Today, I share with you a poem by Gregory Djanikian. In his words I feel the love and care he has for his elderly mother and for the reverence he has for every breath of life. For some who have had the opportunity of watching the Netflix documentary “The Alpinist” you might find the comparison of the danger and risk of the young alpinist with Djanikian’s mother climbing stairs somewhat humorous. His mother, showing much humor, compares her climb with great mountain heights in Switzerland and Tanzania and later with the Alps and Andes! The poet’s words are as powerful as the young alpinist’s steps are breathtaking. In his line “Let the mountain monasteries far off sound their bells” I thought of Mt. Athos and its monastery, as in the photo above. In an interview Djanikian commented “I’ve always been struck by the notion of being alive. It’s always made me wonder—the sheer I am-ness, the presence of being in this world that has thrown us into being. I can’t for the life of me understand it, and that’s why I write poetry— to try to understand it. I’ve always felt that notion of wonder. I think it comes through in my poems, the notion of the wonder that’s life, the presence of being in the here and now.” Pause, ponder, and delight in the poem’s every word.
My 90-Year-Old Mother Would Be an Alpinist
She’s climbing my high porch stairs
pulling herself up by the railings,
her purse slung at her elbow.
She’s taking one tread at a time
with an eye on where it matters.
“Jungfrau,” she says, without stopping
to take a rest, “Kilimanjaro.”
I hear her humming a song she’s known
from childhood, little marionettes
about to dance, bowing and curtseying
at the edge of a precipice.
Nothing will ever replace
the magnolia that shades the porch,
that half shades her now in its greenness.
I’ve offered her my arm
but she loves saying the name
of each difficult mountain,
feeling the slant.
There is no moment that holds her
as well as this one, the body rising
from the shadow-body behind it.
“Mount Blanc,” she says, “Aconcagua,”
lifting herself one tread at a time.
Let the mountain monasteries far off
sound their bells, the alpenglow
shine in the distance like stained glass.
Here, too, where steepness is a stairway
leading only to my front door,
every breath is hard won and holy,
every step, a kind of prayer. Gregory Djanikian “Sojourners of the In-Between”
O Creator God,
as I approach you with prayer
I echo the words of the psalmist,
I lift up my eyes to the hills-
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
You, O Lord, are my keeper.
Lord watch over my going out
and my coming in
from this time on and for
May every breath, may every step
be for me a kind of prayer. (adapted from Psalm 121)