Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kenneth Patchen: "At the New Year"

In the shape of this night, in the still fall
          of snow, Father
In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds
          and children
In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys
          and the lovers, Father
In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise
          of our cities
In this deep throw of stars, in those trenches
          where the dead are, Father
In all the wide land waiting, and in the liners
          out on the black water
In all that has been said bravely, in all that is
          mean anywhere in the world, Father
In all that is good and lovely, in every house
          where sham and hatred are
In the name of those who wait, in the sound
          of angry voices, Father
Before the bells ring, before this little point in time
          has rushed us on
Before this clean moment has gone, before this night
          turns to face tomorrow, Father
There is this high singing in the air
Forever this sorrowful human face in eternity’s window
And there are other bells that we would ring, Father
Other bells that we would ring.

"At the New Year" by Kenneth Patchen. Text as published in Collected Poems (fifth edition, New Directions Publishing, 1968).

Art credit: Photograph taken on December 13, 2012 by Poupetta aka Ann. Caption: "Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.—Leonard Cohen."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Jane Hirshfield: "The Kingdom"

At times
the heart
stands back
and looks at the body,
looks at the mind,
as a lion
quietly looks
at the not-quite-itself,
moving of shadows and grass.

Wary, but with interest,
considers its kingdom.

Then seeing
all that will be,
heart once again enters—
enters hunger, enters sorrow,
enters finally losing it all.
To know, if nothing else,
what it once owned.

"The Kingdom" by Jane Hirshfield. Text as published in The October Palace: Poems (Harper Perennial, 1994).  

Art credit: Untitled photograph by © Scott W. Rouse.

Monday, December 29, 2014

William Stafford: "Being a Person"

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.

A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.

Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone's dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn't be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.

"Being a Person" by William Stafford. Text as published in Even in Quiet Places: Poems (Confluence Press, 2010).

Art credit: Untitled photograph from a series called "Alternative Perspectives 1" by Randy Scott Slavin. His spherical panoramic images of cityscapes and landscapes are created by stitching together hundreds of photographs.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bruce Dethlefsen: "White Stallions"

the children of the street
must see themselves
in the greasy puddles of the forenoon
in the sundown storefront windows
in the luster of the shoes they shine

must see themselves
in the reflection of a customer’s sunglasses
in the tears of the old women
in the shadow of the bus

the children of the street
must see themselves
flying purple kites on sunny beaches
dining with the family after church
riding white stallions

the children of the street
must see themselves

"White Stallions" by Bruce Dethlefsen. Text as published in Unexpected Shiny Things: Poems (Cowfeather Press, 2011). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Easy," photograph by Amber Henshaw. Part of a series posted by BBC News entitled "Photo journal: Ethiopia shoe-shine girl." Caption: "Meskerem, 12, is one of the few shoe-shine girls in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Max Reif: "Still Point"

Leaving home
for work
each day

I hear the trees
say "What’s your hurry?"

Rooted, they
don’t understand

how in my world
we have to rush
to keep in step.

I haven’t even time
to stop and tell them
how on weekends, too,
schedules wait
like nets.

It’s only on a sick day
when I have to venture out
to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,
there in all their fullness
in a world unpatterned

full of moments,
full of spaces,
every space
a choice.

This day
has not
been turned yet
on the lathe

this day
lies open, light
and shadow. Breath
fills the body easily.
I step

into a world
waiting like
a quiet lover.

"Still Point" by Max Reif. Text as published in Everyday Music: Recent Poems. © 2009 Max Reif. Used with permission of the poet. To read more of Max Reif's writings, go to Faith of an Artist—The Writings of Max Reif.

Art credit: Untitled photograph uploaded May 1, 2013, by Eric Benjamin.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dana Wildsmith: "Evening Song with Max"

Nightly after supper this boy
naps on my lap
for an hour, his flopsy body
weighty and warm as a new robe;
both of us heavy-headed,
our bellies full as prayer lists,
breathing in turn
like pewmates in an evensong choir;
his breath, my breath,
sustaining the tone,
helping a peaceable night come on.

"Evening Song with Max" by Dana Wildsmith. Text as published in Our Bodies Remember (Sow's Ear Press, 1999), used here with permission of the poet. In addition to her website, visit her blog.

Art credit: "Black and white portrait of old man sitting on armchair with small dog sleeping on lap," photograph by Carlos Ciudad Trilla, uploaded January 31, 2010.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Al Zolynas: "Waiting for the Present"

I would sit in the dimness
of my father's wooden toolshed
waiting for the mice
to come out and feed
on the wheat we kept
in a hundred-pound sack for the chickens.

