Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jane Hirshfield: "Standing Deer"

As the house of a person
in age sometimes grows cluttered
with what is
too loved or too heavy to part with,
the heart may grow cluttered.
And still the house will be emptied,
and still the heart.

As the thoughts of a person
in age sometimes grow sparer,
like a great cleanness come into a room,
the soul may grow sparer;
one sparrow song carves it completely.
And still the room is full,
and still the heart.

Empty and filled,
like the curling half-light of morning,
in which everything is still possible and so why not.

Filled and empty,
like the curling half-light of evening,
in which everything now is finished and so why not.

Beloved, what can be, what was,
will be taken from us.
I have disappointed.
I am sorry. I knew no better.

A root seeks water.
Tenderness only breaks open the earth.
This morning, out the window,
the deer stood like a blessing, then vanished.

"Standing Deer" by Jane Hirshfield, from The Lives of the Heart: Poems. © Harper Perennial, 1997.

Photography credit: Angel Starr Brown, first published in The Vicksburg Post (originally color).


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ellen Kort: "Advice to Beginners"

Begin. Keep on beginning. Nibble on everything.
Take a hike. Teach yourself to whistle. Lie.
The older you get the more they'll want your stories.
Make them up. Talk to stones. Short-out electric
fences. Swim with the sea turtle into the moon. Learn
how to die. Eat moonshine pie. Drink wild geranium
tea. Run naked in the rain. Everything that happens
will happen and none of us will be safe from it.
Pull up anchors. Sit close to the god of night.
Lie still in a stream and breathe water. Climb to the top
of the highest tree until you come to the branch
where the blue heron sleeps. Eat poems for breakfast.
Wear them on your forehead. Lick the mountain's
bare shoulder. Measure the color of days
around your mother's death. Put your hands
over your face and listen to what they tell you.

"Advice to Beginners" by Ellen Kort, from If I Had My Life to Do Over I'd Pick More Daisies, edited by Sandra Martz. © Papier-Mache Press, 2010.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally black and white).


Friday, June 28, 2013

Philip Booth: "So"

So, there's no way to be sure. Not
about much of anything. No more about
anyone else than ourselves. Perhaps
not even of death, except that it's bound
to happen. To you, yes; to me, us: the lot
of humankind, given how humankind sees it
from this near side. So what.

So nothing that we here and now
can perfectly know. Save, though the lens
our eyes raise, the old here and now.
The this, the already-going that moves us.
The red-shift we're constantly part of.
And why not? Between what we were, and
are going to be, is who and how we best love.

"So" by Philip Booth, from Selves. © Viking, 1990.

Photography credit: Unknown.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "The Jar with the Dry Rim"

The mind is an ocean … and so many worlds
are rolling there, mysterious, dimly seen!
And our bodies? Our body is a cup, floating
on the ocean; soon it will fill, and sink …
Not even one bubble will show where it went down.

The spirit is so near that you can’t see it!
But reach for it … don’t be a jar
full of water, whose rim is always dry.
Don’t be the rider who gallops all night
and never sees the horse that is beneath him.

"The Jar with the Dry Rim" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from The Soul Is Here for Its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures, edited by Robert Blue. © Ecco, 1999.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Adam Zagajewski: "On Swimming"

The rivers of this country are sweet
as a troubadour’s song,
the heavy sun wanders westward
on yellow circus wagons.
Little village churches
hold a fabric of silence so fine
and old that even a breath
could tear it.
I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he’s been on the road.
Swimming is like a prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part, almost without end.

"On Swimming" by Adam Zagajewski, from Without End: New and Selected Poems. © Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Zahrad: "Cleaning Lentils"

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word, a lentil, a lentil, a word
next to another word. A word, a word, a word,
a speech. A word of nonsense.
Suddenly a song. A song, a song, suddenly
an old dream. A green, a green one, a black one
a stone.  A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.

"Cleaning Lentils" by Zahrad, translated from Armenian by Diana Der-Hovanessian. Published in the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. © Ecco, 2010.

Photography credit: Yotam Ottolenghi (originally color).


Monday, June 24, 2013

Jane Kenyon: "Peonies at Dusk"

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

"Peonies at Dusk" by Jane Kenyon, from Constance: Poems. © Graywolf Press, 1993.

 Image credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye: "The Tray"

Even on a sorrowing day
the little white cups without handles
would appear
filled with steaming hot tea
in a circle on the tray,
and whatever we were able
to say or not say,
the tray would be passed,
we would sip
in silence,
it was another way
lips could be speaking together,
opening on the hot rim,
swallowing in unison.

