Friday, October 31, 2014

Galway Kinnell: "Wait"

in tribute
Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

"Wait" by Galway Kinnell, from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words. © Houghton Mifflin, 1980.   

Curator's note: Galway Kinnell, one of our mindfulness poets, died this week from leukemia at the age of 87. Kinnell wrote this poem for one of his students who was contemplating suicide after a failed relationship. After describing the circumstances of its creation during an interview, he said, "I rarely write poems for a specific person. I don’t write them to unload my emotions. I write them because they come to me and they seem to embody something that I didn’t quite know before and I try to perfect them and if somebody asks me why are you doing all that work? I say, for beings." Click here to watch Kinnell read "Wait" for The New Television Workshop.

Art credit: Photograph by Richard Brown.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: "Recipe for Happiness in Khabarovsk or Anyplace"

                                 One grand boulevard with trees
                                 with one grand café in sun
                                 with strong black coffee in very small cups

                                 One not necessarily very beautiful
                                 man or woman who loves you

                                 One fine day

"Recipe for Happiness in Khabarovsk or Anyplace" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from Endless Life: The Selected Poems. © New Directions, 1981.

Thanks to Mark Palinski for suggesting this poem for our collection.

Art credit: "Joe the Art of Coffee—Two Macchiatos," photograph by Adam Goldberg.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Barbara Crooker: "Plentitude"

Late fall, but the sun's still warm, streams
in from the west like honey. My hands curl
around a mug of tea, and it feels like a benediction,
a reprieve from my crazy life: bringing my mother
from one doctor to the other, as systems shut down,
doors start to close; going to interviews
with my disabled son to find, in the end,
that promised programs aren't funded,
and when school ends in June, that's it, so long.
But today, there's this—the happiness that comes
from working again, even though rejections
fill my mailbox, thicker than snowflakes.
I know winter's waiting; I've felt its breath
on the back of the wind. This is a bit of respite
before the storms roll in. I lean against this willow,
let the sun soak all the way to the bones. These blue
mountains cup me in their hands. This lucent afternoon
and a spigot of birdsong fill my bowl to the brim.

"Plentitude" by Barbara Crooker. Published in Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature (March 2014). © Barbara Crooker.

Art credit: "Morning Tea," photograph taken on July 16, 2007 by laura alice watt.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Denise Levertov: "A Gift"

Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.

"A Gift" by Denise Levertov, from Sands of the Well. © New Directions, 1998.

Art credit: Untitled photograph, likely by monikagal, taken on March 7, 2012.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rainer Maria Rilke: "II, 29" ["Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower"]

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

"II, 29" ["Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower"] by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, anthologized in In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. Edited and translated from the original German by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. © Riverhead, 2005.

Read the German text online on p. 134 of this source.

Listen to translator Joanna Macy recite this poem and offer brief commentary, clipped from an interview with Krista Tippet,, July 13, 2010.

Art credit: "Church Bell Cortona," watercolor painting (8 of 40) by Cameron Lee Roberts (originally color).


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rashani Réa: "The Unbroken"

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside which is unbreakable
and whole
while learning to sing.

"The Unbroken" by Rashani Réa. © Rashani Réa. Presented here by poet submission. As described by the poet: "A poem i wrote in 1991, after the 5th death in my family."

Art credit: Untitled mosaic by Gordon Mandich.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hermann Hesse: "Sometimes"

Sometimes, when a bird calls,
Or a wind moves through the brush,
Or a dog barks in a distant farmyard,
I must listen a long time, and hush.

My soul flies back to where,
Before a thousand forgotten years begin,
The bird and the waving wind
Were like me, and were my kin.

My soul becomes a tree, an animal,
A cloud woven across the sky.
Changed and unfamiliar it turns back
And questions me. How shall I reply?

The original German:

Manchmal, wenn ein Vogel ruft
oder ein Wind geht in den Zweigen
oder ein Hund bellt im fernsten Gehöft,
dann muß ich lange lauschen und schweigen.

