Tuesday, April 30, 2013

John Moffitt: "To Look at Anything"

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
"I have seen spring in these
Woods," will not do—you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.

"To Look at Anything" by John Moffitt, from Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner. © Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Photography credit: "New Zealand Tree Fern Fronds" by Pieter Pieterse, 2005 (originally color).


Monday, April 29, 2013

Quick Note from the Curator to Our Friends on Twitter

If you'd like to get our daily poems by tweet, or comment on them, or retweet them, you can now follow this page at https://twitter.com/yearofbeinghere. Enjoy!

Kerry Hardie: "What's Left"

(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones—foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums—
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age. Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants—their strong lives—
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.

I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.

"What's Left" by Kerry Hardie, from Cry for the Hot Belly. © Gallery Books, 2001.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pablo Neruda: "Keeping Still"

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

"Keeping Still" by Pablo Neruda, from Extravagaria, translated by Alastair Reid. © Jonathan Cape, 1972.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mary Oliver: "I Worried"

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

"I Worried" by Mary Oliver, from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems. © Beacon Press, 2010.

Image credit: detail of a mixed media painting entitled "Red Dress Dancing," by Anna Oneglia, © 2000 (originally color).


Friday, April 26, 2013

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: "Before We Can Unlearn"

So far it’s the physical world that we speak of:
the red Frisbee, the sweet blackberry, the small pink ball.
She points to a tree. This, she says. Tree. I say. Well,
lilac bush. Already the world slips from its chain of syllables.
I want to speak with her about this filtered honey light
of a late April afternoon, and I do, but she brings me
a rock and says, This. And I say, Rock. Gray rock.
And even more, I want to speak of what comes next,
of the longing that this light begets—how it rouses in me
a deep wish to lose the physical world and be current,
be wave, be invisible flourish, to be warmth that drives flowers
to bloom. I want to tell her how sometimes the body
interferes, so material, so fleshsome, so brute in its hungers.
How beyond the red Frisbee there’s a pulse, a rhythm,
a tide that no words can touch, and it gathers us and connects
us to this all that is: one cosmos, one bloodstream, one river,
one art. How sometimes we get it—whatever it is—and all
that is concrete dissolves in the breath. How we’re twined
to this moment, and the next, and the next. Nest, I say,
as she brings me the small wreath of grass. Bird, I say,
as the small body wings past. She smiles and tries to fly—
half jump, half fall, all innocence. Yes, I say. That’s what
love is like. Oh golden light. Oh luminous task of losing
whatever we think we know: Tree. Rock. Nest.

"Before We Can Unlearn" by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Posted by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer on Virtual Teahouse, 4/9/2010.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

James Kavanaugh: "I Laugh and Cry with the Same Eyes"

I laugh and cry with the same eyes,
Love and hate with the same heart.
I feel my rage and my gentleness,
My sanity and suicide.
When I hide my anger, my joy doesn't seem real.
When I hide my fear, my strength is a fraud.
If I only laugh, I leave no place for your pain.
If I only shout, I leave no place for your tenderness.
I want to be all of myself,
So you can be all of yourself,
And together we can be whole.

"I Laugh and Cry with the Same Eyes" by James Kavanaugh. No other bibliographic information available.

Photography credit: "Pupil and Iris" by Dylan O'Donnell, 2010 (originally color).


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alison Luterman: "Because Even the Word Obstacle Is an Obstacle"

Try to love everything that gets in your way:
the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim through obstacles like a minnow
without grudges or memory. Dart
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad she'll have that to look at all her life,
and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids aren't allowed at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He'll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he'll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,
because if something is in your way it is
going your way, the way
of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.

"Because Even the Word Obstacle Is an Obstacle" by Alison Luterman. First published in The Sun, January 2010. 

Photography credit: Detail of image by JohnShen Lee (originally color).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ted Kooser: "Mother"

Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.

"Mother" by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press, 2004.

Image credit: Unknown (originally color).


Monday, April 22, 2013

Gary Snyder: "Prayer for the Great Family"


Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day—
    and to her soil: rich, rare and sweet 
        in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf
    and fine root-hairs; standing still through the wind
    and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain
        in our mind so be it. 

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent
    Owl at dawn. Breath of our song
    clear spirit breeze
        in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,
    freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;
    self-complete, brave, and aware
        in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers;
    holding or releasing; streaming through all
    our bodies salty seas
        in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through
    trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where
    bears and snakes sleep—he who wakes us—
        in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky
    who holds billions of stars—and goes yet beyond that—
beyond all powers, and thoughts
and yet is within us—
Grandfather Space.
The Mind is his Wife.
       so be it.
after a Mohawk prayer

"Prayer for the Great Family" by Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island. © New Directions, 1994.

