Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lynn Ungar: "Camas Lilies"

Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground their bulbs
for flour, how the settlers’ hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you—what of your rushed
and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything—
leaving only a note: “Gone
to the fields to be lovely. Be back
when I’m through with blooming.”
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake. Of course
your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.

"Camas Lilies" by Lynn Ungar, from Blessing the Bread: Meditations. © Skinner House, 1995. Presented here as posted on the poet's website.

Art credit: "A red winged blackbird among spring camas blooms," photograph by Greg Stahl.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

W. S. Merwin: "By the Front Door"

                                       Rain through the morning
                                       and in the long pool a toad singing
                                       happiness old as water

"By the Front Door" by W. S. Merwin, from The Moon Before Morning. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

Art credit: Detail from "Common Frog Croaking," photograph by © Chris Grady (originally color).


Friday, August 29, 2014

David Barber: "Corn Maze"

Here is where
You can get nowhere
Faster than ever
As you go under
Deeper and deeper

In the fertile smother
Of another acre
Like any other
You can’t peer over
And then another

And everywhere
You veer or hare
There you are
Farther and farther
Afield than before

But on you blunder
In the verdant meander
As if   the answer
To looking for cover
Were to bewilder

Your inner minotaur
And near and far were
Neither here nor there
And where you are
Is where you were

"Corn Maze" by David Barber. Published in Poetry (March 2013). © David Barber.  

Art credit: "Get Lost in the Maize!", photograph by unknown photographer (originally color).


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mary Chivers: "Late August"

It's as if we're always preparing
for something, the endless  roll of the earth
ripening us.
Even on the most tranquil
late August afternoon when heavy heads
of phlox bow in the garden
and the hummingbird sits still for a moment
on a branch of an apple tree—
even on such a day,
evening approaches sooner
than yesterday, and we cannot help
noticing whole families of birds
arrive together in the enclosure,
young blue birds molted a misty grey,
colored through no will of their own
for a journey.
On such an evening
I ache for what I cannot keep—the birds,
the phlox, the late-flying bees—
though I would not forbid the frost,
even if I could. There will be more to love
and lose in what's to come and this too: desire
to see it clear before it's gone.

"Late August" by Mary Chivers, from Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life, by Claire B. Willis. © Green Writers Press, 2014.

Thanks to subscriber Claire Willis for suggesting this poem. 

Art credit: "Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) Flock at the Water Tanks," photograph by Arlene Ripley © 2010 (originally color).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Denise Levertov: "The Breathing"

An absolute
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.

"The Breathing" by Denise Levertov, from Poems: 1960-1967. © New Directions Publishing, 1983.

Art credit: Image 13 of 15 by Stephen Matera (originally black and white). Caption: "Fog rolls through old growth forest in summer, Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River Valley, Central Cascades."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marge Piercy: "The Art of Blessing the Day"

[Curator's note: If you can't see the viewer above, watch the video here.]

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your splashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let's not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends'
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree
of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can't bless it, get ready to make it new.

"The Art of Blessing the Day" by Marge Piercy, from The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme. © Knopf, 1999.

Video credit: "Ode to Joy" flash mob in Sabadell, Spain, posted to YouTube by Be Inzpired! on April 2, 2013. Featuring Ludwig Van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and "Ode to Joy."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bronislaw Maj: "An August Afternoon"

An August afternoon. Even here is heard
the rush of the glittering Raba.
We look at the mountains,
my mother and I. How clear the air is:
every dark spruce on Mount Lubon
is seen distinctly as if it grew in our garden.
An astonishing phenomenon—it astonishes my mother
and me. I am four and do not know
what it means to be four  I am
happy: I do not know what to be means
or happiness  I know my mother
sees and feels what I do. And I know
that as always in the evening
we will take a walk
far, up to the woods, already before

"An August Afternoon" by Bronislaw Maj, from A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, edited by Czeslaw Milosz. Translated from the original Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass. © Mariner Books, 1998.

Art credit: "Night on Mt. Lubon," photograph by , taken on 2009/10/08 in Luboń Wielki, Szlak pieszy żółty, Poland (originally color).


