Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jeanne Lohmann: "Rivertalk"

is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don't be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

"Rivertalk" by Jeanne Lohmann, from The Light of Invisible Bodies: Poems. © Daniel & Daniel Publishing, 2003.  

Photography credit: "Ripples on the River," by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sheri Hostetler: "Instructions"

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
what your heart beats loudly for
what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.

"Instructions" by Sheri Hostetler, from A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry, edited by Ann Hostetler. © University of Iowa Press, 2003.  

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Monday, July 29, 2013

Richard Schiffman: "Moth Koan"

You say that you are troubled
by your own thoughts. Listen,
even the moth casts a shadow
when it flies before the sun.
Do you think the sun is troubled,
or the ground, or the moth,
for that matter? No, what is
troubled is the shadow thinking
it’s the moth that has fallen
to the ground, where the sun
will never shine again. The moth
that understands this
flies straight to the sun.

"Moth Koan" by Richard Schiffman. Published in Rattle, Winter 2011.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Edward Hirsch: "The Widening Sky"

I am so small walking on the beach
at night under the widening sky.
The wet sand quickens beneath my feet
and the waves thunder against the shore.

I am moving away from the boardwalk
with its colorful streamers of people
and the hotels with their blinking lights.
The wind sighs for hundreds of miles.

I am disappearing so far into the dark
I have vanished from sight.
I am a tiny seashell
that has secretly drifted ashore

and carries the sound of the ocean
surging through its body.
I am so small now no one can see me.
How can I be filled with such a vast love?

"The Widening Sky" by Edward Hirsch, from Lay Back the Darkness. © Knopf, 2004.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tere Sievers: "July Rain"

The sudden storm
flashes and rumbles
the ozone air a tonic
for the humid afternoon.
I stand waiting
at the screen door
as the hard rain digs
puddles in the dirt.
I remember young Julys,
the mud under my feet
thick, warm and soft.
The cloudburst passes.
I push open the door,
smell the air
and drop my shoes.

"July Rain" by Tere Sievers, from Summer: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry and Prose, edited by Melanie Villines, Joan Jobe Smith Eddie Woods. © Silver Birch Press, 2013.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Friday, July 26, 2013

Fady Joudah: "Mimesis"

My daughter
                    wouldn't hurt a spider
That had nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
She waited
Until it left of its own accord

If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn't a place to call home
And you'd get to go biking

She said that's how others
Become refugees isn't it?

"Mimesis" by Fady Joudah, from Alight. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013.

Photography credit: "Spider Web on Bicycle Wheel & Handle," by unknown photographer (originally color).


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ellen Bass: "Pleasantville, New Jersey, 1955"

I'd never seen a rainbow or picked
a tomato off the vine. Never walked in an orchard
or a forest. The only tree I knew
grew in the square of dirt hacked
out of the asphalt, the mulberry
my father was killing slowly, pounding
copper nails into its trunk.
But one hot summer afternoon
my mother let me drag the cot onto the roof.
Bed sheets drying on the lines,
the cat's cardboard box of dirt in the corner,
I lay in an expanse of blueness. Sun rippled
over my skin like a breeze over water.
My eyelids closed. I could hear the ripe berries
splatting onto the alley, the footsteps
of customers tracking in the sticky, purple mash.
I heard the winos on the wooden crates,
brown bags rustling at the throats of Thunderbird.
Car engines stuttered, came to life and died
in the A&P parking lot and I smelled grease and coffee
from the diner where Stella, the dyke, washed dishes
with a pack of Camel's tucked
in the rolled-up sleeve of her t-shirt.
Next door, Helen Schmerling leaned on the glass case
slipping her fist into seamed and seamless stockings,
nails tucked in, to display the shade, while Sol
sucked the marrow from his stubby cigar,
smoke settling into the tweed skirts and mohair sweaters.
And under me something muscular swarmed
in the liquor store, something alive
in the stained wooden counter and the pungent dregs
of beer in the empties, my mother
greeting everyone, her frequent laughter,
the shorn pale necks of the delivery men,
their hairy forearms. The cash register ringing
as my parents pushed their way, crumpled dollar
by dollar, into the middle class.
The sun was delicious, lapping my skin.
I felt that newly arrived in a body.
The city wheeled around me—
the Rialto movie, Allen's shoe store, Stecher's Jewelry,
the whole downtown three blocks long.
And I was at the center of our tiny
solar system flung out on the edge
of a minor arm, a spur of one spiraling galaxy,
drenched in the light.

"Pleasantville, New Jersey, 1955" by Ellen Bass. Published in Poetry Northwest, Spring & Summer 2013. 

