On Knowledge and Love – a poem by Jacob Riyeff

On Knowledge and Love
—Schlitz Audobon Society during the Pandemic of 2020

A solitary tom strolls
over moss-blanket timbers,
thru the underbrush and trunks—
I’ve never known the wet
beauty of bogs and swamps,
marshes and fens, mudsunk
logs like shipwrecks in the fern
drowned deep in the mire,
radiance of cowslip against the black
rot of last year’s leaves—
My hand brushes over beads,
a red-tasseled mala
left in raincoat’s pocket
on retreat in Big Sur—
And these pines sing to those pines,
growing beside their seas.

OM Abba OM

Gobbles sing out around us,
they continue their halting trek
thru the dank duff of spring—
The blue-white spangle
of a perching tree swallow
welcomes us to the prairie,
children and turkeys calling
to each other across the grass.

OM Abba OM

There are those who say knowledge
is prior to love—And those
who say God can be excepted,
because God is prior.
I wonder if the earth
should be excepted too—
But then I breathe the fog
in off the Lake and hear
the birds’ rowdy harmony
and know, like God, the earth
is prior—And so, we love
and are one, even
when we’re too dull to know.

OM Abba OM



Jacob Riyeff (jacobriyeff.com, @riyeff) is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval English literature. His primary interests lie in the western contemplative tradition and medieval vernacular poetry. He is a Benedictine oblate of Osage Deanery and lives on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.

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