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Linda Pastan: "Things I Didn't Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet"

I always knew I loved the sky,
the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time;
the way it disappears above us
even as we pursue it in a climbing plane,
like wishes or answers to certain questions—always out of reach;
the way it embodies blue,
even when it is gray.

But I didn't know I loved the clouds,
those shaggy eyebrows glowering
over the face of the sun.
Perhaps I only love the strange shapes clouds can take,
as if they are sketches by an artist
who keeps changing her mind.
Perhaps I love their deceptive softness,
like a bosom I'd like to rest my head against
but never can.

And I know I love the grass, even as I am cutting it as short
as the hair on my grandson's newly barbered head.
I love the way the smell of grass can fill my nostrils
with intimations of youth and lust;
the way it stains my handkerchief with meanings
that never wash out.

Sometimes I love the rain, staccato on the roof,
and always the snow when I am inside looking out
at the blurring around the edges of parked cars
and trees. And I love trees,
in winter when their austere shapes
are like the cutout silhouettes artists sell at fairs
and in May when their branches
are fuzzy with growth, the leaves poking out
like new green horns on a young deer.

But how about the sound of trains,
those drawn-out whistles of longing in the night,
like coyotes made of steam and steel, no color at all,
reminding me of prisoners on chain gangs I've only seen
in movies, defeated men hammering spikes into rails,
the burly guards watching over them?

Those whistles give loneliness and departure a voice.
It is the kind of loneliness I can take in my arms, tasting
of tears that comfort even as they burn, dampening the pillows
and all the feathers of all the geese who were plucked to fill

Perhaps I embrace the music of departure—song without lyrics,
so I can learn to love it, though I don't love it now.
For at the end of the story, when sky and clouds and grass,
and even you my love of so many years,
have almost disappeared,
it will be all there is left to love.

"Things I Didn't Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet" by Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country: Poems. © W. W. Norton, 2006.

Read Nazim Hikmet's "Things I Didn't Know I Loved" here.

Art credit: "LMS The Flying Scotsman, Night Train to Scotland," giclée print by Norman Wilkinson (originally color; found under various titles online).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Muriel Rukeyser: "Islands"

                                          O for God’s sake
                                          they are connected

                                          They look at each other
                                          across the glittering sea
                                          some keep a low profile

                                          Some are cliffs
                                          The Bathers think
                                          islands are separate like them

"Islands" by Muriel Rukeyser, from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, edited by Janet Kaufman and Anne Herzog. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer (originally color). Presented with this quote from William James: "We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Joyce Sutphen: "The Book of Hours"

There was that one hour sometime
in the middle of the last century.
It was autumn, and I was in my father's
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.

And there was that hour in Central Park
in the middle of the seventies.
We were sitting on a blanket, listening
to Pete Seeger singing "This land is
your land, this land is my land," and
the Vietnam War was finally over.

I would definitely include an hour
spent in one of the galleries of the
Tate Britain, looking up at the
painting of King Cophetua and
the Beggar Maid, and, afterwards
the walk along the Thames, and

I would also include one of those
hours when I woke in the night and
couldn't get back to sleep thinking
about how nothing I thought was going
to happen happened the way I expected,
and things I never expected to happen did—

just like that hour today, when we saw
the dog running along the busy road,
and we stopped and held on to her
until her owner came along and brought
her home—that was an hour well
spent. Yes, that was a keeper.

"The Book of Hours" by Joyce Sutphen. Published online by The Writer's Almanac, September 9, 2007. © Joyce Sutphen. 

Art credit: "Greg Cook and Coco," photograph taken March 2, 2012, by Gary Cosby Jr./AP Photo/The Decatur Daily (originally color).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

David Watts: "Fragment at the Beginning of Something..."

My son brings me a stone and asks
which star it fell from. He is serious
and so I must be careful,
even though I know he will place it
among those things
that will leave him someday
and he will go on, gathering.
For this is one of those moments
that turns suddenly
toward you, opening as it turns,
as if for an instant we paused
on the edge of a heartbeat
and then pressed forward, conscious
of the fear that runs beside us
and how lovely it is to be with each other
in the long, resilient mornings.

