Saturday, January 31, 2015

Alberto Ríos: "A Yellow Leaf"

A yellow leaf in the branches
Of a shamel ash
In the front yard;
I see it, a yellow leaf
Among so many.
Nothing distinguishes it,
Nothing striking, striped, stripped,
Strident, nothing
More than its yellow
On this day,
Which is enough, which makes me
Think of it later in the day,
Remember it in conversation
With a friend,
Though I do not mention it—
A yellow leaf on a shamel ash
On a clear day
In an Arizona winter,
A January like so many.

"A Yellow Leaf" by Alberto Ríos, from The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2002). Text as published on American Life in Poetry.

Art credit: Unable to locate an image I liked of a yellow shamel ash leaf, I decided to use this untitled green ash leaf by an unknown photographer. The two varieties of leaves are very similar in appearance. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Pierre Reverdy: "For the Moment"

Life is simple and gay
The bright sun rings with a quiet sound
The sound of the bells has quieted down
This morning the light hits it all
The footlights of my head are lit again
And the room I live in is finally bright

Just one beam is enough
Just one burst of laughter
My joy that shakes the house
Restrains those wanting to die
By the notes of its song

I sing off-key
Ah it’s funny
My mouth open to every breeze
Spews mad notes everywhere
That emerge I don’t know how
To fly toward other ears

Listen I’m not crazy
I laugh at the bottom of the stairs
Before the wide-open door
In the sunlight scattered
On the wall among green vines
And my arms are held out toward you

It’s today I love you

"For the Moment" by Pierre Reverdy, from Selected Poems by Pierre Reverdy, translated from the original French by Kenneth Rexroth (New Directions, 1969). No bookseller information available for this edition. Text as presented on Read a Little Poetry (12/25/2014).

Art credit: "House Front Door Open," image by unknown photographer.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Jeanne Lohmann: "Praise What Comes"

surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven't deserved
of days and solitude, your body's immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise

talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps

you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs
you never intended. At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,

finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God? At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another

ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?

"Praise What Comes" by Jeanne Lohmann, from The Light of Invisible Bodies: Poems (Daniel & Daniel Publishing, 2003). Text as presented on Dancing Down the Moon (4/11/2007).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Nancy Borowick of her father, Howie, who had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gary Snyder: "Pine Tree Tops"

                                                  in the blue night
                                                  frost haze, the sky glows
                                                  with the moon
                                                  pine tree tops
                                                  bend snow-blue, fade
                                                  into sky, frost, starlight.
                                                  the creak of boots.
                                                  rabbit tracks, deer tracks,
                                                  what do we know.

"Pine Tree Tops" by Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island (New Directions, 1974).

Art credit: Untitled photograph from a series entitled "December 4-6, 2011 Blair Nebraska Moon-lit Snow and Trees, Coyotes, and Fog Optics" by Extreme Instability.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jennifer K. Sweeney: "In Flight"

The Himalayan legend says
there are beautiful white birds
that live completely in flight.
They are born in the air,

must learn to fly before falling
and die also in their flying.
Maybe you have been born
into such a life

with the bottom dropping out.
Maybe gravity is claiming you
and you feel

For the one who lives inside the fall,
the sky beneath the sky of all.

"In Flight" by Jennifer K. Sweeney. Text as published in How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009, Florence, MA). © Jennifer K. Sweeney. Reprinted with permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Flight," oil on canvas, painting by Marina Petro.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mark Sanders: "The Cranes, Texas January"

I call my wife outdoors to have her listen,
to turn her ears upward, beyond the cloud-veiled
sky where the moon dances thin light,
to tell her, “Don’t hear the cars on the freeway—

it’s not the truck-rumble. It is and is not
the sirens.” She stands there, on deck
a rocking boat, wanting to please the captain
who would have her hear the inaudible.

Her eyes, so blue the day sky is envious,
fix blackly on me, her mouth poised on question
like a stone. But, she hears, after all.
                                                     January on the Gulf,
warm wind washing over us,
we stand chilled in the winter of those voices.

"The Cranes, Texas January" by Mark Sanders, from Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2012). Reprinted with permission of the poet.

Art credit: "A flock of migrating cranes flies in front of the moon in Linum near Berlin on October 13, 2010," photograph by Pawel Kopczynski.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Leah Browning: "More than 1,000 Dead Birds Fall from the Sky in Arkansas"

It sounds like a scene
from a horror movie.

