Saturday, November 30, 2013

Barbara Crooker: "Praise Song"

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

"Praise Song" by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. © Wordpress, 2005.

Photography credit: "Dead Milkweed Leaves," by cameron
(originally black and white).


Friday, November 29, 2013

Moya Cannon: "Introductions"

Some of what we love
we stumble upon —
a purse of gold thrown on the road,
a poem, a friend, a great song.

And more
discloses itself to us —
a well among green hazels,
a nut thicket —
when we are worn out searching
for something quite different.

And more
comes to us, carried
as carefully
as a bright cup of water,
as new bread.

"Introductions" by Moya Cannon, from The Parchment Boat. © Gallery Books, 1998.  

Image credit: "Holding My Stress in a Teacup," painting by Shiloh Sophia McCloud (originally color).


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tim Nolan: "Thanksgiving"

Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—

itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all

the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six

perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio

about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—

(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—

the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets

(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles

lit on the table—the dried twigs—
the autumn leaves in the blue Chinese vase—
thanks—for the faces—our faces—in this low light.

"Thanksgiving" by Tim Nolan, from And Then. © New Rivers Press, 2012.

Photography credit: Untitled by Anita at her Bloomin' Workshop blog (originally color).


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Joy Harjo: "Perhaps the World Ends Here"

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo, from Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America, edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird. © W. W. Norton and Co., 1998.

Image credit: This oil painting has two online attributions. The first is "Prayer before Meal," by Vicente Manansala (originally color). The other is "Family Prayer," by Fay Ocampo. If you have definitive knowledge about the artist, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jane Kenyon: "Happiness"

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                     It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

"Happiness" by Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 2005.  

Image credit: "Prodigal Son," oil on canvas, by Oleg Korolev (originally color).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Antonio Machado: "Walker"

Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never
again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

"Walker" by Antonio Machado, from Border of a Dream: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, edited and translated from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone. © Copper Canyon Press, 2003.

Photography credit: Detail of foam trails, from an untitled image by Faliriotissa (originally color).

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gregory Orr: Untitled ["This Is What Was Bequeathed Us"]

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

Untitled ["This Is What Was Bequeathed Us"], from How Beautiful the Beloved. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009.

Image credit: Untitled by DigitalVision, Ltd. (originally color).


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ellen Bass: "Remodeling the Bathroom"

If this were the last
day of my life, I wouldn't complain
about the shower curtain rod
in the wrong place, even though
it's drilled into the tiles.
Nor would I fret
over water marks on the apricot
satin finish paint, half sick
that I should have used semigloss. No.
I'd stand in the doorway
watching sun glint
off the chrome faucet, breathing in
the silicone smell. I'd wonder
at the plumber, as he adjusted the hot
and cold water knobs. I'd stare
at the creases behind his ears and the gray
flecks in his stubble. I'd have to hold
myself back from touching him. Or maybe
I wouldn't. Maybe I'd stroke
his cheek and study
his eyes the amber of cellos, his rumpled
brow, the tiny garnet
threads of capillaries, his lips
resting together, quiet as old friends—
I'd gaze at him
as though his were the first
face I'd ever seen.

"Remodeling the Bathroom" by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love. © BOA Editions, 2002.

Photography credit: Detail from an image found online at this link (originally color).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hilda Morley: "New York Subway"

The beauty of people in the subway
that evening, Saturday, holding the door for whoever
was slower or
left behind
                   (even with
                   all that Saturday-night
& the high-school boys from Queens, boasting,
joking together
proudly in their expectations
& power,       young frolicsome
          & the three office-girls
each strangely beautiful,             the Indian
with dark skin & the girl with her haircut
very short and fringed, like Joan
at the stake,             the corners
of her mouth laughing
                                 & the black girl delicate
as a doe, dark-brown in pale-brown clothes
& the tall woman in a long caftan, the other day,
serene & serious        & the Puerto Rican
holding the door for more than 3 minutes for
the feeble, crippled, hunched little man who
could not raise his head,
                                      whose hand I held, to
help him into the subway-car—
                                                    so we were
joined in helping him               & someone,
seeing us, gives up his seat,
from us what we had learned from each other.

