Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kathleen Norris: "Imperatives"

Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it
Enter by the narrow gate
Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy
Go: be it done for you
Do not be afraid
Maiden, arise
Young man, I say, arise
Stretch out your hand
Stand up, be still
Rise, let us be going…
Remember me

"Imperatives" by Kathleen Norris, from Journey: New and Selected Poems, 1969-1999. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.

Photography credit: Untitled by (originally black and white).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Theodore Roethke: "A Light Breather"

The spirit moves,
Yet stays:
Stirs as a blossom stirs,
Still wet from its bud-sheath,
Slowly unfolding,
Turning in the light with its tendrils;
Plays as a minnow plays,
Tethered to a limp weed, swinging,
Tail around, nosing in and out of the current,
Its shadows loose, a watery finger;
Moves, like the snail,
Still inward,
Taking and embracing its surroundings,
Never wishing itself away,
Unafraid of what it is,
A music in a hood,
A small thing,

"A Light Breather" by Theodore Roethke, from The Waking: Poems, 1933-1953. © Doubleday, 1953.

Photography credit: detail from "Re-hearted," by Marianne Sormunen (originally color).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

James Hubbell: "Cathedral"

Awakening as if from a dream
I turn to the news
I hear the cracking,
the rumbling
of a cathedral falling
the footing forgotten
the stones laid carelessly.

I remember the hidden moon,
the breathing in and out of nature
And, I know that
the earth awaits
a new cathedral.
And, I know that I must
find my stone,
place it carefully
for Life waits, too.

"Cathedral" by James Hubbell. © James Hubbell. Found online at this link.

Photography credit: Detail from an image at this link taken by an unknown photographer (originally color).


Monday, October 28, 2013

Julie Cadwallader-Staub: "Midlife"

This is as far as the light
of my understanding
has carried me:
an October morning
a canoe built by hand
a quiet current

above me the trees arc
green and golden
against a cloudy sky

below me the river responds
with perfect reflection
a hundred feet deep
a hundred feet high.

To take a cup of this river
to drink its purple and gray
its golden and green

to see
a bend in the river up ahead
and still

"Midlife" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. © Julie Cadwallader-Staub.

Photography credit: Detail from "Meltausjoki Canoe Trail, Finland," by Michael van Vliet (originally color).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dorianne Laux: "Dust"

Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor—
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn't elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That's how it is sometimes—
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you're just too tired to open it.

"Dust" by Dorianne Laux, from What We Carry. © BOA Editions, 1994.

Image credit: detail of image found at this link.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stuart Kestenbaum: "In Praise of Hands"

It's not just the people
who live in the city

who've lost the thread
that ties them to the woven

world of stones and earth,
fields alive with pollen and wings.

Who among us understands
how oceans rise and fall,

currents swirling around the planet
with messages in bottles

floating on the water.
When the tide is out

we can go to the shore
dig clay with our bare hands

and make something beautiful from it,
a vessel with thin walls

that holds a canyon.
In both hands, like an offering,

we can hold the memory
of eroded stones and earth,

eons contained in this empty bowl.
We can fill it with water

that reflects the sky that has
witnessed everything since

time began, we can drink and be blessed,
clouds gathering over us.

"In Praise of Hands" by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-On Sentences. © Deerbrook Editions, 2007.

Image credit: "Potter's Hands," found at this link (originally black and white).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kirsten Dierking: "Sailing on Lake Superior"

Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.

For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.

What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren't just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?

Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we're here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.

"Sailing on Lake Superior" by Kirsten Dierking, from Northern Oracle. © Spout Press, 2007.

Photography credit: Tom Stuart (originally color).


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tami Haaland: "A Colander of Barley"

The smell, once water has rinsed it,
is like a field of ripe grain, or the grain held
in a truck, and if you climb the steel side,
one foot lodged on the hubcap, the other
on the wheel, and pull your body upward,
your hands holding to tarp hooks, and lift toes
onto the rim of the truck box, rest your ribs
against the side, you will see beetles
and grasshoppers among the hulled kernels.
Water stirs and resurrects harvest dust:
sun beating on abundance, the moist heat
of grain collected in steel, hands
plunging and lifting, the grain spilling back.

"A Colander of Barley" by Tami Haaland, from When We Wake in the Night. © WordTech Editions, 2012.  

Photography credit: detail of an image by Kalyn Denny (originally color).

Kalyn Denny
Kalyn Denny
Kalyn Denny
Kalyn Denny

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mary Oliver: "Fall Song"

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this Now, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteriesroots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stayhow everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.

"Fall Song" by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983.  

Photography credit: "Man Walking Through Dry Autumn Leaves on a Cold Day," by Stephen McCluskey (originally color).