I kept silence, refusing
even to swallow, hoping the thud
of my heart wouldn't betray me.
The only way to the sack
was over my still body.

Outside, it was Australia,
Christmas, summer holidays—
the heat unbearable to all but reptiles
and schoolboys, and the mice
who lived their small, secret lives.

When the first mouse
nosed up the unfamiliar landscape
of my body, motes of dust
floating in the beams of light
that streamed in from the cracks in the wall
exploded minutely.

After hours of sitting
through the long summer, motionless,
alert, though my limbs were asleep,
the mice accepted me.
I simply became the way to their food.
Once, as many as a dozen were on me,
each carrying a single, precious grain.

Now, years later, I find myself still
sitting in the dim light,
legs locked in meditation, monkey-mind
swinging between imagined past and imagined future,
waiting for that most obvious of hiddens,
the ungraspable present.

"Waiting for the Present" by Al Zolynas. Text as published in Under Ideal Conditions: Poems (Laterthanever Press, 1994; no bookseller link available). Reprinted with permission.

Art credit: "Mouse Hole," photograph by Olivier Le Queinec.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

May Sarton: "Christmas Light"

When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!

And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love's presence near.

Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.

"Christmas Light" by May Sarton. Text as published in Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W. W. Norton, 1993).

Art credit: Image by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Etta Blum: "I Am the Tree"

I am the tree ascending.
At the topmost branch
I’ve become the bird,
starting from tip to
climb into above.
ward, cloud.
                    Why not?
My purposes are clear.

"I Am the Tree" by Etta Blum. Text as published in The Space My Body Fills: Poems (Exposition Press, 1975).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Anna George Meek: "An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime"

Cream of Tartar, commonly used to lift meringue and
angel food cake, is actually made from crystallized fine wine.

After they stopped singing for him,
the carolers became transparent in the dark,
and he stepped into their emptiness to say
he lost his wife last week, please
sing again. Their voices filled with gold.
Last week, his fedora nodded hello to me
on the sidewalk, and the fragile breath
of kindness that passed between us
made something sweet of a morning
that had frightened me for no earthly reason.
Surely, you know this by another name:
the mysteries we intake, exhale, could be
sitting on our shelves, left on the bus seat
beside us. Don't wash your hands.
You fingered them at the supermarket,
gave them to the cashier; intoxicated tonight,
she'll sing in the streets. Think of the old man.
Who knew he kept the secret of levitation,
transference, and lightness filling a winter night?
—an effortless, crystalline powder
that could almost seem transfigured from loss.

"An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime" by Anna George Meek. Text as published in Acts of Contortion (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002).

Art credit: "Snow Walk," photograph taken in Sarajevo by Eldar Sarajlić.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dolores Stewart Riccio: "At the Winter Solstice"

Owl hoots three times in the far woods,
fair warning for all small creatures
scurrying to their burrows.

Are we not still and always
those crouching figures
who flee the heavenly alchemy?
Three times in the crackling air,
Owl hoots for us.

Wind plays the drums of snow...
staccato taps,
crescendo off the roofs,
flourish of shuddering branches.
Ice snaps its castanets,
its daggers.

Atonal music of the darkest days
needs the most fearless,
subtle listeners.

Those strumming flamenco
fingers of sunlight
are a long time away from now.

Now we go comforted
in dreams and ceremonies,
flaming our star-speck candles,
raising our voices against that other music,
drowning out the forever
at night’s heart.

Look up! The wheel is turning.
The spectacular crowd of stars,
the tangle of dimensions
jostle for our attention.
Salute the birth of everything holy.

"At the Winter Solstice" by Dolores Stewart Riccio, from Doors to the Universe: Poems (Bellowing Ark Press, 2008; no bookseller link available). Text presented here as posted on Beyond the Fields We Know.  

Art credit: "Pleiades Star Cluster (NGC 1432/35)," photograph by Hubble Space Telescope.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Laura Davies Foley: "To See It"

We need to separate to see
the life we’ve made.
We need to leave our house
where someone waits for us, patiently,
warm beneath the sheets.
We need to don a sweater, a coat, mittens,
wrap a scarf around our neck,
stride down the road,
a cold winter morning,
and turn our head back,
to see it—perched
on the top of the hill, our life
lit from inside.

