life support from one bed to another. I stood back, feeling helpless and lost without my mother. Then, at the same moment, the nun turned to me and I to her ,and she wrapped her broad arms around me, and rocked me like a little girl. It felt natural, like I had known her a long time. I started to sob.
“You’re the baby” she said. She had a thick Islander accent. “I lost my mother too” she said to me. “Its hard and you love her so.” As they began wheeling my mother out of the room, the nun let me go. She said more things quietly to me as we let go hands, but I don’t remember what they were. Only that I had a strong feeling that mother love is all around me. I remember thinking that phrase specifically, mother love.
She kept her gaze on me until I was out of sight. I remember noticing how no one in the hospital room had paid her any attention. Not even the priest. Her name was Zita.
How The Treasure of Montsegur came to me is another angelic story in itself. That story has resonated with me like no other I’ve read, and reading it led me to A Book of Angels. I am so thankful to you Sophy, for your beautiful writing. It has touched me with truths I will hold for the rest of my life.
Dear Friends: LOOK! My book of poetry is being published in May. Here is the draft cover (with a few too many colons). I am so pleased, BUT…..
Finishing Line Press wants 100 pre-publication sales, and I am asking you out of friendship, curiosity, generosity, courtesy, and love of Words, to buy a copy – or two – or some to give away to friends.
If they don’t get enough pre-publication sales, they don’t publish. And then you get your money back. Here is the link to order FALLING: LOVE-STRUCK, The God Poems by Sophy Burnham. https://finishinglinepress.com/index.php?cPath=2&sort=2a&filter_id=2147
Will you help?
This is only a draft cover and needs adjustment. And below is a review… and also one poem from this collection.
Here’s one of the reviews: Continue reading