The Saving Grace of Poetry and Laughter

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 4:57 pm

The Saving Grace of Poetry and Laughter

It’s always time for good poetry, and it’s frequently time for a good laugh. I’ve long found Ron Koertge a reliable source of both! As Exhibit A, I offer this poem.

“Bad News About My Vocation”
by Ron Koertge

I remember how the upper crust in my hometown
pronounced it—care-a-mel. Which is correct, I guess,
but to everybody else it was carmel.

Which led to the misconception about the order
of Carmelites.

I imagined they served God by heating sugar
to about 170 C, then adding milk and butter
and vanilla essence while they listened
to the radio.

I thought I could do that. I could wear the white
shirt and pants. I knew I couldn’t be good
but I might be a good candy maker.

So imagine my chagrin when I learned about
the vows of poverty and toil enjoined
by these particular friars.

I also crossed off my list the Marshmallowites
and the Applepieites, two other orders I
was thinking of joining.

I don’t know what I’d do without poetry and laughter. Poetry often gives us glimpses into mysteries that make us more human. Laughter keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously, a saving grace.

As Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” So meet Ron Koertge and the “Carmelites,” flap your wings and do some loop-de-loops!

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. His book On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old will be published in June.

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