The sounds of
screaming, running—

of small feathered bodies
hitting parked cars

and the neighbors’
newly shingled roof.

There should be smoke
rising in the air,

a burnt smell, the persistent
sound of sirens.

No one knows why this happened
though there are theories.

It seems like a warning, a sign,
some kind of foreshadowing.

But it is difficult to piece
these things together,

even for the scientists,
and the fear and helplessness

can’t change anything.
Sometimes it is necessary

for each person to give and then
have faith in people and nature

because although the birds
are real, this is, too:

Outside it is January,
but here inside the house

the cat is warm and drowsy
in the sun, and there is

a fresh cup of coffee
and the crisp sound

of the newspaper pages
as they turn toward each other

and so many other small signs
and portents.

 “More than 1,000 Dead Birds Fall from the Sky in Arkansas” by Leah Browning, from In the Chair Museum (Dancing Girl Press, 2013). Presented here by submission of the poet.

 Art credit: "Siamese Kitten Sleeping," watercolor painting by Jean Haines.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

John O'Donohue: "For the Artist at the Start of Day"

May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
That cut right through the surface to a source.

May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
When the gift within you slips clear
Of the sticky web of the personal
With its hurt and its hauntings,
And fixed fortress corners,

A Morning when you become a pure vessel
For what wants to ascend from silence,

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard,
That calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
And dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

"For the Artist at the Start of Day" by John O'Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (Doubleday, 2008).

Art credit: Untitled photograph from a series by T. Appala Naidu. Caption: "The thought of the potter gets a perfect shape when his hands match the speed of the potter-wheel...."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Roque Dalton: "Like You"

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don't end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


"Like You" by Roque Dalton, translated from the original Spanish by Jack Hirschman. Text as published in Resist! Christian Dissent for the 21st Century, edited by Michael G. Long (Orbis Books, 2008).  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Charles Bukowski: "my cats"

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so

they complain but never
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can’t

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
hesitation or

when I am feeling
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my

I study these

they are my

"my cats" by Charles Bukowski, from The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 (Ecco, 2008).
Art credit: The poet and one of his cats, by unknown photographer.

Quoting Bukowski, who at one point had nine cats: “Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It’s truly ridiculous.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Miroslav Holub: "The Door"

Go and open the door.
        Maybe outside there’s
        a tree, or a wood,
        a garden,
        or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
        Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
        Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
        of a picture.

Go and open the door.
        If there’s a fog
        it will clear.

Go and open the door.
        Even if there’s only
        the darkness ticking,
        even if there’s only
        the hollow wind,
        even if
                        is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.

"The Door" by Miroslav Holub, from Poems Before & After, translated from the original Czech by Ian Milner et al. (Bloodaxe Books, 2006). Text as posted on Scottish Poetry Library.

Art credit: "Change is walking through an open door," photograph taken August 23, 2009, by Caption: "An orphan at Luchenza in Malawi."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charles Goodrich: "Evening Star"

Fork down hay
for the white-face steers.
Sit in the hay mow door
watching the horses graze,
chewing myself a dry clover sprig.

Long day over.
No evening plans.
Dust motes drift
on the ambering light.
Pigeons flap and coo in the rafters.

First star now
low in the east.
Sweat cools
and crusts on my face,
muscles lean back on their bones

and all thoughts heal down
to a low whistling.

"Evening Star" by Charles Goodrich. From Insects of South Corvallis (Cloudbank Books, 2003). © Charles Goodrich. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled photograph taken by Gary Anthes inside the barn at the Kuerner farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where the late artist Andrew Wyeth made more than 1,000 drawings and paintings.

Monday, January 19, 2015

John Daniel: "A Prayer Among Friends"

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn't ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: "A Prayer Among Friends" by John Daniel, from Of Earth: Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2012). Text as presented on The Writer's Almanac (10/19/2012).

Art credit: Untitled work of art by unknown creator.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ginger Andrews: "Down on My Knees"

cleaning out my refrigerator
and thinking about writing a religious poem
that somehow combines feeling sorry for myself
with ordinary praise, when my nephew stumbles in for coffee
to wash down what looks like a hangover
and get rid of what he calls hot dog water breath.
I wasn’t going to bake the cake

now cooling on the counter, but I found a dozen eggs tipped
sideways in their carton behind a leftover Thanksgiving Jell-O dish.
There’s something therapeutic about baking a devil’s food cake,
whipping up that buttercream frosting,
knowing your sisters will drop by and say Lord yes
they’d love just a little piece.