"To See It" by Laura Davies Foley. Presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: "Footprints in snow," photograph taken on January 27, 2007 by CC/Flickr/Andrei Niemimäki.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gary Johnson: "December"

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
          Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
          And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

"December" by Gary Johnson. Text as published online by The Writer's Almanac (December 22, 2011).

Art credit: "Mother and Child Abstract," photograph by

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gil Hedley: "Living Testament"

Your body
is a holy book,
a scripture—

the pages
of your flesh
are marked
in exquisite detail
with the finest hand,

inscribed by spirit
with the poetry
of love,
lessons of mercy,
angelic hosts,

and the story
of your life
perfectly told,

an illuminated manuscript
of a sacred writing
epic in scope,
and grace.

Every hair
on your head
and line on your face,
every rushing tide
of wind and wave
moving you
from within
this living testament
bear witness
to the truth
within you—

Study this text
with conviction then,
reflect with care
upon its meaning,
and enjoy
the divine

"Living Testament" by Gil Hedley, from Beyond the Leaving (2011). Reprinted with permission of the poet.

Art credit: Study of hands by Leonardo da Vinci.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kathleen Raine: "I Believe Nothing"

I believe nothing—what need
Surrounded as I am with marvels of what is,
This familiar room, books, shabby carpet on the floor,
Autumn yellow jasmine, chrysanthemums, my mother's flower,
Earth-scent of memories, daily miracles,
Yet media-people ask, "Is there a God?"
What does the word mean
To the fish in his ocean, birds
In his skies, and stars?
I only know that when I turn in sleep
Into the invisible, it seems
I am upheld by love, and what seems is
Inexplicable here and now of joy and sorrow,
This inexhaustible, untidy world—
I would not have it otherwise.

"I Believe Nothing" by Kathleen Raine. Text as published in The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine (Counterpoint, 2001).  

Art credit: "Winter Chrysanthemums," oil on panel, by Kate Sammons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Federico Moramarco: "One Hundred and Eighty Degrees"

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you've done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you've not done this, you probably don't understand this poem,
or think it's not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day's time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you've arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you're open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.

"One Hundred and Eighty Degrees" by Federico Moramarco. Text as published in "Is Democratic Debate Any Longer Possible?", posted on (August 4, 2009). © Federico Moramarco.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mark Svenvold: "Relearning Winter"

Hello Winter, hello flanneled
blanket of clouds, clouds
fueled by more clouds, hello again.

Hello afternoons,
off to the west, that silver
of sunset, rust-colored
and gone too soon.

And night (I admit to a short memory)
you climb back in with chilly fingers
and clocks, and there is no refusal:
ice cracks the water main, the garden hose
stiffens, the bladed leaves of the rhododendron
shine in the fog of a huge moon.

And rain, street lacquer,
oily puddles and spinning rubber,
mist of angels on the head of a pin,

and snow, upside-down cake of clouds,
white, freon scent, you build
even as you empty the world of texture—
hello to this new relief,
this new solitude now upon us,
upon which we feed.

"Relearning Winter" by Mark Svenvold. Text as published in Soul Data: Poems. (University of North Texas Press, 1998).

Art credit: "Black Ice," photograph taken on January 31, 2011, by © Alexander Ipfelkofer.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wendell Berry: "Be Still in Haste"

                                                     How quietly I
                                                     begin again

                                                     from this moment
                                                     looking at the
                                                     clock, I start over

                                                     so much time has
                                                     passed, and is equaled
                                                     by whatever
                                                     split-second is present

                                                     from this
                                                     moment this moment
                                                     is the first

"Be Still in Haste" by Wendell Berry. Text as published in Poetry (September 1962).

Art credit: "Alarm clock on a swing in surreal landscape," image by  © Red Edge / Ian Barber.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Richard Schiffman: "Gray Scale"

Nobody loves such days,
everything smudged in powdered lead,
the whites all off, the blacks dull
like the bad side of a mirror.
Yet in a world of shadows
what matters are not the highlights
but the shades of grays.
This river, for instance, a sooty snake
mirroring an oatmeal sky.
But watch it eddy and swirl,
and gradually the lead turns silver, begins
to blaze from within, as if begging the sun
to bust out of its straight-jacket.
And shine. Which the sun very nearly does.
But in the end, it can’t be bothered.
It says, Sparkle yourself.
And eventually we do. Van Gogh returns
to the sea-light of his youth.
Sews the ear back on.
Trades his magentas and cyans
for a # 2 pencil. It is all in the shading,
he realizes. The pursuit of raging hues
was madness. God, no longer
in the rainbowed flame,
but in this wan, uncertain earthlight:
this almost-shimmer on a river.
Whatever plain brown paper wrapper
the day comes in.