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stephen Sondheim: "Children Will Listen"

[Curator's Note: If you can't see the viewer above, click here to watch the video.]

How do you say to your child in the night
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white?
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

How can you say to a child who's in flight
"Don't slip away and I won't hold so tight?"
What can you say that no matter how slight
Won't be misunderstood?
What do you leave to your child when you're dead?
Only whatever you put in its head
Things that your mother and father had said
Which were left to them too
Careful what you say
Children will listen
Careful you do it too
Children will see
And learn, oh guide them that step away
Children will glisten
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
"Listen to me"

"Children Will Listen" by Stephen Sondheim, from Into the Woods, a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Debuted in 1986. 

Performance here by Maria Friedman and the BBC Concert Orchestra during "Sondheim at 80" at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England, August, 2010.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "Begin"

This is now. Now is. Don’t
postpone till then. Spend
the spark of iron on stone.
Sit at the head of the table;
dip your spoon in the bowl.
Seat yourself next to your joy
and have your awakened soul
pour wine. Branches in the
spring wind, easy dance of
jasmine and cypress. Cloth
for green robes has been cut
from pure absence. You’re
the tailor, settled among his
shop goods, quietly sewing.

"Begin" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from The Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. © HarperCollins Publishers, 2001.  

Photography credit: "Rustic Spoon and Bowl," by corbisrffancy (originally color).

Mark Jarman: "Coyotes"

Is this world truly fallen? They say no.
For there's the new moon, there's the Milky Way,
There's the rattler with a wren's egg in its mouth,
And there's the panting rabbit they will eat.
They sing their wild hymn on the dark slope,
Reading the stars like notes of hilarious music.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?

And yet we're crying over the stars again,
And over the uncertainty of death,
Which we suspect will divide us all forever.
I'm tired of those who broadcast their certainties,
Constantly on their cell phones to their redeemer.
Is this a fallen world? For them it is.
But there's that starlit burst of animal laughter.

The day has sent its fires scattering.
The night has risen from its burning bed.
Our tears are proof that love is meant for life
And for the living. And this chorus of praise,
Which the pet dogs of the neighborhood are answering
Nostalgically, invites our answer, too.
Is this a fallen world? How could it be?

"Coyotes" by Mark Jarman. Published in The Atlantic (May 2003).

Photography credit: "Howling Lesson," by Debbie DeCarlo (originally color).


Sunday, October 20, 2013

William Stafford: "An Afternoon in the Stacks"

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

"An Afternoon in the Stacks" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 1998.

Photography credit: "Book Cell: the inside of a sculpture by Matej Kren," by Sabine (originally color).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rita Dove: "Flirtation"

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgwood plate.
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.

"Flirtation" by Rita Dove, from Museum. © Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1983.

Image credit: "Moonlight Topiary," by Peter Bond (originally color).


Friday, October 18, 2013

Jared Carter: "Geodes"

They are useless, there is nothing
to be done with them, no reason, only

the finding: letting myself down holding
to ironwood and the dry bristle of roots

into the creekbed, into clear water shelved
below the outcroppings, where crawdads spurt

through silt; clawing them out of clay, scrubbing
away the sand, setting them in a shaft of light

to dry. Sweat clings in the cliff's downdraft.
I take each one up like a safecracker listening

for the lapse within, the moment crystal turns
on crystal. It is all waiting there in darkness.

I want to know only that things gather themselves
with great patience, that they do this forever.

"Geodes" by Jared Carter, from Work, for the Night Is Coming. © Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1995.

Photography credit: "Amethyst Landscape," by Jenwytch (originally color).


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Juhan Liiv: "Leaves Fell"

A gust roused the waves,
leaves blew into the water,
the waves were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

It was good for my heart:
there my feelings were ash-gray,
the sky tin-gray,
ash-gray the autumn.

The breath of wind brought cooler air,
the waves of mourning brought separation:
autumn and autumn
befriend each other.

"Leaves Fell" by Juhan Liiv, translated from the Estonian by H. L. Hix and Jüri Talvet. Published in Poetry (June 2011).

Photography credit: "Leaves Floating on the Waves," still from video clip by Bote1973 (originally color).


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Miriam Pederson: "What Is Our Deepest Desire?"

To be held this way in our mother’s arms,
to be nestled deep in the warmth
of her body, her gaze,
to be adored, to overwhelm her
with our sweetness.
This is what we seek in chocolate,
in the food and drink and drugs
that stun the senses, that fill the veins
with the rich cream of well being.
What we take for lust—can it be, perhaps,
a heavy pang of longing to be swaddled,
close, close to the heartbeat of our mother?
No bucket seats, Jaccuzi, or even a lover’s embrace
can duplicate this luxuriance,
this centered place on the roiling planet.