"The Tray" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from 19 Varieties of Gazelle. © Greenwillow Books, 2002.

Photography credit: "Little white cups, a tray, and a textured porcelain pitcher," by Laurie Goldstein (originally color).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lynn Powell: "Acceptance Speech"

The radio's replaying last night's winners
and the gratitude of the glamorous,
everyone thanking everybody for making everything
so possible, until I want to shush
the faucet, dry my hands, join in right here
at the cluttered podium of the sink, and thank

my mother for teaching me the true meaning of okra,
my children for putting back the growl in hunger,
my husband, primo uomo of dinner, for not
begrudging me this starring role—

without all of them, I know this soup
would not be here tonight.

And let me just add that I could not
have made it without the marrow bone, that blood—
brother to the broth, and the tomatoes
who opened up their hearts, and the self-effacing limas,
the blonde sorority of corn, the cayenne
and oregano who dashed in
in the nick of time.

Special thanks, as always, to the salt—
you know who you are—and to the knife,
who revealed the ripe beneath the rind,
the clean truth underneath the dirty peel.

—I hope I've not forgotten anyone—
oh, yes, to the celery and the parsnip,
those bit players only there to swell the scene,
let me just say: sometimes I know exactly how you feel.

But not tonight, not when it's all
coming to something and the heat is on and
I'm basking in another round
of blue applause.

"Acceptance Speech" by Lynn Powell, from The Zones of Paradise. © University of Akron Press, 2003.

Image credit: "The Kitchen Queen," sketch by Brigitte Liem (originally black and white).


Friday, June 21, 2013

Abigail Carroll: "In Gratitude"

For h, tiny fire
     in the hollow of the throat,
          opener of every hey

hi, how are you,
     hello; chums with c,
          with t, shy lover of s;

there and not
     there—never seen,
          hardly heard, yet

real as air
     fluttering the oak,
          holding up the hawk;

the sound
     of a yawn, of sleep, of heat,
          a match, its quivering

orange flame
     turning wood into light,
          light into breath;

the sound
     of stars if stars
          could be heard, perhaps

the sound
     of space; life speaking life:
          warm air endowed

to hard clay—
     a heart, hurt,
          a desire to be healed—

the work
     of bees stuck in the nubs
          of hollyhocks

and columbine, time
     to the extent that time
          is light, is bright

as the match,
     the flame of the sun,
          real as the muffled hush

of sleep,
     the fluttering oak,
          the bee, the silent oh

in the throat
     when a hand is laid
          upon the shoulder;

     the body’s empty cry
          for filling, for loving,

for knowing
     the intimacy of breath,
          of half-breathed words

fragile as the stars:
     hollow, hush,

"In Gratitude" by Abigail Carroll. No other bibliographic information available. 

Photography credit: "Fire Letter H," by RAStudio (originally color).


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wislawa Szymborska: "No Title Required"

It has come to this: I'm sitting under a tree
beside a river
on a sunny morning.
It's an insignificant event
and won't go down in history.
It's not battles and pacts,
where motives are scrutinized,
or noteworthy tyrannicides.

And yet I'm sitting by this river, that's a fact.
And since I'm here
I must have come from somewhere,
and before that
I must have turned up in many other places,
exactly like the conquerors of nations
before setting sail.

Even a passing moment has its fertile past,
its Friday before Saturday,
its May before June.
Its horizons are no less real
than those that a marshal's field glasses might scan.

This tree is a poplar that's been rooted here for years.
The river is the Raba; it didn't spring up yesterday.
The path leading through the bushes
wasn't beaten last week.
The wind had to blow the clouds here
before it could blow them away.

And though nothing much is going on nearby,
the world is no poorer in details for that.
It's just as grounded, just as definite
as when migrating races held it captive.

Conspiracies aren't the only things shrouded in silence.
Retinues of reasons don't trail coronations alone.
Anniversaries of revolutions may roll around,
but so do oval pebbles encircling the bay.

The tapestry of circumstance is intricate and dense.
Ants stitching in the grass.
The grass sewn into the ground.
The pattern of a wave being needled by a twig.

So it happens that I am and look.
Above me a white butterfly is fluttering through the air
on wings that are its alone,
and a shadow skims through my hands
that is none other than itself, no one else's but its own.

When I see such things, I'm no longer sure
that what's important
is more important than what's not.

"No Title Required" by Wislawa Szymborska, from Poems New and Collected 1957-1997, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. © Mariner Books, 2000.  

Image credit: Untitled work in progress, ink sketch by Mehgan Trice, 2010.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Margaret Atwood: "The Moment"

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

"The Moment" by Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995.  

