Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Juan Ramón Jiménez: "Oceans"

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                    And nothing
happens! Nothing... Silence... Waves...

    —Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

"Oceans" by Juan Ramón Jiménez, from The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures, edited by Robert Bly. Poem translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly. © Ecco Press, 1995.  

Image credit: "Boat Hull Reflection," pastel painting by Nancy Poucher (originally color).


Monday, December 30, 2013

Mattie J. T. Stepanek: "About Living (Part III)"

I wanted to live
To be
One hundred and one
Years old.
But that is no
Longer my goal.
When I die,
I die.
I cannot predict.
I cannot control.
I cannot change
What is to be,
Which is what it is
And will be
What it will be.
I wanted to live
To be,
And not die.
While I’m alive,
I live
To the fullest.
I treasure each sunrise.
I remember each sunset.
I dance every dance and
I sing every song and
I celebrate every moment.
I wanted to live
To be.
I am spending my time
On earth before death
Rather than dying,
And not wasting a moment
Of the precious gifts
Of time and
Of life and
Of being, for now.

"About Living (Part III)" by Mattie J. T. Stepanek, from Reflections of a Peacemaker: A Portrait Through Heartsongs, edited by Jennifer Smith Stepanek. © Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005.  

Curator's note: Mattie died at the age of 14 years, having become a poet, best-selling author, peace activist, and prominent voice for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Before his death in June 2004, his five volumes of "heartsongs" poetry had already sold more than a million copies. Reflections of a Peacemaker was his final volume.

Image credit: "Though My Heart Is Torn," oil on museum quality, archival Gessobord, by Karen Mathison Schmidt © 2011 (originally color).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jenifer Nostrand: "Magic"

We were talking about magic
as we drove along a crowded
Sunday highway

when the whirl of wings
made me turn
and a flock of geese
flew over our car
so low I could see
their feet tucked under them.

For a moment the rustle
of their presence over our heads
obscured everything

and as they disappeared
you said,
"I see what you mean."

"Magic" by Jenifer Nostrand, from Bless the Day: Prayers and Poems to Nurture Your Soul, edited by June Cotner. © Kodansha USA, 1998.  

Photography credit: Image of snow geese captured by Morten Byskov (originally color).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Robert Creeley: "Place to Be"

Days the weather sits
in the endless sky,
the clouds drifting by.

The winter's snow,
summer's heat,
same street.

Nothing changes
but the faces, the people,
all the things they do

'spite of heaven and hell
or city hall—
Nothing's wiser than a moment.

No one's chance
is simply changed by wishing,
right or wrong.

What you do is how you get along.
What you did is all it ever means.

"Place to Be" by Robert Creeley, from If I were writing this. © New Directions, 2003.

Image credit: "Paintings of Verdune—Winter Street Scene—Montreal," oil on canvas, by (originally color).

Friday, December 27, 2013

David Whyte: "Sometimes"

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
where the only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right

to go away.

"Sometimes" by David Whyte, from Everything Is Waiting for You. © Many Rivers Press, 1993.

Image credit: Still from a video clip by an unknown videographer, found at this link (originally color).


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: Untitled ["Today Like Every Other Day"]

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door of your study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Untitled ["Today Like Every Other Day"] by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from The Essential Rumi, translated from the Persian and edited by Coleman Barks. © HarperOne, 2004.

Image credit: "Christian and Muslim Playing Ouds," illustration from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, often attributed to King Alphonse X (13th century, originally color).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: "Guilty Bystander"

[Poet's note: "This Christmas [2010], my six-year-old son taught me the lesson of how valuable it can be to pay attention—a found poem."]
The gate of heaven is everywhere.
—Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”

“I don’t know,”
says Finn,
and I forget

what that first
question was,
but speaking

into the microphone
of the karaoke machine,
I then asked him,

“What do you know
for sure?”
And he says

into his mic,
“If you only
ask Santa

for one present,
he’ll bring it to you.”
I ask him,

“What else do you know?”
The reverb knob
is turned to max

so his quick answer
bounces around
the room, “Sometimes

nothing can be true.”
So I ask him,
“What else?”

and he says,
“The world

"Guilty Bystander" by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Published online at Virtual Teahouse, the poet's blog, on December 25, 2010.