"Fragment at the Beginning of Something..." by David Watts, from Bedside Manners: One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer. © Random House/Harmony Books, 2005. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Cloudy stone, rounded by the sea, on a palm of a child," photograph uploaded by Profe (originally color).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thomas Merton: "In Silence"

Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire?”

"In Silence" by Thomas Merton, from The Strange Islands: Poems. © New Directions, 1957.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Alice N. Persons: "The Perfect Day"

You wake with
no aches
in the arms
of your beloved
to the smell of fresh coffee
you eat a giant breakfast
with no thought
of carbs
there is time to read
with a purring cat on your lap
later you walk by the ocean
with your dog
on this cut crystal day
your favorite music and the sun
fill the house
a short delicious nap
under a fleece throw
comes later
and the phone doesn't ring
at dusk you roast a chicken,
bake bread, make an exquisite
chocolate cake
for some friends
you've been missing
someone brings you an
unexpected present
and the wine is just right with the food
after a wonderful party
you sink into sleep
in a clean nightgown
in fresh sheets
your sweetheart doesn't snore
and in your dreams
an old piece of sadness
lifts away

"The Perfect Day" by Alice N. Persons, from Never Say Never. © Moon Pie Press, 2004.  

Art credit: "Chocolate Cake 1," oil on canvas panel, by Mamie Walters (originally color).


Monday, August 18, 2014

Gary Lawless: "Treat Each Bear"

Treat each bear as the last bear.
Each wolf the last, each caribou.
Each track the last track.
Gone spoor, gone scat.
There are no more deertrails,
no more flyways.
Treat each animal as sacred,
each minute our last.
Ghost hooves. Ghost skulls.
Death rattles and
dry bones.
Each bear walking alone
in warm night air.

"Treat Each Bear" by Gary Lawless, from The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, edited by Karla Linn Merrifield and Roger M. Weir. © Foothills Publishing, 2006.

Art credit: "Grizzly Bear at Sunset," photograph by © Carl Donohue Photography (originally color).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

David Wagoner: "Getting There"

You take a final step and, look, suddenly
You’re there. You’ve arrived
At the one place all your drudgery was aimed for:
This common ground
Where you stretch out, pressing your cheek to sandstone.
What did you want
To be? You’ll remember soon. You feel like tinder
Under a burning glass,
A luminous point of change. The sky is pulsing
Against the cracked horizon,
Holding it firm till the arrival of stars
In time with your heartbeats.
Like wind etching rock, you’ve made a lasting impression
On the self you were
By having come all this way through all this welter
Under your own power,
Though your traces on a map would make an unpromising
Meandering lifeline.
What have you learned so far? You’ll find out later,
Telling it haltingly
Like a dream, that lost traveler’s dream
Under the last hill
Where through the night you’ll take your time out of mind
To unburden yourself
Of elements along elementary paths
By the break of morning.
You’ve earned this worn-down, hard, incredible sight
Called Here and Now.
Now, what you make of it means everything,
Means starting over:
The life in your hands is neither here nor there
But getting there,
So you’re standing again and breathing, beginning another
Journey without regret
Forever, being your own unpeaceable kingdom,
The end of endings.

"Getting There" by David Wagoner, from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Art credit: Detail from the cover illustration of Susan Taylor Brown's Hugging the Rock, © 2006 by Michael Morgenstern (originally color).


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Barbara Crooker: "Walking with Jesus"

after David Kirby

in the Blue Ridge Mountains, eating corn fritters
and okra, passing the black-eyed peas. He loves
redbirds and kudzu, all that green tenaciousness.
He's not so much of a fan of men in white sheets,
gun racks, the Stars and Bars, but he's Jesus, so
he loves them anyway. The gospel of football
eludes him, but he sure likes to tailgate. He tells
me that all the commandments are really
about sitting with your neighbors on a wide
front porch, eating peach pie, watching the sun
go down. Why are you still going on about sin
and salvation, he asks me, when you have all this,
right here, right now?

"Walking with Jesus" by Barbara Crooker. Published online by Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought, March/April 2014. © Barbara Crooker.

Art credit: "Old Wooden Rocking Chair on a Wooden Porch," photograph by Jeremy Woodhouse (originally color).