Photography credit: "Dappled Sunshine," by Natalie (originally color).


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Neil Carpathios: "No More Same Old Silly Love Songs"

When the radio in my car broke I started to notice the
I began to stop exaggerating the color of leaves,
how their reds and oranges needed no wordy
I started to open the window and smell the wet
after morning rain. Crows on the phone line,
their blackness and stubborn dignity. I even noticed my
gripping the wheel, the small dark hairs, the skin,
the knuckles and the perfect blue veins.

"No More Same Old Silly Love Songs" by Neil Carpathios, from Beyond the Bones. © FutureCycle Press, 2009.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heather McHugh: "The Size of Spokane"


The baby isn't cute. In fact he's
a homely little pale and headlong
stumbler. Still, he's one
of us—the human beings
stuck on flight 295 (Chicago to Spokane);
and when he passes my seat twice
at full tilt this then that direction,
I look down from Lethal Weapon 3 to see
just why. He's

running back and forth
across a sunblazed circle on
the carpet-something brilliant, fallen
from a porthole. So! it's light
amazing him, it's only light, despite
some three and one
half hundred
people, propped in rows
for him to wonder at; it's light
he can't get over, light he can't
investigate enough, however many
zones he runs across it,
flickering himself.

The umpteenth time
I see him coming, I've had
just about enough; but then
he notices me noticing and stops—
one fat hand on my armrestto
inspect the oddities of me.

Some people cannot hear.
Some people cannot walk.
But everyone was
sunstruck once, and set adrift.
Have we forgotten how
astonishing this is? so practiced all our senses
we cannot imagine them? foreseen instead of seeing
all the all there is? Each spectral port,
each human eye

is shot through with a hole, and everything we know
goes in there, where it feeds a blaze. In a flash

the baby's old; Mel Gibson's hundredth comeback seems
less clever; all his chases and embraces
narrow down, while we
fly on (in our
plain radiance of vehicle)

toward what cannot stay small forever.

"The Size of Spokane" by Heather McHugh, from Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993. © Wesleyan University Press, 1994.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Monday, July 22, 2013

Jared Carter: "Cutting Glass"

It takes a long, smooth stroke practiced carefully
over many years and made with one steady motion.

You do not really cut glass, you score its length
with a sharp, revolving wheel at the end of a tool

not much bigger than a pen-knife. Glass is liquid,
sleeping. The line you make goes through the sheet

like a wave through water, or a voice calling in a dream,
but calling only once. If the glazier knows how to work

without hesitation, glass begins to remember. Watch now
how he draws the line and taps the edge: the pieces

break apart like a book opened to a favorite passage.
Each time, what he finds is something already there.

In its waking state glass was fire once, and brightness;
all that becomes clear when you hold up the new pane.

"Cutting Glass" by Jared Carter. Published in Yarrow, 1987.

Photography credit: Fraunhofer (originally color).


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Robyn Sarah: "Burning the Journals"

The past is useless
to me now:
an old suitcase
with mould in the lining,
heavy even when empty— 

heavy empty,
like the bronze bell
of the Russian church,
in the grass;

so I shall have to go
on from here with less
to bank on. My peeled eye.
The way things
sing in the sun

"Burning the Journals" by Robyn Sarah, from The Touchstone: Poems New & Selected (Anansi, 1992). Copyright Robyn Sarah, reprinted with permission.

Photography credit: "The Christ Church Cathedral bell lies broken by the February quake," by Don Scott (originally color).


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Marge Piercy: "Rising in Perilous Hope"

What can I hold in my hands this morning
that will not flow through my fingers?

What words can I say that will catch
in your mind like burrs, chiggers that burrow?

If my touch could heal, I would lay my hands
on your bent head and bellow prayers.

If my words could change the weather
or the government or the way the world

twists and guts us, fast or slow,
what could I do but what I do now?

I fit words together and say them;
it is a given like the color of my eyes.

I hope it makes a small difference, as
I hope the drought will break and the morning

come rising out of the ocean wearing
a cloak of clean sweet mist and swirling terns.

"Rising in Perilous Hope" by Marge Piercy, from Colors Passing Through Us. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Image credit: "My Heart's in My Mouth," watercolor, by P. Maure Bausch (originally color).


Friday, July 19, 2013

Anna Akhmatova: "Everything is Plundered, Betrayed, Sold"

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death's great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?
By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.
And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses—
something not known to anyone at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.

"Everything is Plundered, Betrayed, Sold," by Anna Akhmatova, from Poems of Akhmatova, edited and translated by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward. © Little, Brown & Company, 1973.