Photography credit: Image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joseph Robert Mills: "A Winter Dialogue"

We decide to take a break from the eating, drinking,
and arguing — our traditional holiday pastimes —
to walk around the ice-encased neighborhood.
In the hallway, we sort through the piles of coats,
hats, and gloves, pulling out what we think we need,
and when I get to the door my father calls me back
to drape a scarf around my neck. In my forties,
I don’t like scarves anymore than when I was six,
but, now, having kids, I recognize what his fingers
are trying to say as they adjust the wool, and, I hope,
he recognizes what I’m trying to say by not moving.
It’s not much, but since neither of us needs anything
the other can buy, we try to exchange what we can,
a protective touch and a willingness to be touched.

"A Winter Dialogue" by Joseph Robert Mills, from Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet. © Press 53, 2012.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Monday, December 23, 2013

Li-Young Lee: "Become Becoming"

Wait for evening.
Then you’ll be alone.

Wait for the playground to empty.
Then call out those companions from childhood:

The one who closed his eyes
and pretended to be invisible.
The one to whom you told every secret.
The one who made a world of any hiding place.

And don’t forget the one who listened in silence
while you wondered out loud:

Is the universe an empty mirror? A flowering tree?
Is the universe the sleep of a woman?

Wait for the sky’s last blue
(the color of your homesickness).
Then you’ll know the answer.

Wait for the air’s first gold (that color of Amen).
Then you’ll spy the wind’s barefoot steps.

Then you’ll recall that story beginning
with a child who strays in the woods.

The search for him goes on in the growing
shadow of the clock.

And the face behind the clock’s face
is not his father’s face.

And the hands behind the clock’s hands
are not his mother’s hands.

All of Time began when you first answered
to the names your mother and father gave you.

Soon, those names will travel with the leaves.
Then, you can trade places with the wind.

Then you’ll remember your life
as a book of candles,
each page read by the light of its own burning.

"Become Becoming" by Li-Young Lee, from Behind My Eyes: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2009.

Photography credit: "West Java Boy," taken in Ciwidey Forest, West Java, by G8 (originally color).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jimmy Santiago Baca: "I Am Offering This Poem"

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

                         I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

                         I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

                         I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

                         I love you.

"I Am Offering This Poem" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, from Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems. © New Directions Publishing, 1990.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Curator's Note: Yes, Publication Will Continue!

As 2013 draws to a close, I'm often being asked if "A Year of Being Here" will continue in 2014. The answer is a hearty yes! The collection of poems is still growing. So long as I have the time and energy amongst my other projects to present the poems, and so long as there still seems to be an interested community of readers, I'll keep posting. The poets and poems are too wonderful not to share.

Jody Aliesan: "Winter Solstice"

Thinking only makes the heart sore. — I Ching

when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction

get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down beside ask to be held

listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing

let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat

already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day

you have nothing to do but live

"Winter Solstice" by Jody Aliesan, from Grief Sweat. © Broken Moon Press, 1990.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Friday, December 20, 2013

Curator's Note: Follow Us on Pinterest!

Here's a little holiday gift for those of you who enjoy Pinterest: You can now follow A Year of Being Here on a Pinterest pinboard. Check it out at this link. (Note: You don't need a Pinterest account to browse.)

Don't know much about Pinterest? Never even heard of it? You're probably not alone.

In a nutshell, Pinterest is a visual social bookmarking site where you can "pin" (save and share) image-driven content from the Internet or your own electronic devices.

