Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Edna St. Vincent Millay: "Afternoon on a Hill"

                                        I will be the gladdest thing

                                              Under the sun!
                                        I will touch a hundred flowers

                                              And not pick one.

                                        I will look at cliffs and clouds

                                              With quiet eyes,

                                        Watch the wind bow down the grass,

                                              And the grass rise.

                                        And when lights begin to show

                                              Up from the town,

                                        I will mark which must be mine,

                                              And then start down!

"Afternoon on a Hill" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Collected Poems. © Harper Perennial, 2011.

Photography credit: Image on a foreign-language page, source therefore unknown (originally color).


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

C. K. Williams: "Droplets"

Even when the rain falls relatively hard,
only one leaf at a time of the little tree
you planted on the balcony last year,
then another leaf at its time, and one more,
is set trembling by the constant droplets,

but the rain, the clouds flocked over the city,
you at the piano inside, your hesitant music
mingling with the din of the downpour,
the gush of rivulets loosed from the eaves,
the iron railings and flowing gutters,

all of it fuses in me with such intensity
that I can't help wondering why my longing
to live forever has so abated that it hardly
comes to me anymore, and never as it did,
as regret for what I might not live to live,

but rather as a layering of instants like this,
transient as the mist drawn from the rooftops,
yet emphatic as any note of the nocturne
you practice, and, the storm faltering, fading
into its own radiant passing, you practice again.

"Droplets" by C. K. Williams, from Love About Love. © Ausable Press, 2001.

Photography credit: Still shot of rain falling on a piano keyboard, from a video uploaded by xYaKkUzAx (originally black and white).


Monday, April 28, 2014

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "What Was Told, That"

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

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

"What Was Told, That" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems. Translated from the Persian by Coleman Barks. © HarperCollins, 2002.

Performance credit: Rumi translator Coleman Barks performs "What Was Told, That" at a Mythic Journey conference, accompanied by musicians Eugene Friesen and Arto Tuncboyaciyan.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ezra Pound: "The Tree"

                I stood still and was a tree amid the wood
Knowing the truth of things unseen before,
Of Daphne and the laurel bough
And that god-feasting couple olde
That grew elm-oak amid the wold.
'Twas not until the gods had been
Kindly entreated and been brought within
Unto the hearth of their heart's home
That they might do this wonder-thing.
Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood
And many new things understood
That was rank folly to my head before.

"The Tree" by Ezra Pound, from Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. Edited by Michael King. © New Directions Publishing, 1982.  

Image credit: Today's artwork is a special gift, offered by A Year of Being Here subscriber and Patra Passage creator Lynda Lowe. She writes, "This painting is titled `Poïesis,' a Greek word layered with meaning and the root origin of the word poetry. Martin Heidegger used it to mean ‘a bringing forth,’ a threshold occasion when something transforms from one thing to become another. This image came to me during an important meditation during a very transitional timea time of poïesis. A tree dissolved into light, edges expanded; everything seemed multivalent and newly understood. Ezra Pound’s poem `The Tree' speaks to this threshold moment."

Poïesis is 40" x 36" mixed media on panel. Just beautiful! Thank you, Lynda.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Seamus Heaney: "Had I Not Been Awake"

Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,

It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,

A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.

"Had I Not Been Awake" by Seamus Heaney, from Human Chain: Poems. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.  

Image credit: Untitled acrylic painting by Matthew Hamblen (originally color).

Friday, April 25, 2014

Jeanne Lohmann: "To Say Nothing But Thank You"

All day I try to say nothing but thank you,
breathe the syllables in and out with every step I
take through the rooms of my house and outside into
a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups.

I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring
and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
after a hot shower, when my loosened muscles work,
when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly
hair combs into place.

Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute,
and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I
remember who I am, a woman learning to praise
something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup,
my happy, savoring tongue.

"To Say Nothing But Thank You" by Jeanne Lohmann. Published by The Sun, Issue 401, May 2009. © Jeanne Lohmann.

Photography credit: "Dandelions," by John M. Phillips (originally black and white).


Thursday, April 24, 2014

David Allan Evans: "Waking Up"

for Jan

We wake up again to the sound
of those same birds just

outside our window. I can’t
name them, wouldn’t need to

if I could, but only guess
what they seem to be

saying over and over.
Listen: We are here,

we are here,
we are here.

