Friday, February 28, 2014

Rainer Maria Rilke: Untitled ["I Love the Dark Hours of My Being"]

I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless.

So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots

a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.

Untitled ["I Love the Dark Hours of My Being"] by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated from the German by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. © Riverhead, 1997.

Photography credit: "Infrared Cherry Tree Gravestone," infrared image by Deborah Sandidge. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Marilyn Annucci: "D"

D no longer busies himself

with calendars, refuses

to track what he has and has not

done. D has become

Buddha without desire

to be Buddha.

D floats like a cumulus cloud

far from O.

"D" by Marilyn Annucci. © Marilyn Annucci. Published here via poet submission.

Photography credit: "Lone Cloud," by Ann Cutting (originally color).


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Horace: "Ode I. 11"

Leucon, no one’s allowed to know his fate,
Not you, not me: don’t ask, don’t hunt for answers
In tea leaves or palms. Be patient with whatever comes.
This could be our last winter, it could be many
More, pounding the Tuscan Sea on these rocks:
Do what you must, be wise, cut your vines
And forget about hope. Time goes running, even
As we talk. Take the present, the future’s no one’s affair.

"Ode I. 11" by Horace, from The Essential Horace: Odes, Epodes, Satires and Epistles, edited and translated from the Latin by Burton Raffel. © Northpoint Press, 1983.

Photography credit: "Tuscan beach in winter," by Alexandra M. Korey (originally color).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ted Kooser: "On the Road"

By the toe of my boot,
a pebble of quartz,
one drop of the earth’s milk,
dirty and cold.
I held it to the light
and could almost see through it
into the grand explanation.
Put it back, something told me,
put it back and keep walking. 

"On the Road" by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press, 2004.  

Photography credit: "Rutilated Quartz," by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Monday, February 24, 2014

Eloise Greenfield: "In the Land of Words"

In the land
of words,
I stand as still
as a tree
and let the words
rain down on me.
Come, rain, bring
your knowledge and your
music. Sing
while I grow green
and full.
I’ll stand as still
as a tree,
and let your blessings
fall on me.

"In the Land of Words" by Eloise Greenfield, from In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems. © Amistad, 2003.

Image credit: Untitled image found at this link, likely created by the blogger Tina Marie (originally color).


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eve Merriam: "Reply to the Question: `How Can You Become a Poet?'"

take the leaf of a tree
trace its exact shape
the outside edges
and inner lines

memorize the way it is fastened to the twig
(and how the twig arches from the branch)
how it springs forth in April
how it is panoplied in July

by late August
crumple it in your hand
so that you smell its end-of-summer sadness

chew its woody stem

listen to its autumn rattle

watch it as it atomizes in the November air

then in winter
when there is no leaf left

                 invent one

"Reply to the Question: `How Can You Become a Poet?'" by Eve Merriam, from Rainbow Writing. © Atheneum, 1976.

Image credit: "Bougainvillea Leaf in Yellow," "developed [from a photograph] using photo editing software," by (originally color).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Susan Coolidge: "New Every Morning"

                                       Every day is a fresh beginning,
                                       Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
                                            And, in spite of all sorrows
                                            And older sinning,
                                            Troubles forecasted
                                            And possible pain,
                                       Take heart with the day and begin again.

"New Every Morning" by Susan Coolidge (Sarah Chauncey Woolsey). From Winning Words: Inspiring Poems for Everyday Life, edited by William Sieghart. © Faber & Faber, 2012.

Image credit: "Sunrise," acrylic on canvas, by Miri Lavee (originally color).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Carlos Drummond de Andrade: "In the Middle of the Road"

In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

Never should I forget this event
in the life of my fatigued retinas.
Never should I forget that in the middle of the road
there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

"In the Middle of the Road" by Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Bishop and published in her Complete Poems: 1927-1979.  © Noonday Press, 1983.

Photography credit: "Slovenia Rock on the Road," by (originally color).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Walt Whitman: "O Me! O Life!"

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

"O Me! O Life!" by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass (1892 edition). © Penguin, 2013.

Photography credit: "Protesters Blur By," taken by Geraint Rowland on July 12, 2012, in Lima, Peru (originally a "desaturation edit").


