Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Saturday, January 30 2021

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Word
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 1 Corinthians 13:4

Poetry

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton

I love the word may. I try to use it often. It is laced with freedom. There is no coercion in a question like “May I?” or a response like “Yes, you may.” There is permission, yes, but no regulatory enforcement (unlike must). “May” carries with it a hope, a wish, a possibility. “May” is also at the heart of blessing. The word “may” begins the work of asking for God’s protection, God’s help, God’s making sacred our lives.

Lucille Clifton’s great-great-grandmother was from Dahomey in Africa, now part of the coastal country of Benin, on the Atlantic Ocean between Ghana and Nigeria. She was captured as a young child and sold in the United States as a slave, a narrative of injustice both predictable and terrifying—someone profiting off her young life, a ship captain sailing across the ocean with her aboard in hopes of financial reward. So of course, Lucille Clifton’s poetry is “a response and antidote to these injustices as well as a tribute to the human spirit’s will to endure and even soar, in the face of pain and loss” as Hilary Holliday says in her book Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton. Holliday also says of Clifton’s poetry, “hope just barely outweighs despair” and you can hear that here in the blessing of these boats, where we are ushered out “beyond the face of fear” something we need, too, now more than ever.

Blessing
O God of tide and wind, innocence and tenderness: may you carry us out “beyond the face of fear” today. Amen.

Blessing the Boats by Lucille Clifton
(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that