Saturday, May 31, 2014

Edward Field: "A Journey"

When he got up that morning everything was different:
He enjoyed the bright spring day,
But he did not realize it exactly, he just enjoyed it.

And walking down the street to the railroad station
Past magnolia trees with dying flowers like old socks
It was a long time since he had breathed so simply.

Tears filled his eyes and it felt good,
But he held them back
Because men didn't walk around crying in that town.

And waiting on the platform at the station
The fear came over him of something terrible about to happen:
The train was late and he recited the alphabet to keep hold.

And in its time it came screeching in
And as it went on making its usual stops,
People coming and going, telephone poles passing,

He hid his head behind a newspaper
No longer able to hold back the sobs, and willed his eyes
To follow the rational weavings of the seat fabric.

He didn't do anything violent as he had imagined.
He cried for a long time, but when he finally quieted down
A place in him that had been closed like a fist was open,

And at the end of the ride he stood up and got off that train:
And through the streets and in all the places he lived in later on
He walked, himself at last, a man among men,
With such radiance that everyone looked up and wondered.

"A Journey" by Edward Field, from After the Fall: Poems Old and New. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007.  

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


Friday, May 30, 2014

Raymond Carver: "The Cobweb"

A few minutes ago, I stepped onto the deck
of the house. From there I could see and hear the water,
and everything that's happened to me all these years.
It was hot and still. The tide was out.
No birds sang. As I leaned against the railing
a cobweb touched my forehead.
It caught in my hair. No one can blame me that I turned
and went inside. There was no wind. The sea
was dead calm. I hung the cobweb from the lampshade.
Where I watch it shudder now and then when my breath
touches it. A fine thread. Intricate.
Before long, before anyone realizes,
I'll be gone from here.

"The Cobweb" by Raymond Carver, from Ultramarine. © Random House, 1986.

Art credit: "Spider web painting with spray paint," by witchee1014 (originally black and white).


Thursday, May 29, 2014

William Carlos Williams: "To a Poor Old Woman"

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand 

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand 

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

"To a Poor Old Woman" by William Carlos Williams, from Collected Poems: 1909-1939, Volume I. © New Directions Publishing, 1938.

Art credit: Detail from "Light Through Paper Bag with Plums," oil painting by Loren DiBenedetto (originally color).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Alice Walker: "Expect Nothing"

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
Become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress
Unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human giant
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But live frugally
on surprise.

"Expect Nothing" by Alice Walker, from Anything We Love Can Be Saved. © Ballantine Books, 1998.

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


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Richard Vargas: "why i feed the birds"

i saw my grandmother hold out
her hand cupping a small offering
of seed to one of the wild sparrows
that frequented the bird bath she
filled with fresh water every day

she stood still
maybe stopped breathing
while the sparrow looked
at her, then the seed
then back as if he was
judging her character

he jumped into her hand
began to eat
she smiled

a woman holding
a small god

"why i feed the birds" by Richard Vargas, from Guernica, Revisited: Poems. © Press 53, 2014.

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


Monday, May 26, 2014

Walt Whitman: "A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim"

A sight in camp in the daybreak gray and dim,
As from my tent I emerge so early sleepless,
As slow I walk in the cool fresh air the path near by the hospital tent,
Three forms I see on stretchers lying, brought out there untended lying,
Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.

Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the first
          just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray'd hair,
          and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?
Then to the second I stepand who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the thirda face nor child nor old, very calm, as of
          beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know youI think this face is the face
          of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.

"A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim" by Walt Whitman, from The Leaves of Grass: The Death-Bed Edition. ©, 2008.  

Photography credit: "Aerial View of Arlington National Cemetery," by J. D. Leipold (originally color). Caption: "Shown in this aerial view is just a small section of Arlington National Cemetery's 624 acres."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mary Oliver: "Heavy"

                              That time
                              I thought I could not
                              go any closer to grief
                              without dying

                              I went closer,
                              and I did not die.
                              Surely God
                              had His hand in this,

                              as well as friends.
                              Still, I was bent,
                              and my laughter,
                              as the poets said,

                              was nowhere to be found.
                              Then said my friend Daniel
                              (brave even among lions),
                              “It’s not the weight you carry

                              but how you carry it—
                              books, bricks, grief—
                              it’s all in the way
                              you embrace it, balance it, carry it

                              when you cannot, and would not,
                              put it down.”
                              So I went practicing.
                              Have you noticed?

                              Have you heard
                              the laughter
                              that comes, now and again,
                              out of my startled mouth?

                              How I linger
                              to admire, admire, admire
                              the things of this world
                              that are kind, and maybe

                              also troubled—
                              roses in the wind,
                              the sea geese on the steep waves,
                              a love
                              to which there is no reply?