So, in the case of A Year of Being Here, each day's mindfulness poem will be "pinned" (saved) to the collection's pinboard based on the artwork that accompanies its text. If you sign up to "follow" the board (for free), you'll automatically see the artwork and link for each day's poem in your Pinterest feed. If you especially like a poem, you might "re-pin" the image to a pinboard of your own or send it to a friend.

This is just one more way to enjoy these wonderful mindfulness poems, especially if you're someone who loves images. Happy holidays!

David Budbill: "Into the Winter Woods"

Long-johns top and bottom, heavy socks, flannel shirt, overalls,

steel-toed work boots, sweater, canvas coat, toque, mittens: on.

Out past grape arbor and garden shed, into the woods.

Sun just coming through the trees. There really is such a thing

as Homer's rosy-fingered dawn. And here it is, this morning.

Down hill, across brook, up hill, and into the stand of white pine

and red maple where I'm cutting firewood. Open up workbox,

take out chain saw, gas, bar oil, kneel down, gas up saw, add

bar oil to the reservoir, stand up, mittens off, strap on and buckle

chaps from waist to toe, hard hat helmet: on. Ear protectors: down,

face screen: down, push in compression release, pull out choke,

pull on starter cord, once, twice, go. Stall. Pull out choke, pull on

starter cord, once, twice, go. Push in choke. Mittens: back on.

Cloud of two-cycle exhaust smoke wafting into the morning air

and I, looking like a medieval Japanese warrior, wade through

blue smoke, knee-deep snow, revving the chain saw as I go,

headed for that doomed, unknowing maple tree.

"Into the Winter Woods" by David Budbill, from Happy Life. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Thursday, December 19, 2013

May Sarton: "December Moon"

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

"December Moon" by May Sarton, from Coming into Eighty: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 1994.

Photography credit: "Animal Tracks in Snow," published by Meg (originally black and white).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke: "Part One, Sonnet IV" ["You Who Let Yourselves Feel: Enter the Breathing"]

You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins beside you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

"Part One, Sonnet IV" ["You Who Let Yourselves Feel: Enter the Breathing"], from Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke. Taken from In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, translated from the German and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. © Riverhead, 2005. 

Photography credit: Part of a work entitled "Cultural Intercourse," by Temsuyanger Longkumer (originally color). The logs are made of paper rubbings.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Richard Schiffman: "Smart Cookie"


(after Wallace Stevens)  

The fortune that you seek is in another cookie,
was my fortune. So I’ll be equally frankthe wisdom
that you covet is in another poem. The life that you desire  
is in a different universe. The cookie you are craving
is in another jar. The jar is buried somewhere in Tennessee.
Don’t even think of searching for it. If you found that jar,
everything would go kerflooey for a thousand miles around.
It is the jar of your fate in an alternate reality. Don’t even
think of living that life. Don’t even think of eating that cookie.
Be a smart cookieeat what’s on your plate, not in some jar
in Tennessee. That’s my wisdom for today, though I know
it’s not what you were looking for.

"Smart Cookie" by Richard Schiffman. First published in Rosebud (date unknown).  

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link and altered by curator (originally color).


Monday, December 16, 2013

Lucille Clifton: "Blessing the Boats"

(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

"Blessing the Boats" by Lucille Clifton, from The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. © BOA Editions, 1991.

Image credit: "Blessing of the Tuna Fleet at Groix," oil on canvas, by Paul Signac (1923, originally color).


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Billy Collins: "As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse"

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

I get a glass from a cabinet,
open a bottle of wine,
then I sit in a ladder-back chair,
a benevolent god presiding
over a miniature creation myth,

and I begin to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks
for this perfect little arrangement,
for not making the earth too hot or cold
not making it spin too fast or slow

so that the grove of orange trees
and the owl become possible,
not to mention the rolling wave,
the play of clouds, geese in flight,
and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.

Then I fill my glass again
and give thanks for the trout,
the oak, and the yellow feather,

singing the room full of shadows,
as sun and earth and moon
circle one another in their impeccable orbits
and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.