Meine Seele flieht zurück,
bis wo vor tausend vergessenen Jahren
der Vogel und der wehende Wind
mir ähnlich und meine Brüder waren.

Meine Seele wird Baum
und ein Tier und ein Wolkenweben.
Verwandelt und fremd kehrt sie zurück
und fragt mich. Wie soll ich Antwort geben?

"Sometimes" by Hermann Hesse, as translated online from the original German by The original rhymes, but the standard English translation I found does not, so I thought I’d try my hand at a rhyming version.  I admit I'm not happy with the middle verse, but you can see ... the translation by Robert Bly here."
Art credit: "Howling Away at the Gray," photograph by Shreve Stockton.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Curator's Note of Thanks

I just have to say a hearty thank you:

For reading along. For sharing links via Facebook and forwarding poems via email. For suggesting or submitting poems. For bearing with technical problems and "growing pains." For sending your messages of appreciation and telling me stories. For making me smile, even laugh. Sometimes, for bringing tears. For inspiring me. Every day, I meet a steady trickle of you, electronically and via snail mail, from around the world.

When I began this project, I never realized I'd feel so connected to the readers of these poems. You are a blessing.

So, with a deep bow of gratitude:

Thank you
Toda Rabah
Ke a leboga
Muchas Gracias
Moving my flat hand forward from my chin
Shi Shi
Salamat o
благодарственное письмо
(الاسم) شكرا لك

Deep peace,

P.S. No, I'm not saying "thanks" because I'm calling it quits.
I just like to say it now and then.
I don't do it enough.

Hannah Stephenson: "I Could Care Less"

I could care less,
I could,
but instead, I care
so much,
so phenomenally.
It happens
when we look, this
range-sized adoration
welling up
inside us in response
to all that
is present alongside
us, and all
that existed before
the human
thumb squeezed
the top of
the common era’s
The seven holes in our
heads help
us to take in what we
can of the
ever-altering wilderness
here for us,
with us. How is this not

"I Could Care Less" by Hannah Stephenson, from In the Kettle, the Shriek. © Gold Wake Press, 2013.

Art credit: I have thus far been unable to locate the title of this bronze sculpture by Richard MacDonald, who seems to title all his works. The photograph, dated August 18, 2011, is by Marta. A quote of MacDonald on the wall above the sculpture in this installation at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas reads, "Art transcends all human boundaries. It is a gift of almost inexplicable, magical energy. When our hearts, through our senses, are touched by art, our lives are enhanced."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thomas R. Smith: "Trust"

It's like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.

The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.

The theft that could have happened doesn't.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.

And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can't read the address.

"Trust" by Thomas R. Smith, from Waking Before Dawn. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2007.  

Art credit: "Greasy Dirty Mechanic Man Hands and Fingers," photograph by D. Sharon Pruitt Pink Sherbet Photography.

Author photo credit:
Jens Gunelson (originally black and white). 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

William Ayot: "Anyone Can Sing"

Anyone can sing. You just open your mouth,
and give shape to a sound. Anyone can sing.
What is harder, is to proclaim the soul,
to initiate a wild and necessary deepening:
to give the voice broad, sonorous wings
of solitude, grief, and celebration,
to fill the body with the echoes of voices
lost long ago to bravery, and silence,
to prise the reluctant heart wide open,
to witness defeat, to suffer contempt,
to shrink, lose face, go down in ignominy,
to retreat to the last dark hiding-place
where the tattered remnants of your pride
still gather themselves around your nakedness,
to know these rags as your only protection
and yet still open—to face the possibility
that your innermost core may hold nothing at all,
and to sing from that—to fill the void
with every hurt, every harm, every hard-won joy
that staves off death yet honours its coming,
to sing both full and utterly empty,
alone and conjoined, exiled and at home,
to sing what people feel most keenly
yet never acknowledge until you sing it.
Anyone can sing. Yes. Anyone can sing.