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Michael Van Walleghen: "Happiness"

Weep for what little things could make them glad.
—Robert Frost, "Directive"

     the large collie
who lives in the red house
at the end of my daily run
is happy,
     happy to see me
even now,
     in February—
a month of low skies
and slowly melting snow.

His yard
     has turned almost
entirely to mud—
          but so what?

     as if to please me,
he has torn apart
          and scattered
     a yellow plastic bucket
the color of forsythia
or daffodils . . .

          And now,
in a transport
          of cross-eyed
muddy ecstasy,
          he has placed
his filthy two front paws
     on the top pipe
of his sagging cyclone fence—

drooling a little,
          his tail
wagging furiously,
          until finally,
as if I were God's angel himself—

with news of the Resurrection,
I give him a biscuit

Which is fine with Melvin—
who is wise,
     by whole epochs
of evolution,
     beyond his years.

     what you can get,
that's his motto . . .

          And really,
apropos of bliss,
and the true rapture,
          what saint
could tell us half as much?

Even as he drops
          back down
into the cold
          dog-shit muck
he'll have to live in
          every day
for weeks on end perhaps
unless it freezes . . .

whining now,
     as I turn away
     to leave him there

the same today
          as yesterday—

one of the truly wretched
of this earth
     whose happiness
is almost more
          than I can bear.

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

Photography credit: "Collie at Winter Time," by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Carol Ann Duffy: "Prayer"

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer—
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.*

*[Curator's note: These last words are from the "Shipping Forecast," a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the British Isles. Rockall, Malin, Dogger and Finisterre are four "sea areas." My friend Mary O'Connor, a poet born in Ireland, tells me the "Shipping Forecast" is "often the last thing on BBC Radio between midnight and two."]

"Prayer" by Carol Ann Duffy, from Mean Time. © Anvil Press Poetry, 2004.

Photography credit: Detail from "Man watching people go by," by stefg74, Greece, 2010 (originally black and white).

Monday, February 17, 2014

R. S. Thomas: "The Other"

There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.

"The Other" by R. S. Thomas, from The Echoes Return Slow. © Macmillan, 1988.

Photography credit: "Earth - Wave Wallpaper," by darkness (originally color).


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Juan Ramón Jiménez: "I Am Not I"

                                 I am not I.
                                                     I am this one
                                 walking beside me whom I do not see,
                                 whom at times I manage to visit,
                                 and whom at other times I forget;
                                 who remains calm and silent while I talk,
                                 and forgives, gently, when I hate,
                                 who walks where I am not,
                                 who will remain standing when I die.

"I Am Not I" by Juan Ramón Jiménez, from Lorca and Jimenez: Selected Poems. Translated from the Spanish by Robert Bly. © Beacon Press, 1973.

Image credit: Untitled painting in a series titled "I Am Not I," by Mark Horst (originally color).


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tamara Madison: "Sequoia Sempervirens"

Some of these trees have been here
since Jesus walked on water
Some of these trees have been here
since Vikings drove their boats
onto the shores of Newfoundland
Some of these trees were seedlings
while the Mayans were worshiping time
while the dire wolf and saber-toothed
tiger roamed North America
Some of these trees have survived
lightning strikes and forest fires
Some of these trees house creatures
of the forest floor in burned-out caves
at the base of their ruddy trunks
Some of these trees have become
living pipes, chimneys, hollowed out
by fire. They have grown beyond
their trauma and focus now
on the daily climb, the adding-on
of needle and bark, on nature’s drive
to rise above and see beyond
until the day when death will fell them
and the earth will add them to its riches.
We can be like these trees, pull on
the layers of living like fine
new garments, house the needy
in the caverns of our grief, grow
beyond the stories of our scars
stretch our branches toward
the bristling stars.

"Sequoia Sempervirens" by Tamara Madison. © Tamara Madison. Published here via poet submission.

Photography credit: Untitled image by David Taylor accompanying a post entitled "Sequoia Sempervirens: Trial by Fire," at this link (originally color).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Kevin Hart: "The Gift"

One day the gift arrives — outside your door,
Left on a windowsill, inside the mailbox,
Or in the hallway, far too large to lift.