"Heavy" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst: Poems. © Beacon Press, 2007.

Photography credit: "Typical Vietnamese figure on Mui Ne dunes. Mui Ne, Vietnam," by QY Luong. © 2012 QT Luong/

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Curator's Note: I'm Off, Poetry's Still On

I'll be taking a wee break for a week or so. In my absence a volunteer will be managing the daily poems across all Year of Being Here platforms. (Thanks much, RW!) I know that you'll all be patient and kind as RW learns the ropes. Be well! Back with you soon!

Deep peace,

Denise Levertov: "About Marriage"

Don’t lock me in wedlock, I want
marriage, an
I told you about the
green light of
        (a veil of quiet befallen
        the downtown park,
        Saturday after
        noon, long
        shadows and cool
        air, scent of
        new grass,
        fresh leaves,
        blossom on the threshold of
        and the birds I met there,
        birds of passage breaking their journey,
        three birds each of a different species:
        the azalea-breasted with round poll, dark,
        the brindled, merry, mousegliding one,
        and the smallest, golden as gorse and wearing
        a black Venetian mask
        and with them the three douce hen-birds
        feathered in tender, lively brown—
        I stood
        a half-hour under the enchantment,
        no-one passed near,
        the birds saw me and
        let me be
        near them.)
It’s not
I would be
and meet you
in a green
airy space, not 
locked in.

"About Marriage" by Denise Levertov, from Selected Poems. © New Directions, 2003.

Image credit: "Green," by unknown artist.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sarah Salway: "You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book"

Just get up from your desk
and open the window,
keep silent until you hear three
sounds you've never heard before,
run your tongue around your mouth,
smell the air.
I tell you what, put down this book
and do this one thing now:
let your hands drift out and touch,
then drift again;
run your fingers
over rough wood, then let them fall
against your own soft skin. I met a woman once
who told me to touch her jumper,
Expensive, she said. It bobbled
under my hand so she told me
I wasn't feeling it right,
and for too long I believed her
because she said quality spoke.
I didn't see how beautiful
the world is
with its only wish
that I belong,
and how my touch,
my smell, hearing, sight,
so different from hers
is the only one that matters.

"You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book" by Sarah Salway, from You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book. © Pindrop Press, 2012.

Photography credit: "Touching Cloth," by Jimmy Magnetic (originally black and white).

Touching Cloth by Jimmy Magnetic
Touching Cloth by Jimmy Magnetic

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jane Hirshfield: "My Weather"

Wakeful, sleepy, hungry, anxious,
restless, stunned, relieved.

Does a tree also?
A mountain?

A cup holds
sugar, flour, three large rabbit-breaths of air.

I hold these.

"My Weather" by Jane Hirshfield. Published in Poetry, September 2012. © Jane Hirshfield.

Image credit: "Molecules of Emotion," painting by Jolanta Anna Karolska (originally color).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Charlie Ritch: "The Importance of Symmetry"

                                      Standing across from you,
                                      our eyes meet in perfect alignment.
                                      Matching height and no slanting angle,
                                      pupil to pupil, iris to iris.
                                      You see to my soul, I to yours.
                                      How is it we came to stand
                                      with such perfect symmetry?
                                      How is it the space between us
                                      contains a chasm so deep?

"The Importance of Symmetry" by Charlie Ritch. Published in Birmingham Arts Journal, Vol. 10, Issue 4 (2014). © Charlie Ritch.

Photography credit: Untitled image by Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga. "A close-up photo taken on March 23, 2011, shows the eyes of a chimpanzee at the Villa Lorena animal refuge center in Cali, Colombia" (originally color).


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

James Broughton: "Not dawdling"

                                                   Not dawdling
                                                   not doubting
                                                   intrepid all the way
                                                   walk toward clarity
                                                   with sharp eye
                                                   With sharpened sword
                                                   clearcut the path
                                                   to the lucent surprise
                                                   of enlightenment
                                                   At every crossroad
                                                   be prepared to bump into wonder

"Not dawdling" by James Broughton, as presented online by Poetry Chaikhana, May 13, 2011. From Little Sermons of the Big Joy: Poems. © Insight to Riot Press, 1994.  

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


Monday, May 19, 2014

William Kloefkorn: "My Love for All Things Warm and Breathing"

I have seldom loved more than one thing at a time,
yet this morning I feel myself expanding, each
part of me soft and glandular, and under my skin
is room enough now for the loving of many things,
and all of them at once, these students especially,
not only the girl in the yellow sweater, whose
name, Laura Buxton, is somehow the girl herself,
Laura for the coy green mellowing eyes, Buxton
for all the rest, but also the simple girl in blue
on the back row, her mouth sad beyond all reasonable
inducements, and the boy with the weight problem,
his teeth at work even now on his lower lip, and
the grand profusion of hair and nails and hands and
legs and tongues and thighs and fingertips and
wrists and throats, yes, of throats especially,
throats through which passes the breath that joins
the air that enters through these ancient windows,
that exits, that takes with it my own breath, inside
this room just now my love for all things warm and
breathing, that lifts it high to scatter it fine and
enormous into the trees and the grass, into the heat
beneath the earth beneath the stone, into the
boundless lust of all things bound but gathering.