Image credit: "I Am One," acrylic on canvas, by Jess Burda (originally color).


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Andrea Cohen: "Cherries"

In the minute it took
to fetch the blue bowl

from the kitchen
to pick the just-ripe

cherries, the blackbirds
had come. They picked

the branches clean, ascending
into their own blue bowl.

Lacking wings, I
look for meaning.

We were all hungry.
We were all fed.

"Cherries" by Andrea Cohen. Published in Orion Magazine, July/August 2012.

Image credit: "The Red Deer Guardian," ink and wash on Canson paper, by Danielle Barlow.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Erica Jong: "You Are There"

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just

To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

"You Are There" by Erica Jong, from Love Comes First. © Penguin Group, 2009.

 Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Todd Boss: "This Morning in a Morning Voice"

  to beat the froggiest
of morning voices,
  my son gets out of bed
and takes a lumpish song
  along—a little lyric
learned in kindergarten,
  something about a
boat. He’s found it in
  the bog of his throat
before his feet have hit
  the ground, follows
its wonky melody down
  the hall and into the loo
as if it were the most
  natural thing for a little
boy to do, and lets it
  loose awhile in there
to a tinkling sound while
  I lie still in bed, alive
like I’ve never been, in
  love again with life,
afraid they’ll find me
  drowned here, drowned
in more than my fair
  share of joy.

"This Morning in a Morning Voice" by Todd Boss, from Pitch: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.

Image: "Big Shadow, Little Boy," a print by Dick Sargent, 1960 (originally color).


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Emily Dickinson: "#668" ["Nature" Is what we see"]

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

"#668" ["Nature is what we see"] by Emily Dickinson, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. © Back Bay Books, 1976.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hannah Stephenson: "First Things First"

Do the first things first,
those things embedded with order
and priority. The urgent things,
the things swirling in your solar plexus
and elbowing you in the heart.

First things first, the things
from which other things spring.
The initial movement, the impulse
to move, the discomfort that triggers
a flicker in your nerves.

First things come first.
You wake, you lift your eyelids,
perform subconscious diagnostics.
What do you need today, you ask
yourself, watching the walls.

First things first, you trust
that by starting the day’s processes,
you will go where you need to.
Even the eighth thing you do
can be the first, even the nineteenth thing.

"First Things First" by Hannah Stephenson, from In the Kettle, the Shriek, scheduled for publication in October, 2013, by Gold Wake Press.

Image credit: "Early to Bed, Early to Rise," giclée print by William Donahey.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Elizabeth Carlson: "Imperfection"

I am falling in love
      with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.
I am learning to love
      the small bumps on my face
      the big bump of my nose,
      my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
      the open-ended mystery
            of not knowing why
I am learning to fail
      to make lists,
      use my time wisely,
      read the books I should.
Instead I practice inconsistency,
      irrationality, forgetfulness.
Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
      my perfect family.
But I'd rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
     learning to purr.
I used to fill every moment
     with something I could
          cross off later.
Perfect was
     the laundry done and folded
     all my papers graded
     the whole truth and nothing      but
Now the empty mind is what I seek
      the formless shape
      the strange      off center
      sometimes fictional

"Imperfection" by Elizabeth Carlson, from Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam M. Intrator, et al. © Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Image credit: Unknown (originally color).


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ralph Murre: "What Is Given"

The likelihood of finding strawberries
tiny and wild and sweet
around your ankles
on any given day
in any given place
is not great
but sometimes
people find strawberries
right where they are standing
just because it is their turn
to be given a taste
of something wild and sweet

"What Is Given" by Ralph Murre. No other bibliographic information available.

Image credit: "Wild Strawberries 2011," oil on canvas by Renata Moise (originally color).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gary Snyder: "What Have I Learned"

What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools?

The moments
between hard pleasant tasks

To sit silent, drink wine,
and think my own kind
of dry crusty thoughts.

     —the first Calochortus flowers
     and in all the land,
              it's spring.
I point them out:
the yellow petals, the golden hairs,
              to Gen.

Seeing in silence:
never the same twice,
but when you get it right,

     you pass it on.

"What Have I Learned" by Gary Snyder, from Axe Handles. © Shoemaker Hoard, 1983.

Photography credit: "Yellow Star Tulip" (Calochortus), by Steve Laymon (originally color).