Friday, August 15, 2014

Peter Levitt: Untitled ["Where you are going"]

Where you are going 
and the place you stay
come to the same thing.
What you long for
and what you've left behind
are as useless as your name.
Just one time, walk out
into the field and look
at that towering oak—
an acorn still beating at its heart.

Untitled ["Where you are going" by Peter Levitt, from One Hundred Butterflies. © Broken Moon Press, 1992.

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Mark Moffett//Minden Pictures (originally color).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nathaniel Tarn: "Before the Snake"

Sitting, facing the sun, eyes closed. I can hear the
sun. I can hear the bird life all around for miles.
It flies through us and around us, it takes up all
space, as if we were not there, as if we had never
interrupted this place. The birds move diorami-
cally through our heads, from ear to ear. What
are they doing, singing in this luminous fall. It is
marvelous to be so alone, the two of us, in this
garden desert. Forgotten, but remembering
ourselves as no one will ever remember us. The
space between the trees, the bare ground-sand
between them, you can see the land’s skin which
is so much home. We cannot buy or sell this
marvelous day. I can hear the sun and, within
the sun, the wind which comes out of the world’s
lungs from immeasurable depth; we catch only
a distant echo. Beyond the birds there are per-
sons carrying their names like great weights.
Just think: carrying X your whole life, or Y, or Z.
Carrying all that A and B and C around with you,
having to be A all the time, B, or C. Here you can
be the sun, the pine, the bird. You can be the
breathing. I can tell you, I think this may be
Eden. I think it is.

"Before the Snake" by Nathaniel Tarn, from Selected Poems: 1950-2000. © Wesleyan University Press, 2002.  

Art credit: "Turret Arch through the North Window, Arches National Park," photograph by Brendan Caffrey (originally color).


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

David Allen Sullivan: "Permission Granted"

You do not have to choose the bruised peach
or misshapen pepper others pass over.
You don’t have to bury
your grandmother’s keys underneath
her camellia bush as the will states.

You don’t need to write a poem about
your grandfather coughing up his lung
into that plastic tube—the machine’s wheezing
almost masking the kvetching sisters
in their Brooklyn kitchen.

You can let the crows amaze your son
without your translation of their cries.
You can lie so long under this
summer shower your imprint
will be left when you rise.

You can be stupid and simple as a heifer.
Cook plum and apple turnovers in the nude.
Revel in the flight of birds without
dreaming of flight. Remember the taste of
raw dough in your mouth as you edged a pie.

Feel the skin on things vibrate. Attune
yourself. Close your eyes. Hum.
Each beat of the world’s pulse demands
only that you feel it. No thoughts.
Just the single syllable: Yes

See the homeless woman following
the tunings of a dead composer?
She closes her eyes and sways
with the subways. Follow her down,
inside, where the singing resides.

"Permission Granted" by David Allen Sullivan, from Strong-Armed Angels: Poems. © Hummingbird Press, 2008.

Art credit: Detail from untitled photograph (image 5 of 5) by AP Photo/Marco Garcia (originally color). From the caption: "a [homeless] woman is seen walking near Waikiki Beach, Friday, May 13, 2011 in Honolulu."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Miguel de Unamuno: "Throw Yourself Like Seed"

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start there, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

"Throw Yourself Like Seed" by Miguel de Unamuno, from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman, and Michael Meade. Translated from the original Spanish by Robert Bly. © Harper Perennial, 1993.

Art credit: "Matthew 13: The Sower," oil painting by Chris Higham (originally color).


Monday, August 11, 2014

Raymond Carver: "Late Fragment"

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

"Late Fragment" by Raymond Carver, from A New Path to the Waterfall. © Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989.

Curator's note: This is the final poem in Carver's last published work, a collection written when he was dying of cancer.

Art credit: "Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin," photograph by unknown photographer (originally black and white).


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Laura Davies Foley: "Sophie"

I need to go to the bathroom. Help me!
Sophie cries, her bent body tense,
contorted like a fist beneath the sheets.

I find a nurse in the hallway.
Sophie just went, she says, exasperated,
vanishing into someone else's room.

I return, tell the patient to relax, lie back.
Now she's calling for Arthur.
My son! I need him! I am dying.