"My Love For All Things Warm and Breathing" by William Kloefkorn, from Cottonwood County: Poems by William Kloefkorn and Ted Kooser. © Windflower Press, 1979.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, attributed to Getty Images (originally color).


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mark Doty: "Golden Retrievals"

Fetch? Balls and sticks capture my attention
seconds at a time. Catch? I don’t think so.
Bunny, tumbling leaf, a squirrel who’s—oh
joy—actually scared. Sniff the wind, then

I’m off again: muck, pond, ditch, residue
of any thrillingly dead thing. And you?
Either you’re sunk in the past, half our walk,
thinking of what you never can bring back,

or else you’re off in some fog concerning
—tomorrow, is that what you call it? My work:
to unsnare time’s warp (and woof!), retrieving,
my haze-headed friend, you. This shining bark,

a Zen master’s bronzy gong, calls you here,
entirely, now: bow-wow, bow-wow, bow-wow.

"Golden Retrievals" by Mark Doty, from Sweet Machine: Poems. © HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

Photography credit: "Golden Retriever Fetching Stick on Muddy Dirt Path," by Johan & Santina De Meester (originally color).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lao Tzu: "47" ["There is no need to run outside"]

There is no need to run outside
For better seeing,
Nor to peer from a window. Rather abide
At the center of your being;
For the more you leave it, the less you learn.
Search your heart and see
If he is wise who takes each turn:
The way to do is to be.

"47" ["There is no need to run outside"] by Lao Tzu, from The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, An American Version, translated from the Chinese by Witter Bynner. © Perigree, 2006.  

Photography credit: Detail from "White Dahlia," one in a series by Carolyn Parker (originally color). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Jeffrey Harrison: "Interval"

Sometimes, out of nowhere, it comes back,
that night when, driving home from the city,
having left the nearest streetlight miles behind us,

we lost our way on the back country roads
and found, when we slowed down to read a road sign,
a field alive with the blinking of fireflies,

and we got out and stood there in the darkness,
amazed at their numbers, their scattered sparks
igniting silently in a randomness

that somehow added up to a marvel
both earthly and celestial, the sky
brought down to earth, and brought to life,

a sublunar starscape whose shifting constellations
were a small gift of unexpected astonishment,
luminous signalings leading us away

from thoughts of where we were going
or coming from, the cares that often drive us
relentlessly onward and blind us

to such flickering intervals when moments
are released from their rigid sequence
and burn like airborne embers, floating free.

"Interval" by Jeffrey Harrison, from Feeding the Fire. © Sarabande Books, 2001.

Photography credit: Untitled image of fireflies by Donna Van Bogaert (originally color). The photographer blogged: "I have buffered some of the loss of the spring blooms and delight myself with the coming constellation of little stars in my backyard. Beautiful."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Susan B. Auld: "Practicing the Art of Zen"

how can I be in the present
when I need two hands to twitter and tweet
when world events are everywhere all the time

above   below   under   inside   outside
slithering through
ear buds   flat screens   cell phones

and I miss the exact second the rose
opens its red lips or the dramatic entrance
of the lilac's perfume as it catches a ride
on the back of a spring breeze
and floats through my open window

how can I listen    to my breath
move   in    move   out    move   in    move   out

through the rumbles of cement trucks
bells and whistles of garbage trucks
siren songs   ring tones   doorbells
computer music and twitches

how can I possibly be
in the moment
when the world is so

in my face
in my ears
in my rooms
in my yard
swallowing this
moment and
the next and next and next...

how in this world do I let go
of all the cacophonous chaos

practice    practice    practice

"Practicing the Art of Zen" by Susan B. Auld. Published on the website of the Illinois State Poetry Society, April 2011. © Susan B. Auld.

Photography credit: "Signal noise," by unknown photographer (originally color).


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Julie L. Moore: "Innocence"

 Innocence sees that this is it, and finds it world enough.
                                                                                         —Annie Dillard

At some point you make peace with it
Your life as it is, with all it offers you

Like an early evening walk, half moon
Hung in the tiger lily sky

Black cows heading to the barn
Bemoaning the end of day

Hundreds of blackbirds screeching
Live as the wire they perch upon

My long-time friend zipping by in her van
Waving. It’s after all the whining

And stomping of feet, of course. After dreams
Blur with real life. After the pin-pricked

Pop of the inflated ego. What joy
Mysterious. What humble innocence.