 "New York Subway" by Hilda Morley, from To Hold My Hand: Selected Poems 1955-1983. © The Sheep Meadow Press, 1983.

Photography credit: "Old Man on Subway," acrylic on canvas, by Leonardo Ruggieri.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

David Shumate: "Shooting the Horse"

I unlatch the stall door, step inside, and stroke the silky neck
of the old mare like a lover about to leave. I take an ear in
hand, fold it over, and run my fingers across her muzzle. I
coax her head up so I can blow into those nostrils. All part of
the routine we taught each other long ago. I turn a half turn,
pull a pistol from my coat, raise it to that long brow with the
white blaze and place it between her sleepy eyes. I clear my
throat. A sound much louder than it should be. I squeeze the
trigger and the horse's feet fly out from under her as gravity
gives way to a force even more austere, which we have named

"Shooting the Horse" by David Shumate, from High Water Mark. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.

Photography credit: "Horse Eye," by Dimitar Hristov (originally color).


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Li Po: "Zazen on Ching-t'ing Mountain"

                                    The birds have vanished down the sky.
                                    Now the last cloud drains away.

                                    We sit together, the mountain and me,
                                    until only the mountain remains.

"Zazen on Ching-t'ing Mountain" by Li Po, translated from the Chinese by Sam Hamill. Published in Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, edited by Sam Hamill. © BOA Editions, 2000.

Photography credit: "Zhangziajie, China, 2012," by Lydia Goetze (originally black and white).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

David Whyte: "Everything Is Waiting for You"

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

"Everything Is Waiting for You" by David Whyte, from Everything Is Waiting for You. © Many Rivers Press, 2003.

Image credit: "Pots and Pans," oil on canvas, by Hazel Ferrie (originally color).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yunus Emre: Untitled ["A Single Word Can Brighten the Face"]

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words –
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

Untitled ["A Single Word Can Brighten the Face"], by Yunus Emre, from The Drop That Became the Sea: Lyric Poems, translated from the Turkish and edited by Kabir Helminski and Refik Algan. © Shambhala, 1999.

Image credit: "Close to Silence: Sacred Geometry Animation," part of a performance artwork by Fawzia Reda (originally black and white).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Adelaide Crapsey: "November Night"

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

"November Night," by Adelaide Crapsey, from The Complete Poems and Collected Letters of Adelaide Crapsey. Edited by Susan Sutton Smith. © State University of New York Press, 1977.

Photography credit: "Melting Frost on Cottonwood Leaves," by Jenny E. Ross (originally color).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kay Ryan: "Stardust"

Stardust is
the hardest thing
to hold out for.
You must
make of yourself
a perfect plane—
something still
upon which
something settles—
something like
sugar grains on
something like
metal, but with
none of the chill.
It’s hard to explain.

"Stardust" by Kay Ryan, from The Niagara River. © Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2005.

Photography credit: From a work in progress entitled "Stardust," by graphic designer Rosa Hernández (originally color).


Friday, November 15, 2013

Jeanne Lohmann: "What the Day Gives"

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back,

Across the street the fiery trees
hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months
of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles.

In the frozen fields of my life
there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers
they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair
to hope and back again, I commend my life
to Ruskin’s difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage,
to be happy.

"What the Day Gives," by Jeanne Lohmann, from The Light of Invisible Bodies: Poems. © Daniel and Daniel Publishing, 2003.

Photography credit: "Dance of the Migration," by Jan Piller (originally black and white).