Maybe he'll be here soon, I say,
and: It's okay to be alone.
Then I place my hand beneath hers

and she grips it tightly, releases, grips, releases,
her hand pulsing in mine like a heartbeat.
Finally, she sleeps.

The next day when I enter, I see her
seeing me, her transforming smile.
I sit holding her hand, she, holding mine.

"Sophie" by Laura Davies Foley, from The Glass Tree. © Harbor Mountain Press, 2012. Presented here by poet submission. (Congratulations to Laura on the July publication of Joy Street, out from Headmistress Press.)

Art credit: "Holding an Elderly Woman's Hand," photograph by Sarah Broadmeadow-Thomas (originally color).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Anita Barrows: "Lessons from Darkness"

“I'm afraid of the darkness, and the hole in it;
and I see it sometime of every day!”
-Martin Luther, in Luther

Everything you love will perish. Try saying this to yourself
at breakfast, watching the amber-colored tea
swirl in the teapot. Try it on the tree, the clouds, the dog
asleep under the table, the sparrow taking a bath
in the neighbor's gutter. A magician’s act: Presto!
On a morning you feel open enough to embrace it
imagine it gone. Then pack the child’s lunch: smooth the thick
peanut butter, the jeweled raspberry preserves,
over the bread. Tell yourself the world
must go on forever. This is why
you feed her, imagining the day—orderly—
unfolding, imagining what you teach her
is true. Is something she will use. This is why, later, you will go out
into the garden, among the calendula, rosemary, hibiscus,
run your finger along the trunk of hawthorn
as though it were the body
of a lover, thinking of the child
on the steps of the schoolyard, eating her sandwich. Thinking nothing,
transparent air, where her hands are.

"Lessons from Darkness" by Anita Barrows. Published online by Talking Writing, March 12, 2014. © Anita Barrows. Epigraph from Luther by John Osborne (© Faber and Faber, 1961).

Many thanks to subscriber Mark Palinski for suggesting this poem for our collection.

Art credit: "Classic PBJ," photograph by Bill Keaggy (originally color).


Friday, August 8, 2014

William Stafford: "The Gift"

Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come—maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

"The Gift" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 1999.

Art credit: Detail from "Extended Ripple Crochet Pattern," crocheting and photograph by Jessie At Home (originally color and vertical).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jan Zwicky: "Recovery"

Curator's note: I came across this video while searching (unsuccessfully) for the printed source of this poem. The video and poem resonate. Keep your eye on Mama. If you can't see the viewer above, watch here.

And when at last grief has dried you out, nearly
weightless, like a little bone, one day,
no reason in particular, the world decides to tug:
twinge under the breastbone, the sudden thought
you might stand up, walk to the door and
keep on going… And in the seconds following,
like the silence following the boom under the river ice, it all
seems possible, the egg-smooth clarity of the new-awakened,
rising, to stand, and walk… But already
at the edges of the crack, sorrow
starts to ooze, the brown stain spreading
and you think: there is no end to it.

But in the breaking, something else is given—not
that glittering jumble, shrieking and churning in the blind
                                                   centre of the afternoon,
but something else—a scent,
like a door flung open, a sudden downpour
through which you can still see the sun, derelict
in the neighbour’s field, the wren’s bright eye in the thicket.
As though on that day in August, or even July,
when you were first thinking of autumn, you remembered also
the last day of spring, which had passed
without your noticing. Something that easy, let go
without a thought, untroubled by oblivion,
a bird, a smile.

"Recovery" by Jan Zwicky, as published online here. From Songs for Relinquishing the Earth. © Brick Books, 1998.

Video credit: "Fawn Rescue," posted by hikeart on November 10, 2011.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Robert Bly: "People Like Us"

There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and people
Who love God but can't remember where

He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time

To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,

You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul
And greatness has a defender, and even in death you're safe

"People Like Us" by Robert Bly, from Morning Poems. © HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

Art credit: Photograph of  "TNT Collaborative Journal #1," a "collaborative journal ... made from Nickle Silver and white leather ... [with] ten signatures of 140# hot press Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper," by Tracy Moore and Teesha Moore (originally color).