Your postman shrugs his shoulders, the police
Consult a statute, and the cat meows.
No name, no signature, and no address,

Only, “To you, my dearest one, my all . . .”
One day it all fits snugly on your lap,
Then fills the backyard like afternoon in spring.

Monday morning, and it’s there at work —
Already ahead of you, or left behind
Amongst the papers, files and photographs;

And were there lipstick smudges down the side
Or have they just appeared? What a headache!
And worse, people have begun to talk:

“You lucky thing!” they say, or roll their eyes.
Nights find you combing the directory
(A glass of straw-colored wine upon the desk)

Still hoping to chance on a forgotten name.
Yet mornings see you happier than before —
After all, the gift has set you up for life.

Impossible to tell, now, what was given
And what was not: slivers of rain on the window,
Those gold-tooled Oeuvres of Diderot on the shelf,

The strawberry dreaming in a champagne flute —
Were they part of the gift or something else?
Or is the gift still coming, on its way?

"The Gift" by Kevin Hart, from Flame Tree: Selected Poems. © Bloodaxe Books, 2003.

Image credit: Untitled painting by Melodie Provenzano (originally color).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Edwin Muir: "In Love for Long"

I’ve been in love for long
With what I cannot tell
And will contrive a song
For the intangible
That has no mold or shape,
From which there’s no escape.

It is not even a name,
Yet is all constancy;
Tried or untried, the same,
It cannot part from me;
A breath, yet as still
As the established hill.

It is not any thing,
And yet all being is;
Being, being, being,
Its burden and its bliss.
How can I ever prove
What it is I love?

This happy happy love
Is sieged with crying sorrows,
Crushed beneath and above
Between todays and morrows;
A little paradise
Held in the world’s vice.

And there it is content
And careless as a child,
And in imprisonment
Flourishes sweet and wild;
In wrong, beyond wrong,
All the world’s day long.

This love a moment known
For what I do not know
And in a moment gone
Is like the happy doe
That keeps its perfect laws
Between the tiger’s paws
And vindicates its cause.

"In Love for Long" by Edwin Muir, from The Voyage and Other Poems. © Faber, 1946.

Image credit: "Abundant Joy," acrylic on canvas, by Nancy Eckels (originally color).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

John Tagliabue: "The Bare Arms of Trees"

Sometimes when I see the bare arms of trees in the evening
I think of men who have died without love,
Of desolation and space between branch and branch.
I think of immovable whiteness and lean coldness and fear
And the terrible longing between people stretched apart as these branches
And the cold space between.
I think of the vastness and courage between this step and that step,
Of the yearning and the fear of the meeting, of the terrible desire held apart.
I think of the ocean of longing that moves between land and land
And between people, the space and ocean.
The bare arms of the trees are immovable, without the play of leaves,
     without the sound of wind;
I think of the unseen love and the unknown thoughts that exist
      between tree and tree,
As I pass these things in the evening, as I walk.

"The Bare Arms of Trees" by John Tagliabue, from New & Selected Poems: 1942-1997. © National Poetry Foundation, 1998.

Photography credit: "Bare Branches (2)," by Brian Angell, 2012 (originally color).


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hans Ostrom: "Mum Is the Word"

The League of Quiet Persons meets
monthly. Its quarters are a cavernous
warehouse away from traffic. Its
business is not to discuss business.
Minutes are read silently and tacitly approved.
Members listen to rain argue with corrugated
iron, a furnace with itself. Glances
are learnéd. It is not so much refuge
from noise the members seek in such company
as implicit permission not to speak,
not to answer or to answer for,
not to pose, chat, persuade, or expound.

Podium and gavel have been banned,
indeed are viewed as weaponry.
A microphone? The horror.
Several Quiet Persons interviewed
had no comment. A recorded voice
at the main office murmured only, “You
have reached the League of Quiet
Persons. After the tone, listen.”

"Mum Is the Word" by Hans Ostrom. Published by Lullwater Review, December 2003.