Image credit: "Cherry Blossoms," colored pencil, by Collin Kasyan.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Linda Back McKay: "On the Meaning of"

This is what life does.
It wakes you in the morning
before the morning
glories open and gives you
the sound of your mother’s voice.
Life spreads itself across
the ceiling to make you think
you are penned in, but that
is just another gift. Life takes
what you thought you couldn’t live
without and gives you a heron instead.
And a dragonfly, stitching its way
through the milkweed. Life contains all
of your tears in a vessel
shaped like hands in prayer.
Life is shape, sight, sound, bone.
It whispers and sings and holds
you and you almost never feel it.
You push your way from phase to phase.
You are a horse with blinders.
You think you are pulling, but you
are being driven.
While going about your solitary life,
one hoof in front of the other,
real life is turning the stars,
like mirrors, in your direction.

"On the Meaning of," by Linda Back McKay, from The Next Best Thing: Poems. © Nodin Press, 2011.

Image credit: "Horse with Blinders," charcoal on paper, by Tony Lawton (originally black and white).


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

James Wright: "Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me"

Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.

"Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me," by James Wright, from Above the River: The Complete Poems, edited by Donald Hall. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992.

Photography credit: Andiyan Lutfi (originally color).


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ruth L. Schwartz: "Music for Guitar and Stone"

In music I can love the small failures,
the ones which show how difficult it is:
the young guitarist's fingers slipping,
for an instant, from their climb of chords.
He sits alone on the stage, bright light,
one leg wedged up on a step, his raised knee
round and tender, and the notes like birds
from a vanishing flock, each one more exquisite and lonely;
the fingers part of the hand, yet separate from the hand,
each living muscle married to the whole.
In life the failures feel like they'll kill me,
or you will, or we'll kill each other;
it's so hard to feel the music
moving through us, the larger patterns
of river and mountain, where damage is not separate
from creation, transformation;
where every mistake we make can wash
smooth and clean as stones in water,
then land on shore, then be thrown in again.
I want to sleep, like a stone, for a thousand years.
I want to wake with creatures traced smooth on my skin.
I want to forget I loved you and failed you
as you failed and loved me too, in the lengthy, painful
evolution of our kind; I want to sleep
for a thousand years, then wake up in some other world
where failure is part of the music, and seen
to make it more beautiful; where the fingers
forgive each other; where we can sit naked again
at the window, watch the notes fly by like birds
who have finally found their way home.

"Music for Guitar and Stone" by Ruth L. Schwartz. Published in Tampa Review, 2002. 

Photography credit: "Close Up Shot of Musician Leadbelly, aka Huddie Ledbetter's Hands While Playing Acoustic Guitar," by Bernard Hoffman (originally black and white).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Anne Sexton: "Welcome Morning"

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

"Welcome Morning" by Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton. © Mariner Poems, 1999.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stephen Mitchell: "The Baal Shem Tov"

All the old metaphors
are speechless, and the old truths
lie on exhibit in the morgue,
each with an oaktag label
on its big toe. Unless I am there,
Gautama is still questioning
under the Bodhi tree,
while in Bethlehem Mary’s womb stays
heavy, the ox and ass
looking on in mute compassion.

In the forest where you grew up
there was a small clearing
you liked to pray in. You would watch
the projects of the ants, or follow
a spider as it strung its web
in the crook of a maple-branch. Birdsong
unwound above you in lucid
confirmation. Whenever
you happened on the bloody remains
of a rabbit or squirrel, you buried them
gently, and recited
the Blessing upon meeting sorrow
face to Face. Prayer was
a quality of attention.
To make so much room
for the given
that it can appear as gift.

Years later they would come to you,
the doubters and the devout,
asking their pathless questions.
You wanted to get down on all fours.
You wanted to moo, or stand there
on tiptoe, flapping your wings.
What could you say, when the Good Name
was everywhere you were, uttered
by nightstorm and cloud and sunlight,
in fervor or grief. The few words
that you did find seemed
tinier than colored pebbles.
You had to pull them up quickly,
quickly, from far away.

"The Baal Shem Tov" by Stephen Mitchell, from Parables and Portraits. © HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Image credit: "The Baal Shem-Tov," painting by Saul Raskin (originally color).


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Susan Glassmeyer: "I Tell You"

I could not predict the fullness
of the day. How it was enough
to stand alone without help
in the green yard at dawn.

How two geese would spin out
of the ochre sun opening my spine,
curling my head up to the sky
in an arc I took for granted.