"Anyone Can Sing" by William Ayot, from Small Things That Matter. © Well at Olivier Mythodrama Publishing, 2003. Presented here as posted on the poet's website.

Art credit: "Young survivor sings at Ulm DP [Displaced Person] camp," photograph courtesy of Lillian Gewirtzman (nee Rajs), Holocaust survivor and schoolmate of the girl in the photo, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Federico García Lorca: "The Silence"

Listen, my child, to the silence.
An undulating silence,
a silence
that turns valleys and echoes slippery,
that bends foreheads
toward the ground.

El silencio

Oye, hijo mío, el silencio.
Es un silencio ondulado,
un silencio,
donde resbalan valles y ecos
y que inclina las frentes
hacia el suelo.

"The Silence" by Federico García Lorca, translated from the original Spanish by Cola Franzen. From Selected Verses, edited by Christopher Maurer. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.  

Art credit: "Solitude," photograph by Jan Vojtek.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Howard Nemerov: "Trees"

To be a giant and keep quiet about it,
To stay in one's own place;
To stand for the constant presence of process
And always to seem the same;
To be steady as a rock and always trembling,
Having the hard appearance of death
With the soft, fluent nature of growth,
One's Being deceptively armored,
One's Becoming deceptively vulnerable;
To be so tough, and take the light so well,
Freely providing forbidden knowledge
Of so many things about heaven and earth
For which we should otherwise have no word—
Poems or people are rarely so lovely,
And even when they have great qualities
They tend to tell you rather than exemplify
What they believe themselves to be about,
While from the moving silence of trees,
Whether in storm or calm, in leaf and naked,
Night and day, we draw conclusions of our own,
Sustaining and unnoticed as our breath
And perilous also—though there has never been
A critical tree—about the nature of things.

"Trees" by Howard Nemerov, from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. © University of Chicago Press, 1981.

My thanks to an anonymous visitor to our website for suggesting this poem.

Art credit: "Wind Tree," photograph by Richard Alois. Caption: "A tree torn and formed by the ever blowing at Seven Sisters in UK."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bruce Dethlefsen: "1950"

at night
my mother bathed me in a white tub
scrubbed me with white soap
rubbed me in a white towel
hugged and plugged me
into pajamas and the white sheets

an act so kind
so common
it barely even happened

"1950" by Bruce Dethlefsen. © Bruce Dethlefsen. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Detail from untitled photograph of Oliver, her third son, by Lana (originally color).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "Eyes-Shut Facing Eyes-Rolling-Around" [excerpt]

Pay close attention to your mean thoughts.

That sourness may be a blessing,
as an overcast day brings rain for the roses
and relief to dry soil.

Don't look so sourly on your sourness!
It may be it's carrying what you most deeply need
and want. What seems to be keeping you from joy
may be what leads you to joy.

Don't call it a dead branch.
Call it the live, moist root.

Don't always be waiting to see
what's behind it. That wait and see
poisons your Spirit.

Reach for it.
Hold your meanness to your chest
as a healing root,
and be through with waiting.

"Eyes-Shut Facing Eyes-Rolling-Around" [excerpt] by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi, edited and translated from the original Persian by Coleman Barks. © Maypop, 1990.

Curator's note: I hesitate to use excerpts. In this case it feels reasonable, and not only because the final two stanzas of the original text, not included here, are distinctly different in both content and tone. Coleman Barks himself admits that the poems in this rowdy collection are "not discrete (or discreet) poems in any sense" but rather "buckets lifted from a whole." Even the titles are his own "whims." Rumi used none. So, in deleting the final stanzas for our purposes, I've basically just slopped a few lines from the bucket. I encourage you to read the full original text sometime. I'd happily point you to it online, but tellingly, I can't find it anywhere.

Art credit: "Dead Branch," drawing by Eisen Feuer (originally black and white).