Image credit: "Mother Earth," © by Jenness Cortez (originally color). All rights reserved. Artist website: perlmuttergallery.com.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Louis Jenkins: "Diner"

The time has come to say goodbye, our plates empty except
for our greasy napkins. Comrades, you on my left, balding,
middle-aged guy with a ponytail, and you, Lefty, there on my
right, though we barely spoke I feel our kinship. You were
steadfast in passing the ketchup, the salt and pepper, no man
could ask for better companions. Lunch is over, the cheese-
burger and fries, the Denver sandwich, the counter nearly
empty. Now we must go our separate ways. Not a fond embrace,
but perhaps a hearty handshake. No? Well then, farewell. It is
unlikely I'll pass this way again. Unlikely we will all meet again
on this earth, to sit together beneath the neon and fluorescent
calmly sipping our coffee, like the sages sipping their tea
underneath the willow, sitting quietly, saying nothing.

"Diner" by Louis Jenkins, from Sea Smoke. © Holy Cow! Press, 2004. 

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lynn Martin: "Under the Walnut Tree"

When I face what has left my life,
         I bow.  I walk outside into the cold,
                  rain nesting in my hair.
        All the houses near me
have their lights on.  Somewhere,
                  there is a deep listening.
         I stand in the dark for a long time
        under the walnut tree, unable
                   to tell anyone, not even the night,
         what I know.  I feel the darkness
                   rush towards me, and I open my arms.

"Under the Walnut Tree" by Lynn Martin, from Blue Bowl. © Blue Begonia Press, 2000.

Image credit: Unknown (originally color).


Friday, April 19, 2013

A. R. Ammons: "Still"

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I'll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

"Still" by A. R. Ammons, from Collected Poems 1951-1971. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Josephine Jacobsen: "you can take it with you"

2 little girls who live next door
to this house are on their trampoline.
the window is closed, so they are soundless.

the sun slants, it is going away;
but now it hits full on the trampoline
and the small figure on each end.

alternately they fly up to the sun,
fly, and rebound, fly, are shot
up, fly, are shot up up.

one comes down in the lotus
position. the other, outdone,
somersaults in air. their hair

flies too. nothing, nothing, noth
ing can keep keep them down. the air
sucks them up by the hair of their heads.

i know all about what is
happening in this city at just
this moment, every last

grain of dark, i conceive.
but what i see now is
the 2 little girls flung up

flung up, the sun snatch
ing them, their mouths rounded
in gasps. they are there, they fly up.

"you can take it with you" by Josephine Jacobsen, from In the Crevice of Time: New & Collected Poems. © Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Photography credit: Collection curator edited and combined two color photographs by an unknown photographer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mark Nepo: "The Appointment"

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is a tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

"The Appointment" by Mark Nepo. Published online at poet's website.

Photography credit: "Soar Above" by Rob Cartwright, 2010 (originally black and white).


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don Iannone: "Losing Myself Inside a Japanese Wood Poppy"

Stepping inside a Japanese wood poppy
I took leave of myself
As some mad man might veer off the highway to work
Only to find himself fishing
Along the banks of an idyllic stream

Not often enough we surrender ourselves
To that something larger
Contained in even the smallest thing
Like a tiny blade of grass
Or the petal of a spring daffodil

Why quibble over a name, or anything
Standing between you and beauty
‘Tis better to be naked of all words
Even poetry
Than miss a flower’s healing kiss

"Losing Myself Inside a Japanese Wood Poppy" by Don Iannone. Posted by Don Iannone on Poetic Alchemist on March 1, 2009.

Photography credit: © Thomas Whelan (originally color).


Monday, April 15, 2013

Nanao Sakaki: "Just Enough"

Soil for legs
Axe for hands
Flower for eyes
Bird for ears
Mushrooms for nose
Smile for mouth
Songs for lungs
Sweat for skin
Wind for mind  


"Just Enough" by Nanao Sakaki, from What Book?!: Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop, edited by Gary Gach. © Parallax Press, 1998.

Photography credit: "Axe Chopping Wood," by Chris Capre, 2012 (originally color).


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lynn Ungar: "Boundaries"

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless nor ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.
Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

"Boundaries" by Lynn Ungar, from Blessing the Bread: Meditations. © Skinner House Books, 1995.

Photography credit: "Dancing Planets," by Peter Bond, 2009 (originally color).


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sr. Dang Nghiem: "Feather at Midday"

If I had not stopped to watch a feather flying by,
I would not have seen its landing–
a tiny pure white feather.