"Innocence" by Julie L. Moore, from Slipping Out of Bloom. © WordTech Editions, 2010.

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


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

William Stafford: "Little Rooms"


I rock high in the oak—secure, big branches—
at home while darkness comes. It gets lonely up here
as lights needle forth below, through airy space.
Tinkling dishwashing noises drift up, and a faint
smooth gush of air through leaves, cool evening
moving out over the earth. Our town leans farther
away, and I ride through the arch toward midnight,
holding on, listening, hearing deep roots grow.

There are rooms in a life, apart from others, rich
with whatever happens, a glimpse of moon, a breeze.
You who come years from now to this brief spell
of nothing that was mine: the open, slow passing
of time was a gift going by. I have put my hand out
on the mane of the wind, like this, to give it to you.

"Little Rooms" by William Stafford, from An Oregon Message. © Harper and Row, 1987.  

Photography credit: Detail from "Austin, texas [sic], a barefoot boy climbing a gigantic live oak tree," by Meredith Winn Photography (originally color, heavily edited by curator).


Monday, May 12, 2014

May Sarton: "An Observation"

True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother's hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love;
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.

"An Observation" by May Sarton, from A Private Mythology. © W. W. Norton & Co., 1996.

Photography credit: Detail from "Farmer's Strong, Work Toughened Hands Planting in the Garden," by Ed Clark (originally black and white).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chinua Achebe: "Mother in a Refugee Camp"

No Madonna and Child could touch
Her tenderness for a son
She soon would have to forget. . . .
The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea,
Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs
And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps
Behind blown-empty bellies. Other mothers there
Had long ceased to care, but not this one:
She held a ghost-smile between her teeth,
And in her eyes the memory
Of a mother’s pride. . . . She had bathed him
And rubbed him down with bare palms.
She took from their bundle of possessions
A broken comb and combed
The rust-colored hair left on his skull
And then—humming in her eyes—began carefully to part it.
In their former life this was perhaps
A little daily act of no consequence
Before his breakfast and school; now she did it
Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.

"Mother in a Refugee Camp" by Chinua Achebe, from Chinua Achebe: Collected Poems. © Anchor, 2004.

Art credit: "Famine, Korem camp. Wollo, Ethiopia, November 1984," by David Burnett. © David Burnett, 1984 (originally color).


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stuart Kestenbaum: "Psalm"

The only psalm I had memorized was the 23rd
and now I find myself searching for the order
of the phrases knowing it ends with surely
goodness and mercy will follow me
all the days of my life and I will dwell
in the house of the Lord forever only I remember
seeing a new translation from the original Hebrew
and forever wasn't forever but a long time
which is different from forever although
even a long time today would be
good enough for me even a minute entering
the House would be good enough for me,
even a hand on the door or dropping today's
newspaper on the stoop or looking in the windows
that are reflecting this morning's clouds in first light.

"Psalm" by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-on Sentences. © Deerbrook Editions, 2007.

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nishiyama Sōin: Untitled ["Settling, white dew"]

                                                 Settling, white dew
                                                 does not discriminate,
                                                 each drop its home

Untitled ["Settling, white dew"] by Nishiyama Sōin, translated from the Japanese by Sam Hamill. From The Poetry of Zen, translated and edited by Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton. © Shambhala Publications, 2007.  

Photography credit: "Green Dew," by unknown photographer (originally color).


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Melissa Studdard: "I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast"


—After Thich Nhat Hanh

It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out—
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken—all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.

"I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast" by Melissa Studdard. Published online by Ishaan Literary Review, Issue #3 (Spring 2013). © Melissa Studdard.

Photography credit: "Fried pancake background close-up," by Aleksandr Lobanov.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Larry Schug: "Crab Apple Trees"


I’m tempted to say these trees belong to me,
take credit for blossoms that gather sunrise
like stained glass windows,
because eighteen springs ago
I dug holes for a couple of scrawny seedlings,
spread their roots in a bed of manure,
watered them, supported them with stakes and twine
until the saplings could stand alone in the wind.
But now, the flowering crabs in my yard,
like grown children, have business of their own,
bumblebees to feed,
and small sour balloons to inflate
by the time autumnal flocks, robins and cedar waxwings,
come to them for sustenance.
My reward is in the way my eyes
gorge on brilliant blossoms,
the sweet aroma my nose inhales,
a rich dessert in a restaurant for the senses.

"Crab Apple Trees" by Larry Schug. Published in Community Connections, Spring 2004. © Larry Schug.

Photography credit: "Crabapple Tree, April 28, 2008," by Kathleen Connally (originally color).