Friday, October 17, 2014

Kate Knapp Johnson: "Seeing, In Three Pieces"

Somehow we must see
through the shimmering cloth
of daily life, its painted,
evasive facings of what to eat,
to wear? Which work
matters? Is a bird more
or less than a man?


There have been people
who helped the world. Named
or not named. They weren't interested
in what might matter,
doubled over as they were
with compassion. Laden
branches, bright rivers.


When a bulb burns out
we just change it—
it's not the bulb we love;
it's the light.

"Seeing, In Three Pieces" by Kate Knapp Johnson, from Wind Somewhere, and Shade. © Miami University Press, 2001.

In her notes the poet dedicates this poem to the life and work of Joseph Campbell.

Art credit: "Fold Crumple," monumental sculpture of metal bottle tops by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, photograph courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

C. G. Hanzlicek: "Mystery"

          The self is no mystery, the mystery is
          That there is something for us to stand on.
             —GEORGE OPPEN

There are no guardrails at Canyon de Chelly.
On the very edge
Of the great brow of rock,
I suffered a vertigo
That tied me forever to the earth.
I want to be here,
With the oak floors creaking under me,
And outside, among the flowers,
Where the columbine
Sensibly dies back upon itself
In the first freeze.
The mysteries are all here:
Roots, the leaves turning,
The spiders hard at their geometry lessons,
The seed that obeys perfectly
Its own limits,
The worms turning among the leaves,
Turning the leaves to compost,
Dung beetle and bottle fly,
The fluting of the white-crowned sparrow,
The shrill cries
Of the flickers, newly arrived,
The dog at his dreams,
The airiness of the dogwood,
The heaviness of the cork oak,
And the Bradford pear,
Burning its deepest reds like a candle flame,
And the sun, most mysterious,
Will be almost that red
Just before setting this evening.
The muddiness of the self
Can be forgiven, almost forgotten,
In the clarity of late October.

"Mystery" by C. G. Hanzlicek, from The Cave: Selected and New Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.  

Art credit: Detail from photograph by Roz Shirack (originally color). Caption: "The upper Ye'i Trail [in Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Arizona] had magnificent views if you were brave enough to stop and look."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Carl Sandburg: "Autumn Movement"

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the
       copper sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the
       taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of
       holes, new beautiful things come in the first spit of
       snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
       not one lasts.

"Autumn Movement" by Carl Sandburg. Published in Poetry (October, 1918).  

Art credit: "Yellow Cornflowers," photograph taken at Brisbane City Botanic Garden, Australia, November 7, 2010, by Hopeisland.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Katie Pratt: "Beyond Words"

You say you have no spirit,
but truthfully ask yourself this—
Would you look into my eyes
and see something beyond color?
You look at my hands,
but do you see beyond their shape to what they create?

When you notice my feet,
would you see beyond perception to
see how I travel through my journey,
or the way I am following after you?
Don’t imitate an eye and only see the object;
Don’t be fooled by the word reality.

When I look into your eyes, I see your spirit.
When I notice your feet,
I see the journey you’re taking,
the compass you follow.

Would you put down your logical way of thinking for just
a moment to see the hidden spirit glowing in you,
the spirit I see living through the truthful, inspirational
things you do,
the spirit that keeps me walking after you?

"Beyond Words" by Katie Pratt. Published online by Pietisten: A Herald of Awakening and Spiritual Edification (Summer 2002). © Katie Pratt.

At the time of the writing, the poet was a student at Mounds View High School, Arden Hills, Minnesota.

Art credit: "The Reverend Bill Crews washes the feet of a homeless man at the Exodus Foundation in Ashfield [suburb of Sydney, Australia]," photograph by Jacky Ghossein.

Monday, October 13, 2014

David Budbill: "What We Need"

                                                      The Emperor,
                                                      his bullies
                                                      and henchmen
                                                      terrorize the world
                                                      every day,

                                                      which is why
                                                      every day

                                                      we need

                                                      a little poem
                                                      of kindness,

                                                      a small song
                                                      of peace

                                                      a brief moment
                                                      of joy.