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye: "Sifter"

When our English teacher gave
our first writing invitation of the year,
Become a kitchen implement
in 2 descriptive paragraphs, I did not think
butcher knife or frying pan,
I thought immediately
of soft flour showering throught the little holes
of the sifter and the sifter’s pleasing circular
swishing sound, and wrote it down. 
Rhoda became a teaspoon,
Roberto a funnel,
Jim a muffin tin
and Forrest a soup pot. 
We read our paragraphs out loud.
Abby was a blender.  Everyone laughed
and acted but the more we thought about it,
we were all everything in the whole kitchen,
drawers and drainers,
singing teapot and grapefruit spoon
with serrated edges, we were all the
empty cup, the tray. 
This, said our teacher, is the beauty of metaphor.
It opens doors.
What I could not know then
was how being a sifter
would help me all year long.
When bad days came
I would close my eyes and feel them passing
through the tiny holes.
When good days came
I would try to contain them gently
the way flour remains
in the sifter until you turn the handle.
Time, time.  I was a sweet sifter in time
and no one ever knew.

"Sifter" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from A Maze Me: Poems for Girls. © Greenwillow Books, 2005.  

Photography credit: "A person sifting bromated flour," found at this link (originally color).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jane Hirshfield: "A Room"

A room does not turn its back on grief.
Anger does not excite it.
Before desire, it neither responds
nor draws back in fear.

Without changing expression,
it takes
and gives back;
not a tuft in the mattress alters.

Windowsills evenly welcome
both heat and cold.
Radiators speak or fall silent as they must.

Doors are not equivocal,
floorboards do not hesitate or startle.
Impatience does not stir the curtains,
a bed is neither irritable nor rapacious.

Whatever disquiet we sense in a room
we have brought there.

And so I instruct my ribs each morning,
pointing to hinge and plaster and wood

          You are matter, as they are.
          See how perfectly it can be done.
          Hold, one day more, what is asked.           

"A Room" by Jane Hirshfield, from The Lives of the Heart. © Harper Perennial, 1997.

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


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Denise Levertov: "Talking to Grief"

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

"Talking to Grief" by Denise Levertov, from Poems 1972-1982. © New Directions, 2001.

Photography credit: "The Intimacy of Dog Paw and Human Hand," by Clifford Sax (originally black and white).


Monday, November 11, 2013

Edward Thomas: "After Rain"

The rain of a night and a day and a night
Stops at the light
Of this pale choked day. The peering sun
Sees what has been done.
The road under the trees has a border new
Of purple hue
Inside the border of bright thin grass:
For all that has
Been left by November of leaves is torn
From hazel and thorn
And the greater trees. Throughout the copse
No dead leaf drops
On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,
At the wind's return:
The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed
Are thinly spread
In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,
As if they played.
What hangs from the myriad branches down there
So hard and bare
Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see
On one crab-tree.
And on each twig of every tree in the dell
Crystals both dark and bright of the rain
That begins again.

"After Rain" by Edward Thomas, from Selected Poems of Edward Thomas, edited by Michael Hollis. © Faber and Faber, 2011.  

Photography credit: Untitled image by Robyn Hanson (originally color).


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jeffrey Harrison: "Enough"

It’s a gift, this cloudless November morning
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you’ve never said circling inside you.
It’s the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.

"Enough" by Jeffrey Harrison, from The Essential Rumi. © Jeffrey Harrison. Found online at this link.

Photography credit: "Autumn Leaves Swirl," by (originally color).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Osage Chant: "Planting Chant"

I made a footprint: it is sacred.
I made a footprint: small green specks push through it.
I made a footprint: new green blades push upward.
I made a footprint: above it, blades wave in the breeze.
I made a footprint: over it grow new stalks.
I made a footprint: above it the blossoms lie gray.
I made a footprint: smoke rises from my house.
I made a footprint: there is laughter in my house.
I made a footprint: my family lives in good health.

"Planting Chant," an Osage chant, from Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Wisdom Through the Ages, edited by Mary Ford-Grabowsky. © HarperOne, 2002.

Photography credit: Untitled, by John Kugler (originally color and horizontal).


Friday, November 8, 2013

Michael Van Walleghen: "The Long Continuous Line"

When eating fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.