And the lilac bush by the red
brick wall flooding the air
with its purple weight of beauty?
How it made my body swoon,

brought my arms to reach for it
without even thinking.


In class today a Dutch woman split
in two by a stroke—one branch
of her body a petrified silence—
walked leaning on her husband

to the treatment table while we
the unimpaired looked on with envy.
How he dignified her wobble,
beheld her deformation, untied her

shoe, removed the brace that stakes
her weaknesses. How he cradled
her down in his arms to the table
smoothing her hair as if they were

alone in their bed. I tell you—
his smile would have made you weep.


At twilight I visit my garden
where the peonies are about to burst.

Some days there will be more
flowers than the vase can hold.

"I Tell You" by Susan F. Glassmeyer, from Body Matters. © Pudding House Publications, 2009.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally black and white, tinted).


Friday, July 12, 2013

David Allan Evans: "Turning 70"

         remembering Okoboji, Iowa, 1957


click, click, click, click, click went the wheels
of our little roller coaster car taking us slowly,
irrevocably upward to the top of the carnival until,
click         click         click we slowed more, hesitated,
then, cresting out, began to fall, my guts whirling,
my primate grip strangling the safety bar,
my eyes locked shut on what we couldn’t help
being headed for, straight down

then, picking up speed, the inevitable letting go
because we had no other choice, against a force
huger than carnivals, planets, universes
so we all opened our eyes and reached as high
as we could for moons, for stars, then came
our avalanching screams…

That’s itexactly what I need to get back to:
that letting go (minus the giddy guts), with my eyes
fiercely wide open, each day seconding Prospero’s
“be cheerful, sir,” and Lao Tzu’s tree bending
in the wind, each day looking forward to enjoying
what’s left of the ride, the carnival, the life.

"Turning 70" by David Allan Evans, from A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry, edited by Patrick Hicks. © Center for Western Studies, 2010.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Charles Bukowski: "the laughing heart"

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

"The Laughing Heart" by Charles Bukowski, from Betting on the Muse. © Ecco, 2002.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally black and white).


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

David Budbill: "The Three Goals"

The first goal is to see the thing itself
in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
for what it is.
No symbolism, please.

The second goal is to see each individual thing
as unified, as one, with all the other
ten thousand things.
In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.

The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
to see the universal and the particular,
Regarding this one, call me when you get it.

"The Three Goals" by David Budbill, from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse. © Copper Canyon Press, 1999.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally black and white).


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Edith Södergran: "Forest Lake"

I was alone on a sunny shore
by the forest’s pale blue lake,
in the sky floated a single cloud
and on the water a single isle.
The ripe sweetness of summer dripped
in beads from every tree
and straight into my opened heart
a tiny drop ran down.

"Forest Lake" by Edith Södergran, translated from Swedish by Stina Katchadourian. From Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirshfield. © Harper Perennial, 1995.

Photography credit: "Reflections," by gabriel77 (originally color).


Monday, July 8, 2013

Andrew Hudgins: "The Yellow Steeple"

On my way home from work, I jumped the fence
and cut across the Baptist cemetery.
As I walked over Sarah Pratt,
I saw a workman standing on a scaffold
and swatting a coat of yellow paint
over the peeling whitewash on the steeple.
He dropped a can of paint, and as it fell
the paint dispersed into a mist
and spread a rain of yellow dots
across a corner of the cemetery––
the bushes, trees, headstones, and me.
It ruined my coat. I didn't care:
I felt like Danae when she
was loved by Zeus in the golden rain.
Then, looking up, I saw a hawk.
It didn't move at all––not once––
but hung arrested in the air
till I released the breath I held
in awe of its pinpoint, predatory grace.
Still watching it as I walked home,
I barked my shins on a marble angel,
slid down a bank of slick white mud,
fell in the creek, and came up laughing.

It was one of those sustaining days
when you're absolutely sure you have a soul. 

"The Yellow Steeple" by Andrew Hudgins, from After the Lost War: A Narrative. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1988.  

Photography credit: "Yellow ochre paint spill on a wet road, Hoi An, Vietnam" by Rick Piper Photography.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Harvey Shapiro: "July"

You poets of the Late T'ang send me messages this morning.
The eastern sky is streaked with red.
Linkages of bird song make a floating chain.
In a corner of the world, walled in by ocean and sky,
I can look back on so many destructive days and nights,
and forward too, ego demons as far as mind reaches.
Here, for a moment, the light holds.

"July" by Harvey Shapiro, from The Sights Along the Harbor: New & Collected Poems. © Wesleyan, 2009.

Photography credit: Saul Santos Diaz (originally color).