"Waking Up" by David Allan Evans. Published here via poet submission. © David Allan Evans.  

Photography credit: "When birds join the chorus," by Robert David Siegel, September, 2008 (originally color).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ursula Le Guin: "Initiation Song from the Finders Lodge"

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well-loved one,
walk mindfully, well-loved one,
walk fearlessly, well-loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

"Initiation Song from the Finders Lodge" by Ursula Le Guin, from Always Coming Home. © University of California Press, 1985.

Curator's note: In Le Guin's novel Kesh elders sing this song to initiates who have chosen to become the people's emissaries to "the outside world." 

Photography credit: "Close-up of Person's Palm," by Casarsa (originally black and white).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

T. S. Eliot: Excerpt from The Cocktail Party

             Ah, but we die to each other daily.
             What we know of other people
             Is only our memory of the moments
             During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.
             To pretend that they and we are the same
             Is a useful and convenient social convention
             Which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember
             That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.

Excerpt from The Cocktail Party by T. S. Eliot. © Mariner Books, 1964.

Image credit: "The Cocktail Party," oil painting on canvas, by Jane Roberts (originally color).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peter Everwine: "Rain"

Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.

"Rain" by Peter Everwine. Published in Ploughshares, Spring 2008. © Peter Everwine, 2008.  

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer (originally color).


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Curator's Note: Happy Double Post (Sort of)

This morning I posted two poems by (happy) mistake, and both were delivered to email subscribers. My apologies. The Broughton post was obviously unfinished, as I'd not yet been able to confirm the original text. Once I discovered that it had been published through a slip of my fingers, I deleted it from the website, but it had already been delivered to subscribers.

Still, the Broughton poem fits the day. I hope you enjoyed receiving the Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Sunday bonus. Blessings on your day.

Emily Dickinson: "#1309" ["The Infinite a sudden Guest"]

                                       The Infinite a sudden Guest
                                       Has been assumed to be—
                                       But how can that stupendous come
                                       Which never went away?

"#1309" ["The Infinite a sudden Guest"] by Emily Dickinson, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. © Back Bay Books, 1976.  

Photography credit: "Smelling the Roses," taken in India by☻☺ on March 12, 2009 (originally a mix of black and white and color).


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nancy Paddock: "Lie Down"

Lie down with your belly to the ground,
like an old dog in the sun. Smell
the greenness of the cloverleaf, feel the damp
earth through your clothes, let an ant
wander the uncharted territory
of your skin. Lie down
with your belly to the ground. Melt into
the earth's contours like a harmless snake.
All else is mere bravado.
Let your mind resolve itself
in a tangle of grass.
Lie down with your belly
to the ground, flat out, on ground level.
Prostrate yourself before the soil
you will someday enter.
Stop doing.
Stop judging, fearing, trying.
This is not dying, but the way to live
in a world of change and gravity.
Let go. Let your burdens drop.
Let your grief-charge bleed off
into the ground.
Lie down with your belly to the ground
and then rise up
with the earth still in you.

"Lie Down" by Nancy Paddock, from Trust the Wild Heart. © Red Dragonfly Press,  2006.

Photography credit: "Picture of 1960s Barefoot Boy Lying Stomach-Down Running Fingers Through High Grass," by unknown photographer (originally black and white).


Friday, April 18, 2014

Anne Higgins: "Tribute Poem"

                                           Praise for late sleeping day,
                                           waking up without alarm,
                                           for corkscrews,
                                           corkscrew call of
                                           yellowing lustful goldfinches,
                                           opposable thumbs,
                                           lusciously plush perfume
                                           of viburnum
                                           blooming in the woods
                                           just now
                                           just now.

"Tribute Poem" by Anne Higgins. Published here via poet submission. © Anne Higgins.

Photography credit: "Viburnum prunifolium," by Dan Tenaglia (originally color).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anne Sexton: "Words"

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.

Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren't good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

"Words" by Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 1981.

Photography credit: "Cha Ye Dan" (Chinese tea egg), by Simon Michael. © Simon Michael Photography.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eavan Boland: "This Moment"

A neighbourhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.

But not yet.

One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.

"This Moment" by Eavan Boland, from In a Time of Violence: Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company, 1994.