Everybody suffers, wants to run away,
is broke after Christmas, stayed up too late
to make it to church Sunday morning. Everybody should

drink coffee with their nephews,
eat chocolate cake with their sisters, be thankful
and happy enough under a warm and unexpected January sun.

"Down on My Knees" by Ginger Andrews, from An Honest Answer (Story Line Press, 1999). Text as published on Your Daily Poem.

Art credit: "No mas," photograph taken August 8, 2008, by Iain Burke.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Larry Schug: "A Minor Death in Indigo"

A single indigo bunting,
blue as the Virgin’s gown,
flits up and down
between a bare branch of sumac
and sunflower seeds
spilled on the ground.
Like a trout fly, skillfully tied,
played in the current
by an expert fisherman,
it lures me out of my body,
into the sky.
I forget myself for just a moment,
forget even to breathe,
then gasp for breath;
a minor death in indigo,
then, rebirth.

"A Minor Death in Indigo" by Larry Schug. Presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: Untitled photograph of an indigo bunting's feathers, from a series called "Indigo Boys," taken at Gilgo Beach, Long Island, NY, by Corey Finger and posted at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Joyce Sutphen: "Seeing, Up Close Again"

Like Gulliver in Brobdingnag, I
swooned to see again the immense
detail of the ordinary world:

the rippling surface of a fingernail,
exactly the color of a horn erupting
through the swirled-hair head of a calf,

the flayed landscape of skin where
catgut, pressing into the finger's
tip, made a ragged canyon,

the beaten sheen of a silver ring
around the pillared finger,
dark-tarnished runes

in its patterned crevices.
Nothing was too tiny for
my hungry eye,

nothing too finely etched.
I had grown weary of smooth
honed perfection, perceived from

a distance. Now, even the smallest
stroke of ink on paper was
deep enough to fold me in.

"Seeing, Up Close Again" by Joyce Sutphen, from Naming the Stars: Poems (Holy Cow! Press, 2004). Text as published on Caffeine Destiny: an online magazine.

Art credit: "Gulliver in Brobdingnag" [kissing the hand of the Queen of Brobdingnagia], watercolor illustration from the 1909 edition of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, painted by Arthur Rackham.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Noelle Kocot: "Pride"

If I claim I was a terrible, horrible,
Evil no-good person,
It would be a lie, and it would be
Wanting always to be the best or the worst.
So now I’m destined to wander,
My bag full of pride a lot lighter,
And if I say I am done
With whatever ails me,
That would also be a lie.
I am not done, will never be done
Till the day I die,
But I am content to be human,
Naked and shaking with love
At the moment, and the next moment,
I just can’t say.

"Pride" by Noelle Kocot. Text as published in Forklift Ohio (Summer, 2012).

Thanks to Mark Palinski for suggesting this poem.

Art credit: "Lonely girl with suitcase at country road," photograph by massonforstock.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mary Carolyn Davies: "If I Had Known"

If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What griefs were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle, and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
I would have brought more warmth into the place,
       If I had known.

If I had known what thoughts despairing drew you;
(Why do we never try to understand?)
I would have lent a little friendship to you,
And slipped my hand within your hand,
And made your stay more pleasant in the land,
       If I had known.

"If I Had Known" by Mary Carolyn Davies. Text as published in The Best Loved Poems of the American People, edited by Hazel Felleman (Doubleday, 1936). 

Art credit: "Bird Cage," photograph by Hossein Zare.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Michael Leunig: Untitled ["When the heart is cut"]

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

Untitled ["When the heart is cut"] by Michael Leunig. Text as archived on the poet's website.

Art credit: "Playful Creature," cartoon by Michael Leunig. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Stuart Kestenbaum: "Prayer for the Dead"

The light snow started late last night and continued
all night long while I slept and could hear it occasionally
enter my sleep, where I dreamed my brother
was alive again and possessing the beauty of youth, aware
that he would be leaving again shortly and that is the lesson
of the snow falling and of the seeds of death that are in everything
that is born: we are here for a moment
of a story that is longer than all of us and few of us
remember, the wind is blowing out of someplace
we don’t know, and each moment contains rhythms
within rhythms, and if you discover some old piece
of your own writing, or an old photograph,
you may not remember that it was you and even if it was once you,
it’s not you now, not this moment that the synapses fire
and your hands move to cover your face in a gesture
of grief and remembrance.