"What We Need" by David Budbill, from While We've Still Got Feet: New Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2005.  

Art credit: "Leaf Fight in Shinjuku," photograph by Ed Jacob. Caption for series of images: "Last weekend, while wandering around in Shinjuku, [Japan], we decided to check out the view from the Tocho Building. Coming down, we came across this autumn festival. I don’t think I’ve ever seen kids having so much fun as they did in this box of leaves."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

John Flynn: "New Work"

He feels guilty enough about writing poems
much less talking about it for a precarious living.
He sticks closer to carpentry; straightening boards,
hammer blows, cutting the corners of a stair so it
stands right and is safe for the climber, the old and
babies just walking. Being sure the rafters carry
a roof that sheds rain and whatever snow load
settles in. Fitting oak boards to make the floor,
no gaps or creaks, the nails angled and set
in the tongue each with one massive blow
of the hard rubber rented mallet. Doors swing
quietly, and latch with a soft, hollow chirp. At end
of day he buckets his hand tools, unplugs power,
picks up a bit and sweeps and heads for home.
He inhales the smell, the silence of new work,
the day's final chirp of a solid core door latching.

"New Work" by John Flynn. First published in Whistling Shade (Summer-Spring, 2013). © John Flynn. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Exposed rafters with grooved siding ceiling," photograph on the website of builder C. E. Cotton.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Judith Heron: "Into this foggy morning comes a song"

driven by no other instrument than dew
how it gathers into one small drop
falls from a fading apple leaf
and this music goes on
all over the tree
until faint sun bursts forth
October hush of morning
takes a bow

"Into this foggy morning comes a song" by Judith Heron. Published online by Your Daily Poem (October 28, 2013). © Judith Heron.

Art credit: "Empire Apple with Dew Drops," photograph taken on September 24, 2011, by Jon Wason (originally color).


Friday, October 10, 2014

Joyce Sutphen: "How to Listen"

Tilt your head slightly to one side and lift
your eyebrows expectantly. Ask questions.

Delve into the subject at hand or let
things come randomly. Don't expect answers.

Forget everything you've ever done.
Make no comparisons. Simply listen.

Listen with your eyes, as if the story
you are hearing is happening right now.

Listen without blinking, as if a move
might frighten the truth away forever.

Don't attempt to copy anything down.
Don't bring a camera or a recorder.

This is your chance to listen carefully.
Your whole life might depend on what you hear.

"How to Listen" by Joyce Sutphen, from First Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2010.
Art credit: Image by an unknown photographer of "Archangel Gabriel," marble sculpture by Ivan Mestrovic (1918).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Howard Thurman: "For a Time of Sorrow"

I share with you the agony of your grief,
   The anguish of your heart finds echo in my own.
   I know I cannot enter all you feel
   Nor bear with you the burden of your pain;
I can but offer what my love does give:
   The strength of caring,
   The warmth of one who seeks to understand
   The silent storm-swept barrenness of so great a loss.
This I do in quiet ways,
   That on your lonely path
   You may not walk alone.

"For a Time of Sorrow" by Howard Thurman, from Meditations of the Heart. © Beacon Press, 1999.

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


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jane Mead: "The Geese"

slicing this frozen sky know
where they are going—
and want to get there.

Their call, both strange
and familiar, calls
to the strange and familiar

heart, and the landscape
becomes the landscape
of being, which becomes

the bright silos and snowy
fields over which the nuanced
and muscular geese

are calling—while time
and the heart take measure.

"The Geese" by Jane Mead. Published in Poetry (October 2010). © Jane Mead.

Art credit: "Geese Across the Silo," photograph taken on February 21, 2014, by © Jayaretea Snaps (originally color). Caption: "Snow geese at Gunnison Bend Reservoir."