Photography credit: Untitled image of an abandoned industrial building in Red Hook, Brookyn, New York, by (originally color).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Denise Levertov: "February Evening in New York"

As the stores close, a winter light
      opens air to iris blue,
      glint of frost through the smoke
      grains of mica, salt of the sidewalk.
As the buildings close, released autonomous
      feet pattern the streets
      in hurry and stroll; balloon heads
      drift and dive above them; the bodies
      aren't really there.
As the lights brighten, as the sky darkens,
      a woman with crooked heels says to another woman
      while they step along at a fair pace,
      "You know, I'm telling you, what I love best
      is life. I love life! Even if I ever get
      to be old and wheezy—or limp! You know?
      Limping along?—I'd still ... " Out of hearing.
To the multiple disordered tones
      of gears changing, a dance
      to the compass points, out, four-way river.
      Prospect of sky
      wedged into avenues, left at the ends of streets,
      west sky, east sky: more life tonight! A range
      of open time at winter's outskirts. 

"February Evening in New York" by Denise Levertov, from Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960. © New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1979.

Photography credit: "Night Street, NYC," by Ocean Morisset Photography (originally black and white).


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pete Seeger: "To My Old Brown Earth"

[Curator's note: The folksinger, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014, at the age of 94. His loss leaves a hole in the world, and in me. He was very much a "wordsmith of the here & now," among other things. Though I'm no poet, I turned to poetry to grieve his passing. I was also tempted to mark his passing with a post at A Year of Being Here. So I was grateful when, a few days ago, the poet Mary O'Connor sent me this video and suggested it be shared with our reading community. You know, it's often debated whether song lyrics are poems—as if many of the first poems weren't sung. Just read and listen. Then tell me Pete was no poet. Tell me his were no "living words." If you ask me, we all need to sing more....]

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I'll now give these last few molecules of "I."

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I'm yours
And you are also mine.

"To My Old Brown Earth," by Pete Seeger. Words and music by Pete Seeger. © 1958. © 1964 (renewed) by Stormking Music, Inc.

Video credit: From "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song," directed by Jim Brown for the PBS "American Masters"series, © 2007. If you can't see the viewer above, click here to watch the video.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Curator's Note: Announcing the "Weekender" Edition

Is your email inbox getting clogged with daily poems?

Are your weekdays just too busy to read a poem each day, despite your best intentions?

Do you sometimes wish you could forward a week's worth of mindfulness poems to a friend, relative or colleague?

Then the Weekender might be for you!

Starting today, you can subscribe to A Year of Being Here by the day, by the week, or even by both. In the new Weekender you'll find the seven poems of the past week. It will be delivered to your inbox every Saturday at 7 am (CST), just in time for you to enjoy the poems over a leisurely weekend. Coffee, anyone?

To sign up for the Weekender, click here. Or use the "follow by email" button in the right navigation bar of our website.

If you're switching your subscription from daily to weekly, first sign-up for the Weekender, then click the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of your next daily poem and follow the instructions.

If you want to keep your daily subscription and aren't interested in the Weekender, do nothing. But feel free to give the Weekender a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Questions? Contact me anytime.

Thanks, all!

Stephen Dunn: "Choosing to Think of It"

Today, ten thousand people will die
and their small replacements will bring joy
and this will make sense to someone
removed from any sense of loss.
I, too, will die a little and carry on,
doing some paperwork, driving myself
home. The sky is simply overcast,
nothing is any less than it was
yesterday or the day before. In short,
there's no reason or every reason
why I'm choosing to think of this now.
The short-lived holiness
true lovers know, making them unaccountable
except to spirit and themselves—suddenly
I want to be that insufferable and selfish,
that sharpened and tuned.
I'm going to think of what it means
to be an animal crossing a highway,
to be a human without a useful prayer
setting off on one of those journeys
we humans take. I don't expect anything
to change. I just want to be filled up
a little more with what exists,
tipped toward the laughter which understands
I'm nothing and all there is.
By evening, the promised storm
will arrive. A few in small boats
will be taken by surprise.
There will be survivors, and even they will die.

"Choosing to Think of It" by Stephen Dunn. No other bibliographic information available. Presented here as published at   

Image credit: "Storm Wave," by unknown artist, found at this link (originally black and white).