Gently, I blew a soft breath
to send it back to the spring.

If I had not looked up to watch
the feather gliding over the roof,
I would not have seen
the crescent moon
hanging at midday.

"Feather at Midday" by Sr. Dang Nghiem, from Healing: A Woman's Journey from Doctor to Nun. © Parallax Press, 2010.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Friday, April 12, 2013

Galway Kinnell: "Saint Francis and the Sow"

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing
     beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

"Saint Francis and the Sow" by Galway Kinnell, from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words. © Mariner Books, 1980.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Derek Walcott: "Love After Love"

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

"Love After Love" by Derek Walcott, from Sea Grapes. © Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1976.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Janusz Szuber: "About a Boy Stirring Jam"

A wooden spoon for stirring jam,
Dripping sweet tar, while in the pan
Plum magma’s bubbles blather.
For someone who can’t grasp the whole
There’s salvation in the remembered detail.
What, back then, did I know about that?
The real, hard as a diamond,
Was to happen in the indefinable
Future, and everything seemed
Only a sign of what was to come. How naïve.
Now I know inattention is an unforgivable sin
And each particle of time has an ultimate dimension.

"About a Boy Stirring Jam" by Janisz Szuber, from They Carry a Promise: Selected Poems, translated by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough. © Knopf, 2009.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dana Yost: "The Three Bridges Trail"

There are walks I will want to take
in my last days, and one will be the Three Bridges Trail.
Find someone to lead me, if I am frail, through
the narrow path, across the three stone bridges.
But I will see, hear, smell for myself.
It is almost primeval, the brush to my knees, even
my chest: the thick leaves turning day to night
almost as soon as we set foot on the dust and gravel.
It is like stepping beyond the curtain, into the Emerald City.
The birds flutter and sing and one says “pur-dee, pur-dee, pur-dee,”
in a branch over my head.
At other times, a stillness: no animals, the wind cut off
by the thickness of leaves: it is almost German forest, medieval.
Over there, the clearing: can’t you picture a dozen furied
swords and axes clanging and cleaving, unmerciless battle?
But, then, my imagination runs beyond reach of the reins.

Walk with me, in the green and the cool.
Walk with me, on the ledge of the stone
of the bridges:
the fall is not far, if it comes to that,
and the undergrowth will catch you,
soft. Blanket of a crib.
Walk with me, when those last few days are near,
and think with me not of what life might have been,
but what it was — what it is: as real as the doe
in deep staredown with us, as real as the aroma of juniper.
Did we matter? Did we lift the lives of others?
Did we love, did we give enough time to the stars,
did we dream — or was it all mad?
Look at the butterflies, the gem-green beetle.
I will walk here again, in my last days,
the Three Bridges Trail:
whatever deeds define my life,
I know finding this place
is one of the good.

"The Three Bridges Trail" by Dana Yost. First published in Jellyfish Whispers, July 2012.

Photograph: "Arched Stone Foot Bridge at Old Man’s Cave," by Dustin May, 2012 (originally color).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gregory Orr: "Has the Moon Been Up There"

Has the moon been up there
All these nights
And I never noticed?

A whole week with my nose
To the ground, to the grind.

And the beloved faithfully
Returning each evening
As the moon.

Where have I been?
Who has abandoned whom?

"Has the Moon Been Up There" by Gregory Orr, from How Beautiful the Beloved. © Copper Canyon Press, 2012.

Image credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Marilyn Nelson: "The Lace-Maker"

Late Sunday morning gilds the pins and needles,
strokes the wall ochre, blanches the white collar.
He bends, intent on detail, his fingers red
in sunlight, brown in shade. Light calls
through the open to April window directly
into his illumined invisible ear,
like, elsewhere, the trumpet
whisper of an angel.

"The Lace-Maker" by Marilyn Nelson, from Carver: A Life in Poems. © Front Street, 2001.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ted Kooser: "At the Cancer Clinic"

She is being helped toward the open door
that leads to the examining rooms
by two young women I take to be her sisters.
Each bends to the weight of an arm
and steps with the straight, tough bearing
of courage. At what must seem to be
a great distance, a nurse holds the door,
smiling and calling encouragement.
How patient she is in the crisp white sails
of her clothes. The sick woman
peers from under her funny knit cap
to watch each foot swing scuffing forward
and take its turn under her weight.
There is no restlessness or impatience
or anger anywhere in sight. Grace
fills the clean mold of this moment
and all the shuffling magazines grow still.

"At the Cancer Clinic" by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press, 2004.

Image credit: "Three Sisters," by Rajeev Kumar, acrylic on canvas, 1986 (originally color).