Monday, June 10, 2013

Billy Collins: "In the Moment"

It was a day in June, all lawn and sky,
the kind that gives you no choice
but to unbutton your shirt
and sit outside in a rough wooden chair.
And if a glass of ice tea and a volume
of seventeenth-century poetry
with a dark blue cover are available,
then the picture can hardly be improved.
I remember a fly kept landing on my wrist,
and two black butterflies
with white and red wing-dots
bobbed around my head in the bright air.
I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment—but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one,
or any of those that were scuttling by
seemed perfectly right for me.
Plus, I was too knotted up with questions
about the past and his tall, evasive sister, the future.
What churchyard held the bones of George Herbert?
Why did John Donne's wife die so young?
And more pressingly,
what could we serve the vegetarian twins
who were coming to dinner that evening?
Who knew that they would bring their own grapes?
And why was the driver of that pickup
flying down the road toward the lone railroad track?
And so the priceless moments of the day
were squandered one by one—
or more likely a thousand at a time—
with quandary and pointless interrogation.
All I wanted was to be a pea of being
inside the green pod of time,
but that was not going to happen today,
I had to admit to myself
as I closed the book on the face
of Thomas Traherne and returned to the house
where I lit a flame under a pot
full of floating brown eggs,
and, while they cooked in their bubbles,
I stared into a small oval mirror near the sink
to see if that crazy glass
had anything special to tell me today.

"In the Moment" by Billy Collins, from The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems. © Random House, 2011.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Louise Erdrich: "Spring Evening on Blind Mountain"

I won't drink wine tonight
I want to hear what is going on
not in my own head
but all around me.
I sit for hours
outside our house on Blind Mountain.
Below this scrap of yard
across the ragged old pasture,
two horses move
pulling grass into their mouths, tearing up
wildflowers by the roots.
They graze shoulder to shoulder.
Every night they lean together in sleep.
Up here, there is no one
for me to fail.
You are gone.
Our children are sleeping.
I don't even have to write this down.

"Spring Evening on Blind Mountain" by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.  

Photography credit: "Two Horses Graze in a Field of Texas Bluebonnets," by Rob Greebon Photography (originally color).

Saturday, June 8, 2013

May Swenson: "Staying at Ed's Place"

I like being in your apartment, and not disturbing anything.
As in the woods I wouldn't want to move a tree,
or change the play of sun and shadow on the ground.

The yellow kitchen stool belongs right there
against white plaster. I haven't used your purple towel
because I like the accidental cleft of shade you left in it.

At your small six-sided table, covered with mysterious
dents in the wood like a dartboard, I drink my coffee
from your brown mug. I look into the clearing

of your high front room, where sunlight slopes through bare
window squares. Your Afghanistan hammock, a man-sized cocoon
slung from the wall to wall, your narrow desk and typewriter

are the only furniture. Each morning your light from the east
douses me where, with folded legs, I sit in your meadow,
a casual spread of brilliant carpets. Like a cat or dog

I take a roll, then, stretched out flat
in the center of color and pattern, I listen
to the remote growl of trucks over cobbles on Bethune Street below.

When I open my eyes I discover the peaceful blank
of the ceiling. Its old paint-layered surface is moonwhite
and trackless, like the Sea—of Tranquillity.

"Staying at Ed's Place" by May Swenson, from New & Selected Things Taking Place: Poems. © Little, Brown & Co, 1978.  

Photography credit: "Lying in Bed, Staring at Ceiling," by Catbird365, 2012 (originally black and white).


Friday, June 7, 2013

Theodore Roethke: "The Chair"

A funny thing about a Chair:
You hardly ever think it’s there.
To know a Chair is really it,
You sometimes have to go and sit.

"The Chair" by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. © Anchor, 1974.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally black and white).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Betsy Miller: "Norimaki Sushi"

Plump, white oval grains of
Steamed sticky rice cling together
In the dish, round wooden handai,
Full like a waiting moon.
Fold in rice vinegar, salty-sweet.
Fan the scented clouds of steam.
Sushi rice—Sumeshi

Take the rice to the nori
Seaweed, dark sheet paper-thin.
Deep red tuna, scallions join,
Enclosed as in a wave,
And sliced into circles, with
Wet-bright pebble centers.
Tuna roll—Tekka Maki.

Warm fragrance of
Peaceful green tea.
Pink, pickled ginger smells sweet,
A patient rose.
Soy sauce, brown as polished driftwood,
Singed by fiery
Green horseradish—Wasabi.

Chopsticks lift the sushi,
Skim the soy sauce.
Bring the round taste
Of rice, of saltspray, of the sea
Home to my mouth,
Edged with a sharp sinus sting.
Thank you—Arigato.

"Norimaki Sushi" by Betsy Miller. No other bibliographic information available.

Image credit: "Happy Sushi," pastel on sanded paper, by Susan Jenkins, 2009 (originally color).