"As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse" by Billy Collins, from Nine Horses: Poems. © Random House, 2003.

Image credit: "Orange with Wine Bottle," oil on canvas, by Raymond Hettinger (1994-1995, originally color).


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thich Nhat Hanh: "For Warmth"

I hold my face between my hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep the loneliness warm
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

"For Warmth" by Thich Nhat Hanh, from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh. © Parallax Press, 1999.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer found at this link (originally color).


Friday, December 13, 2013

Marilyn McEntyre: "What to Do in the Darkness"

Go slowly
Consent to it
But don't wallow in it
Know it as a place of germination
And growth
Remember the light
Take an outstretched hand if you find one
Exercise unused senses
                                                               Find the path by walking it
                                                               Practice trust
                                                               Watch for dawn

"What to Do in the Darkness" by Marilyn McEntyre. Found online at this link. 

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link and altered by project curator (originally black and white).


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hannah Stephenson: "Surf and Turf"

The moss is out of control.
The rocks under the moss are out of control.
The ocean is also out of control.

Come to think of it
there is not one thing
growing based on your preferences.

Lob a rock at the water.
It plops in somewhere,
you assume.

You weren’t trying to skip it.
It can be calming to picture
the stone falling

down through the water, eventually
stopping on a surface
no one will ever touch.

It can also be calming
just to hold a rock
at the edge of some big-bodied water.

"Surf and Turf" by Hannah Stephenson. Published online by The Storialist on November 13, 2013.

Image credit: "Just the Dark Blue," painting by Gu Liang (originally monochromatic blue).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dawna Markova: Untitled ["I Will Not Die an Unlived Life"]

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit. 

Untitled ["I Will Not Die an Unlived Life"] by Dawna Markova, from I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion. © Conari Press, 2000.

Image credit: "Dream Seed," digital art by Martin Mancha (originally color).


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tomas Tranströmer: "Allegro"

After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.

The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.

The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.

I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
"We do not surrender. But want peace."

The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.

The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.

"Allegro" by Tomas Tranströmer, from The Winged Energy of Delight: Selected Translations, edited by Robert Bly. Translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly. © Harper Perennial, 2005.  

Photography credit: "Close Up of Male Hands Playing the Piano," by Diego Cervo (originally color).


Monday, December 9, 2013

Hayden Carruth: "Ecstasy"

For years it was in sex and I thought
this was the most of it
            so brief
                    a moment
or two of transport out of oneself
in music which lasted longer and filled me
with the exquisite wrenching agony
of the blues
        and now it is equally
transitory and obscure as I sit in my broken
chair that the cats have shredded
by the stove on a winter night with wind and snow
howling outside and I imagine
the whole world at peace
                at peace
and everyone comfortable and warm
the great pain assuaged
                    a moment
of the most shining and singular sensual gratification.

"Ecstasy" by Hayden Carruth, from Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: Poems, 1991-1995. © Copper Canyon Press, 2000.

Image credit: "Where She Spent Most of Her Days," canvas print by Mike Savad (originally color).


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shu Ting: "Perhaps..."

for the loneliness of an author

Perhaps these thoughts of ours
             will never find an audience
Perhaps the mistaken road
             will end in a mistake
Perhaps the lamps we light one at a time
             will be blown out, one at a time
Perhaps the candles of our lives will gutter out
             without lighting a fire to warm us

Perhaps when all the tears have been shed
             the earth will be more fertile
Perhaps when we sing praises to the sun
             the sun will praise us in return
Perhaps these heavy burdens
             will strengthen our philosophy
Perhaps when we weep for those in misery
             we must be silent about miseries of our own

Because of our irresistible mission
We have no choice

"Perhaps..." by Shu Ting, from Carrying Over: Poems from the Chinese, Urdu, Macedonian, Yiddish and French African, edited by Carolyn Kizer. Translated from the Chinese by Carolyn Kizer. © Copper Canyon Press, 1988.

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally black and white).