Photography credit: "Light in the Window," by unknown photographer (broken image link; originally color).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gregory Orr: Untitled ["If to say it once"]

If to say it once
And once only, then still
To say: Yes.

And say it complete,
Say it as if the word
Filled the whole moment
With its absolute saying.

Later for "but,"
Later for "if."
Only the single syllable
That is the beloved,
That is the world.

Untitled ["If to say it once"] by Gregory Orr, from How Beautiful the Beloved. © Copper Canyon Press, 2009.

Photography credit: "A dancer demonstrates the need for pointe shoes," by 2summers (originally color).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ellen Waterston: "Designed to Fly"

After ten hours of trying
the instructor undid
my fingers, peeled
them one by one
off the joystick.
"You don't need
to hold the plane
in the air," he advised.
"It's designed to fly.
A hint of aileron,
a touch of rudder,
is all that is required."

I looked at him
like I'd seen God.
Those props and struts
he mentioned, they too,
I realized, all contrived.
I grew dizzy
from the elevation
from looking so far
down at the surmise:
the airspeed of faith
underlies everything.
Lives are designed
to fly.

"Designed to Fly" by Ellen Waterston, from Between Desert Seasons. © Wordcraft of Oregon, 2008.  

Photography credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, credited to Flickr/Cold Press Publishing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gabriela Mistral: "Dawn"

                                       I open out my heart so the Universe
                                  can enter like a cataract of fire.
                                  The new day comes; its coming
                                  takes my breath away.
                                  I sing, a hollow filled to overflowing,
                                  I sing my break of day.

                                       For grace lost and grace regained
                                  I stand humble, not giving and receiving
                                  until the Gorgon of the night
                                  flees defeated and takes flight.

"Dawn" by Gabriela Mistral, from the four-part poem "Time." From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral. Translated from the Spanish by Ursula K. Le Guin. © University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Image credit: "Embarking Daybreak," acrylic painting by Sarah Goodnough.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Patricia Campbell Carlson: "Vessel"

Each day i’m a little crazier with missing you.
The dog still snores on the couch, her paws
dancing through a dream-lit field. The sun
sets as usual, illuminating the red-frilled edges
of newly emerging wild-rose leaves. The veins
on the backs of my own hands run like ancient
rivers towards the depths of the body. Why
do i feel i need you so much more than these
ordinary beauties, as if heaven slipped up and
poured everything sacred into one single vessel,
leaving me wildly aware of the way clay shatters?

"Vessel" by Patricia Campbell Carlson. Published online by © Patricia Campbell Carlson.

Image credit: Untitled artwork by Cindy Ewing, included in a blog post entitled "Jar of Clay" (originally color).


Friday, April 11, 2014

John O'Donohue: "For the Senses"

May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.

May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.

May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.

And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.

May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.

May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.

"For the Senses" by John O'Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. © Harmony, 2008.  

Image credit: "Inner Eye," acrylic painting on canvas, by Igor Pertsev (originally color).


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Robert Arthur Lewis: "The Painter"

I put color on walls, then leave
and let light tell its own story. Strange
how our vague ambitions lead
to such particular situations, like these white overalls
with the brass clips, this collection of brushes
and buckets. It was never my intention
to join the order of caps and rags,
but here I am.

One summer evening I knelt in a shed
cleaning brushes. Light streamed through the splintered boards
and I was there to see how it landed, how it made
the shovel and the rake and the dirt floor
all count. I stopped and listened. Wind
swept dry grass against the dryer siding.
The sound was as close as my own breath
and my kneeling went deeper into thankfulness

for this strange and lonely craft
which makes me love so many things.

"The Painter" by Robert Arthur Lewis. Published by The Atlanta Review, Spring/Summer 2005. © Robert Arthur Lewis.

Photography credit: Untitled image by Daniel Kanter, found at this link (originally color).


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dorianne Laux: "Morning Song"

This morning begins almost purely, coffee
enveloped in cream, those clouds that bloom up
like madness in a cup, and I take the first swallow
before the color changes, taste the bitterness
and the faint sweet behind it, steam
rubbing my nose, an animal nuzzle,
and the sharp, nearly painful heat
at the back of my tongue, the liquid
unraveling down the raw tunnel of my throat.