Friday, February 7, 2014

Hannah Stephenson: "Everything Is a Clock"

Submerged in its bed of boiling water,
the spaghetti softens

a bit more each millimeter of a second.

Use the handle of the wooden spoon
to fish out one strand,

test it against your bite.

At the end of your life
four hours will have been spent
stirring pasta as hot water convinces it
to just relax already.

"Everything Is a Clock" by Hannah Stephenson. Published online by The Storialist, September 10, 2013. © Hannah Stephenson.

Photography credit: Untitled image by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times (originally color).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Nikki Giovanni: "Winter Poem"

once a snowflake fell
on my brow and i loved
it so much and i kissed
it and it was happy and called its cousins
and brothers and a web
of snow engulfed me then
i reached to love them all
and i squeezed them and they became
a spring rain and i stood perfectly
still and was a flower

"Winter Poem" by Nikki Giovanni, from The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998. © Harper Perennial, 2007.

Photography credit: "Catching Snow," by unknown photographer, found at this link (originally color).


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Arthur Sze: "The Unnamable River"

1         Is it in the anthracite face of a coal miner,
           crystallized in the veins and lungs of a steel
           worker, pulverized in the grimy hands of a railroad engineer?
           Is it in a child naming a star, coconuts washing
           ashore, dormant in a volcano along the Rio Grande?

           You can travel the four thousand miles of the Nile
           to its source and never find it.
           You can climb the five highest peaks of the Himalayas
           and never recognize it.
           You can gaze though the largest telescope
           and never see it.

           But it's in the capillaries of your lungs.
           It's in the space as you slice open a lemon.
           It's in a corpse burning on the Ganges,
           in rain splashing on banana leaves.

           Perhaps you have to know you are about to die
           to hunger for it. Perhaps you have to go
           alone in the jungle armed with a spear
           to truly see it. Perhaps you have to
           have pneumonia to sense its crush.

           But it's also in the scissor hands of a clock.
           It's in the precessing motion of a top
           when a torque makes the axis of rotation describe a cone:
           and the cone spinning on a point gathers
           past, present, future.

2         In a crude theory of perception, the apple you
           see is supposed to be a copy of the actual apple,
           but who can step out of his body to compare the two?
           Who can step out of his life and feel
           the Milky Way flow out of his hands?

           An unpicked apple dies on a branch:
           that is all we know of it.
           It turns black and hard, a corpse on the Ganges.
           Then go ahead and map out three thousand mile of the Yantze;
           walk each inch, feel its surge and
           flow as you feel the surge and flow in your own body.

           And the spinning cone of a precessing top
           is a form of existence that gathers and spins death and life into one.
           It is in the duration of words, but beyond words—
           river river river, river river.
           The coal miner may not know he has it.
           The steel worker may not know he has it.
           The railroad engineer may not know he has it.
           But it is there. It is in the smell
           of an avocado blossom, and in the true passion of a kiss.

"The Unnamable River" by Arthur Sze, from The Redshifting Web: Poems 1970-1998. © Copper Canyon Press, 1998.  

Photography credit: "Spinning Top," by David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott (originally color).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mary Oliver: "Winter and the Nuthatch"

Once or twice and maybe again, who knows,
the timid nuthatch will come to me
if I stand still, with something good to eat in my hand.
The first time he did it
he landed smack on his belly, as though
the legs wouldn't cooperate. The next time
he was bolder. Then he became absolutely
wild about those walnuts.

But there was a morning I came late and, guess what,
the nuthatch was flying into a stranger's hand.
To speak plainly, I felt betrayed.
I wanted to say: Mister,
that nuthatch and I have a relationship.
It took hours of standing in the snow
before he would drop from the tree and trust my fingers.
But I didn't say anything.

Nobody owns the sky or the trees.
Nobody owns the hearts of birds.
Still, being human and partial therefore to my own successes—
though not resentful of others fashioning theirs—

I'll come tomorrow, I believe, quite early.

"Winter and the Nuthatch" by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird: Poems. © Beacon Press, 2008.  

Photography credit: "A White-breasted Nuthatch surprised my wife with a visit," detail from an image by fotogordo (originally color).