                                                      —Vietnamese Proverb 

When I was nine my grandpa gave me an apple tree
in his orchard   This one is yours   he said
It breathes the same air as you and me   Every time
you touch a tree you become part of the story of the earth
I didn’t know what it meant to own a tree
There was something overwhelming about a gift
that belonged to the earth   but I loved that tree
and the past into which it has gone   The nurturing
fragrance of apple blossoms   bees wild with delight
my touch-and-know of branches blessed by wind
and rain    moon and sun   My tree   My very own tree
giving its fruit without me even asking    Grandpa
and me sitting in the grass   leaning against my tree
listening to the rustling murmur of leaves   watching
a flock of geese measuring the sky   distant sounds
that could be words   I loved the quiet unfolding
between us    each of us taking a bite into the sweet
sacrament of an apple   its tight red skin
hugging a generous white heart   and tucked inside
a little star-house of seeds   The only smell better than
those first white blossoms was the autumn tumble
of windfalls    the warm smell of pie baking
in grandma’s oven and applesauce spiced with cinnamon
I knew that tree   the whole taste of it   and all of its
luminous gifts like seeds in my pocket   So much gets
lost in the echoes and loneliness of memory
our hunger for roots   our need for steadiness    the promise
of tomorrow   Even now when I hold the round red
universe of an apple in the palm of my hand   I can still
lean against that apple tree and the man who planted it

"The Long Continuous Line," by Michael Van Walleghen, from In the Black Window: New and Selected Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Photography credit: Detail of a photo found at this link (originally color).


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Alberto Caeiro: "Discontinuous Poems"

The frightful reality of things
Is my everyday discovery.
Each thing is what it is.
How can I explain to anyone how much
I rejoice over this, and find it enough?

To be whole, it is enough to exist.

I have written quite a number of poems
And may write many more, of course.
Each poem of mine explains it,
Though all my poems are different,
Because each thing that exists is always proclaiming it.

Sometimes I busy myself with watching a stone,
I don't begin thinking whether it feels.
I don't force myself to call it my sister,

But I enjoy it because of its being a stone,
I enjoy it because it feels nothing,
I enjoy it because it is not at all related to me.

At times I also hear the wind blow by
And find that merely to hear the wind blow makes
          it worth having been born.

I don't know what others will think who read this;
But I find it must be good because I think it
         without effort,
And without the idea of others hearing me think,
Because I think it without thoughts,
Because I say it as my words say it.

Once they called me a materialist poet
And I admired myself because I never thought
That I might be called by any name at all.
I am not even a poet: I see.
If what I write has any value, it is not I who am
The value is there, in my verses.
All this has nothing whatever to do with any will
       of mine.

"Discontinuous Poems" by Alberto Caeiro. Translated from the Portuguese by Edouard Roditi. Published in Poetry (October, 1955).

Photography credit: "Wind-Battered Tree and a Stone Wall," by aquaswim (originally color).


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Irving Feldman: "How Wonderful"

How wonderful to be understood,
to just sit here while some kind person
relieves you of the awful burden
of having to explain yourself, of having
to find other words to say what you meant,
or what you think you thought you meant,
and of the worse burden of finding no words,
of being struck dumb . . . because some bright person
has found just the right words for you—and you
have only to sit here and be grateful
for words so quiet so discerning they seem
not words but literate light, in which
your merely lucid blossomiong grows lustrous.
How wonderful that is!

And how altogether wonderful it is
not to be understood, not at all, to, well,
just sit here while someone not unkindly
is saying those impossibly wrong things,
or quite possbily they’re the right things
if you are, which you’re not, that somone
—a difference, finally, so indifferent
it would be conceit not to let it pass,
unkindness, really, to spoil someone’s fun.
And so you don’t mind, you welcome the umbrage
of those high murmurings over your head,
having found, after all, you are grateful
—and you understand this, how wonderful!—
that you’ve been led to be quietly yourself,
like a root growing wise in darkness
under the light litter, the falling words.

"How Wonderful" by Irving Feldman, from Collected Poems: 1954-2004. © Schocken Books, 2004.

Image credit: "Cafe Conversation," oil on canvas, by L C Neill (originally color).