And I feel my body fully, vessel of desire,
my stomach a pond of want and warmth,
utterly human, divine and awake. And I can hear
each bird's separate song, the chirt and scree,
the sip, sip, sip, the dwindle and uplift yearning,
the soup's on, soup's on, let up, let it go
of each individual voice, and I know I am here,
in this widening light, as we all are, with them,
even the most damaged among us or lonely
or nearly dead, and that for each of us there is
some small sound like an unseen bird or
a red bike grinding along the gravel path
that could wake us, and take us home.

This morning I think I'm prepared for
the final diminishment, with something
like a waking, ready awe. My complaints
folded and put away in a drawer
like needlework, unfinished, intricate
woven roads that go nowhere or disappear
in the distance, rough wanderings
that have brought me here, to this
sleep-repaired morning, these singing trees
and into my own listening body.

"Morning Song" by Dorianne Laux, from Facts about the Moon: Poems. © W. W. Norton and Company, 2005. A longer version can be read at the Free Library.  

Image credit: "Red Bicycle," digital painting by Vaidas Bucys (originally color).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wislawa Szymborska: "A Note"

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

"A Note" by Wislawa Szymborska, from Monologue of a Dog. Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. © Harcourt, 2005.

Visit this link to read the original poem in Polish, along with a translation by Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka. 

Photography credit: Detail from untitled image by unknown photographer (originally color).


Monday, April 7, 2014

Amy Fleury: "Ablution"

Because one must be naked to get clean,
my dad shrugs out of his pajama shirt,
steps from his boxers and into the tub
as I brace him, whose long illness
has made him shed modesty too.
Seated on the plastic bench, he holds
the soap like a caught fish in his lap,
waiting for me to test the water’s heat
on my wrist before turning the nozzle
toward his pale skin. He leans over
to be doused, then hands me the soap
so I might scrub his shoulders and neck,
suds sluicing from spine to buttock cleft.
Like a child he wants a washcloth
to cover his eyes while I lather
a palmful of pearlescent shampoo
into his craniotomy-scarred scalp
and then rinse clear whatever soft hair
is left. Our voices echo in the spray
and steam of this room where once,
long ago, he knelt at the tub’s edge
to pour cups of bathwater over my head.
He reminds me to wash behind his ears,
and when he judges himself to be clean,
I turn off the tap. He grips the safety bar,
steadies himself, and stands. Turning to me,
his body is dripping and frail and pink.
And although I am nearly forty,
he has this one last thing to teach me.
I hold open the towel to receive him.

"Ablution" by Amy Fleury, from Sympathetic Magic. © Southern Illinois University Press, 2013.

Photography credit: Untitled image by Mandy Beyeler (originally color).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mark Kraushaar: "What the Dead Know"

They know to keep quiet.
But they would tell you don’t worry.
They would tell you there’s
sloping gentle fields and a marvelous light.
They’d whisper, Mister,
take it easy, they would signal Madam, buy a hat.
They would tell you start again, rent a room, move
forward, breathe a little, read a little,
take a walk, watch your step.
They would tell you God
wears plaid pants, six-eyelet
oxfords, and a wrist watch, Helbros, gold.
They would tell you God’s
a girl in third grade knotting Her shoe.
They would tell you God’s a man with cracked glasses
mowing His yard, or He lives with Lilly,
His wife, and a son named Sal.
They would tell you He works in auto body repair
and plays the guitar.
They would tell you He’s thought up Himself,
that He thinks up botany and basketball,
eczema, mustard, and mayhem.
They would tell you He makes up the malls
and the back-alleys, the droplets, and the tiny specks
and spores, and the long, loud parties
that reach deep into the morning and mean
for someone a meeting, for someone
a mating and for someone a crashed
yellow Chevy and a trip to the joint.
They would say He makes up the frowsy freeways
and the dirty everyday, or that regarding a white cloud
in the shape of a thumbless glove, He thinks up breakfast
with bacon that sizzles and curls on itself like a lie though He
may never speak of this even to Himself.
What do the dead know?
They’ve signed on to keep quiet,
but if they could tell you they would,
and if they could they would comfort you.
They’d tell you, Go on and be happy, try it.
You would.

"What the Dead Know" by Mark Kraushaar, from The Uncertainty Principle: Poems. © Waywiser Press, 2012.  

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