When the old woman, small and light,
can be carried in the arms of her son,
he, at first, holds her tentatively,
a foreign doll,
but gradually, as the pool loses its ripples,
he sees his face in hers
and draws her to him,
rocking to the rhythm of her breathing.
This is the way to enter and leave the world.

"What Is Our Deepest Desire?" by Miriam Pederson, from New Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry, edited by Conrad Hilberry, Josie Kearns, Michael Delp and Donald Hall. © Wayne State University Press, 2000.

Image credit: "Saigonese mother," oil on canvas, by Pham Viet Song, 1969 (originally color).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Robert Frost: "October"

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

"October" by Robert Frost. Published online at this link.

Photography credit: "one autumn leaf hanging on," by Leo Reynolds (originally color).

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yehuda Amichai: "The Place Where We Are Right"

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

"The Place Where We Are Right" by Yehuda Amichai, from The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, edited and translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell. © University of California Press, 1996.

Image credits: Author photograph: © Dan Porges. Artwork: "Plowed Fields 1," reduction linocut, by Dave Leeper (originally color).


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kitlinermiut Song: ["And I Think Over Again"]

And I think over again
My small adventures
When from a shore wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And I thought I was in danger.

My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.

And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing.
To live and see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.

["And I Think Over Again"], a Ktlinermiut (Copper Eskimo) song, attributed to The Report of the Fifth Thule Expedition, 1921-1924, as quoted here.

Photography credit: "Arctic Sunrise," by Tiger-I (originally color).


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Anna Swir: "Priceless Gifts"

An empty day without events.
And that is why
it grew immense
as space. And suddenly
happiness of being
entered me.

I heard
in my heartbeat
the birth of time
and each instant of life
one after the other
came rushing in
like priceless gifts.

"Priceless Gifts" by Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska), from Talking to My Body, translated from the Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan. © Copper Canyon Press, 1996.

Image credit: "Plenty of Emptiness," oil on canvas, by Horacio Cardozo.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ellen Bass: "The World Has Need of You"

everything here seems to need us…

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.

"The World Has Need of You" by Ellen Bass. Published in American Poetry Review (March/April 2011).  

Photography credit: "Walking Toward the Lighthouse / Camminando verso il Faro," by Claudia Dal Ceredo, 2006 (originally black and white).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wendell Berry: "October 10"

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
loud—a landmark—now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

"October 10" by Wendell Berry, Collected Poems, 1957-1982. © North Point Press, 1987.

Image credit: "Falling Leaves," oil on canvas, by Julia Swartz (originally color).


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Edwin Romond: "In Asbury Park, NJ"

It is the end
of my first day
without a cigarette
and I’ve come here
to breathe
the ocean air, feel
my lungs fill with life
instead of smoke and,
at Asbury Park,
swear to myself
I will never again
inhale what subtracts
even one future chance
to walk this beach,
see these waves,
and feel my heart beat
to the music
of this boardwalk
carousel turning
like the earth
where tonight
I live.

"In Asbury Park, NJ" by Edwin Romond. © Edwin Romond.

Photography credit: "Beautiful Asbury Park Boardwalk," by Daniel Beard (originally black and white).

Beautiful Asbury Park Boardwalk
Beautiful Asbury Park Boardwalk

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lal Ded: Untitled ["I Was Passionate"]

I was passionate,
filled with longing,
I searched
far and wide.

But the day
that the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home.

Untitled ["I Was Passionate"] by Lal Ded, translated by Jane Hirshfield, from Women in Praise of the Sacred. © HarperCollins Publishers, 1994.

Photography credit: "Worn Blue Tennis Shoes Outside Door," by (originally color).


Monday, October 7, 2013

Malena Mörling: "Gone"

          The world
is gone
      like the exact
shape of a cloud
          or the exact shape
of a hand waving
      in the sunlight
from across
          a crowded
to another hand
          that waves back.

Come to think of it,
      everything up to now
is gone.
          And I have also
already left
      even though
I still ride
          the train
through the outskirts
      of the city.

And I still sit
          by the window,
the filthy
while what is left
          of the demolished
      go past
and the empty
and the transitory

It's amazing
          we're not
more amazed.
      The world
is here
          but then it's gone
like a wave
      traveling toward
other waves.

          Or like
the delicate white
of the Dogwood
          that float
as if there were
      no gravity,
as if there were
          no moments
isolated from
      any other

"Gone" by Malena Mörling, from Astoria: Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

Photography credit: Detail from "Left-behind children say goodbye to their migrant-working parents," by Xinhua/Ju Huanzong, 2010 (originally color).