Poems for Challenging Times 2

 

Three weeks into lockdown and already life beforehand seems about three years ago. Although conversations may turn to what we are looking forward to ‘when this is over,’ for me it is John O’Donohue’s blessing  For the Interim Time that speaks most powerfully right now.

When we make a beginning or face an ending, we have a sense of having a specific task that calls for our engagement. But what do we do when we are all at sea in an in-between? 

This is one of life’s ‘liminal spaces,’ a term derived from limen, meaning threshold.

The Irish poet, priest and philosopher John O’Donohue has a particular sensitivity to these threshold spaces: between tradition and modernity, life and death, the visible and the invisible worlds.

His poem makes this neither-here-nor-there space the focus of attention. It helps us understand that our most fruitful response to such a place is to be fully in it rather than trying to press on through it.

The poet’s language is not difficult, nor the images complex, but the poem pulses with an empathy for the discomfort of the Interim and a profound wisdom. In its patient unfolding, it offers gentle guidance on how to allow interim tensions to become transformational. 

We may see little happening in life’s liminal spaces, but that does not mean that nothing is going on. The most important shifts are below the surface. It is only afterwards that we may have a conscious realisation of how much has changed.

What emotions does the poem evoke in you? Are you aware of different interim seasons in your own life at various times? Which lines resonate most strongly with you at the moment?

 

 

For the Interim Time

When near the end of day, life has drained

Out of light, and it is too soon

For the mind of night to have darkened things,

 

No place looks like itself, loss of outline

Makes everything look strangely in-between,

Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

 

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.

In a while it will be night, but nothing

Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

 

You are in this time of the interim

Where everything seems withheld.

 

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

 

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

 

You cannot lay claim to anything;

In this place of dusk,

Your eyes are blurred;

And there is no mirror.

 

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart

And you can see nowhere to put your trust;

You know you have to make your own way through.

 

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might come free

From all you have outgrown.

 

 

What is being transfigured here in your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

John O’ Donohue 

 

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  • About Julia

    Julia

    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

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