"Prayer for the Dead" by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-on Sentences (Deerbook Editions, 2007). Text as presented by American Life in Poetry (September, 2014).

Curator's note: The poet lost his brother Howard when the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001. 

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Mike Chimeri, taken on Long Island, New York, February, 2013.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Anne Porter: "Looking at the Sky"

                                               I never will have time
                                               I never will have time enough
                                               To say
                                               How beautiful it is
                                               The way the moon
                                               Floats in the air
                                               As easily
                                               And lightly as a bird
                                               Although she is a world
                                               Made all of stone.

                                               I never will have time enough
                                               To praise
                                               The way the stars
                                               Hang glittering in the dark
                                               Of steepest heaven
                                               Their dewy sparks
                                               Their brimming drops of light
                                               So fresh so clear
                                               That when you look at them
                                               It quenches thirst.

"Looking at the Sky" by Anne Porter. Text as published in Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth Press, 2006). 

Art credit: "Bright future for Eagle Mountain’s dark sky lovers," photograph by (October 17, 2014).

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Richard Wehrman: "When I Fell into the World"

When I fell into the world, it was
as into my mother's arms, it was into
the holding of warmth, the blue-green water,
it was into the beings who blinked
back at me amazed, as I was by them.
I fell from separateness, I fell from constriction.
I fell from the ice castle of myself, through
the rushing darkness, past screams,
past fear. I did not float up, I fell down,
and it was the world that waited
as I was stripped bare, as I tumbled out
of my self—faster and faster through blue
clouds and white, into the unknown arms
of joyfulness, toward the beings unnumbered
who opened their hearts in love.

"When I Fell into the World" by Richard Wehrman. Text presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: Image by unknown photographer.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Anita Barrows: "Questo Muro"

You will come at a turning of the trail
to a wall of flame
After the hard climb & the exhausted dreaming
you will come to a place where he
with whom you have walked this far
will stop will stand
beside you on the treacherous steep path
& stare as you shiver at the moving wall, the flame
that blocks your vision of what comes after.
And that one
who you thought would accompany you always,
who held your face
tenderly a little while in his hands—
who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass
& washed from your cheeks, the tear-tracks—
he is telling you now
that all that stands between you
& everything you have known since the beginning
is this: this wall. Between yourself
& the beloved, between yourself & your joy,
the riverbank swaying with wildflowers, the shaft
of sunlight on the rock, the song.
Will you pass through it now, will you let it consume
whatever solidness this is
you call your life, & send
you out, a tremor of heat,
a radiance, a changed
flickering thing?

"Questo Muro" by Anita Barrows. Text as posted at On Being (February 26, 2009). Used with permission of the poet.

In her interview with On Being host Krista Tippett, the poet explained, "[Questo Muro] is a phrase from a passage in Dante's Purgatory. Dante has been in the depths of depression, in the depths of the inferno, and he's now working his way out of it toward Beatrice, who is—you know, you could call her the soul or the anima. And he and Virgil are climbing the mountain, and all of a sudden they get to a wall of fire, and you can't go any farther unless you go through it.... it really is a poem, I think, about finding the courage to persist, to go through that fire."

 Art credit: "Flames," photograph by Zig117.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke: "Part Two, X" ["The Machine endangers all we have made"]

The Machine endangers all we have made.
We allow it to rule instead of obey.
To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver's hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it's alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that—when you feel it—brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

"Part Two, X" ["The Machine endangers all we have made"] by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the original German by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Text as published In Praise of Mortality (Riverhead, 2005). Reprinted with permission.

Read the German text online on p. 114 of this source.

Art credit: Image by unknown photographer.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

David Whyte: "Sweet Darkness"

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness

to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

"Sweet Darkness" by David Whyte, from The House of Belonging (Many Rivers Press, 1996). Text as published on the poet's website.  

Art credit: "Night Fisherman in a Dugout Canoe on the Zambezi River," photographic print by Chris Johns.