"Gray Scale" by Richard Schiffman. Text as published in Grey Sparrow Journal (Summer 2014). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "The river in black and white," photograph taken on May 1, 2010, by R Casey.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Albert Huffstickler: "The Way of Art"

It seems to me that
paralleling the paths of action, devotion, etc.,
       there is a path called art
       and that the sages of the East would recognize
       Faulkner, Edward Hopper, Beethoven, William Carlos Williams
       and address them as equals.
       It's a matter of attention and discipline, isn't it?—
combined with a certain God-given ability.
       It's what you're willing to go through, willing to give, isn't it?
       It's the willingness to be a window
       through which others can see
       all the way out to infinity
       and all the way back to themselves.

"The Way of Art" by Albert Huffstickler. Text as published in Why I Write in Coffee Houses and Diners: Selected Poems (Authors Choice Press, 2000).

Art credit: "Delicate Arch, Arches National Park [Utah]," photograph by Thomas Piekunka.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gregory Orr: Untitled ["Let's remake the world with words"]

Let's remake the world with words.
Not frivolously, nor
To hide from what we fear,
But with a purpose.
As Wordsworth said, remove
"The dust of custom" so things
Shine again, each object arrayed
In its robe of original light.

And then we'll see the world
As if for the first time.
As once we gazed at the beloved
Who was gazing at us.

Untitled ["Let's remake the world with words"] by Gregory Orr. Text as published in Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2012).

Art credit: "Dusty room with visible rays," synthesized image by Chien-Yu Chen.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kirsten Dierking: "Shoveling Snow"

If day after day I was caught inside
this muffle and hush

I would notice how birches
move with a lovely hum of spirits,

how falling snow is a privacy
warm as the space for sleeping,

how radiant snow is a dream
like leaving behind the body

and rising into that luminous place
where sometimes you meet

the people you've lost. How
silver branches scrawl their names

in tangled script against the white.
How the curves and cheekbones

of all my loved ones appear
in the polished marble of drifts.

"Shoveling Snow" by Kirsten Dierking. Text as published in Northern Oracle: Poems (Spout Press, 2007). Reprinted with permission.

Art credit: "Snow Drift," from a set of photographs of "nature's faces" by hvila (slightly altered by curator).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Robyn Sarah: "Zero Holding"

I grow to like the bare
trees and the snow, the bones and fur
of winter. Even the greyness
of the nunneries, they are so grey,
walled all around with grey stones—
and the snow piled up on ledges
of wall and sill, those grey
planes for holding snow: this is how
it will be, months now, all so still,
sunk in itself, only the cold alive,
vibrant, like a wire—and all the
busy chimneys—their ghost-breath,
a rumour of lives warmed within,
rising, rising, and blowing away.

"Zero Holding" by Robyn Sarah, from The Touchstone: Poems New and Selected (House of Anansi Press, 1992). © Robyn Sarah, reprinted with permission.  

Art credit: "Smoke rises from chimneys on a cold winter morning near Weimar, central Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012," photograph by © AP.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Francis of Assisi: "Wring Out My Clothes"

                                             Such love does
                                             the sky now pour,
                                             that whenever I stand in a field,

                                             I have to wring out the light
                                             when I get

"Wring Out My Clothes" by Francis of Assisi. Text as published in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, edited by Daniel Ladinsky (Penguin Books, 2002).  

Art credit: "Young man in flower field at snow falling," photograph by © Ian W. Iott.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Jeannie E. Roberts: "Attend Your Bounty"

Shrouded in fog,
along this narrow loam,

redwoods rise,
hundreds of feet high,

some home to marbled
murrelet and leatherleaf

fern. Coastal giants
crown these mountains,

grace gullies, give refuge
to black bear, to spotted owl.

Where long ago
the Tolowa thrived,

carved canoes, speared
salmon, honored this forest,

this canopy, gave thanks,
so you with your bounty,

can take refuge in knowing,
here, now, like the Tolowa,

the present provides
when you honor

your journey, listen
to its voice, give thanks,

and attend each day
as if it were

your only.

"Attend Your Bounty" by Jeannie E. Roberts. Text as published in Nature of It All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Redwoods in the Fog," photograph by Don Bain.