Saturday, February 28, 2015

Linda Nemec Foster: "Eliminating the Horizon"

                                           —for Tom Andrews
Who needs boundaries?
If your eyes fail to imagine
where the earth ends and the sky
begins, think of a place bereft
of lines:  the blue depths of a stream
flowing like hair that will never
be combed.  Deep indigo of nothing
but fluid memory ebbing around
blossoms of white asters.  “I remember           
how flowers feel when you barely
touch them,” says the water.  Like leaving
one world and embracing another:
seeds bursting into wildflowers,
clouds changing into rain,
the image of our borders
a mere outline the soul ignores.

"Eliminating the Horizon" by Linda Nemec Foster, from Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009). © Linda Nemec Foster. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Le Double," photograph by Jean Moral. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dick Allen: "You May Leave a Memory, or You Can Be Feted by Crows"

Three years, Huang Gongwang
worked on his famous handscroll,
Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

As he put successive applications of ink to paper
over the “one burst of creation,” his original design,
it is said he often sang like a tree frog
and danced on his old bare feet.

One day, he adds one hemp fiber stroke,
the next a moss dot.

What patience he had,
like a cat who comes back season after season to a mole’s tunnel.

Honors may go to others.
Riches may go to others.
Huang Gongwang has one great job to do.

And he sings like a tree frog,
and he dances on old bare feet.

"You May Leave a Memory, or You Can Be Feted by Crows" by Dick Allen. Text as published in Poetry (December, 2011). Reprinted by permission of the poet. Allen's most recent book is This Shadowy Place: Poems.

Art credit: Detail of "Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains," scroll painting completed 1347-1350 C.E., by Huang Gongwang.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Robyn Sarah: "An Early Start in Midwinter"

The freeze is on. At six a scattering
of sickly lights shine pale in kitchen windows.
Thermostats are adjusted. Furnaces
blast on with a whoosh. And day
rumbles up out of cellars to the tune
of bacon spitting in a greasy pan.

Scrape your nail along the window-pane,
shave off a curl of frost. Or press your thumb
against the film of white to melt an eye
onto the fire escape. All night
pipes ticked and grumbled like sore bones.
The tap runs rust over your chapped hands.

Sweep last night's toast-crumbs off the tablecloth.
Puncture your egg-yolk with a prong of fork
so gold runs over the white. And sip
your coffee scalding hot. The radio
says you are out ahead, with time to spare.
Your clothes are waiting folded on the chair.

This is your hour to dream. The radio
says that the freeze is on, and may go on
weeks without end. You barely hear the warning.
Dreaming of orange and red, the hot-tongued flowers
that winter sunrise mimics, you go out
in the dark. And zero floats you into morning.

"An Early Start in Midwinter" by Robyn Sarah, from The Touchstone: Poems New & Selected (House of Anansi, 1992). © Robyn Sarah. Reprinted with permission of the poet. Robyn Sarah’s new poetry collection, My Shoes Are Killing Me, will be published in April 2015 by Biblioasis Press. Biblioasis also published her 2009 collection, Pause for Breath.  

Poet photograph credit: D. R. Cowles.

Art credit: "Sunrise Through Window Frost," described as a "scan from an early 1980s Kodachrome 25 slide," by Rob Fillion.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Judith Heron: "Simple Instructions"

My teacher today, unexpectedly, is the repairman
at the vacuum cleaner shop. I go in for replacement bags
for my old Kenmore. He wants to see my machine,
to know if he can repair the broken hose. He laughs
when I tell him I have been using duct tape, asks me
if I understand what vacuum means. Tells me even
a pin-prick can reduce the function. Says he used to place
the hose in his pocket and run it like that to show people
the wasted effort of using old equipment. But you can
push it around that way if you want to. He smiles.

There will be many stories. His son is an engineer.
Works hard. Is prone to grumble. He teaches him
about the fruitless use of being sad. How people do not
want to be around you. How loneliness then creeps in.
Tells him, no matter what must be done, do it smilingly.
He reaches out his hand, pats my arm on the counter.
Says even bad news can be made good by a kind touch.
I have paid nearly one hundred dollars for a used hose
for my twenty year old vacuum. And for his stories.

"Simple Instructions" by Judith Heron. Text as posted on Your Daily Poem (12/10/2012). © Judith Heron.  

Art credit: "Vacuum Cleaner Repair Neon Sign, Lincoln Blvd., Venice, Los Angeles, California," photograph taken on February 20, 2010, by MR38.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mark Strand: "The Night, the Porch"

To stare at nothing is to learn by heart
What all of us will be swept into, and baring oneself
To the wind is feeling the ungraspable somewhere close by.
Trees can sway or be still. Day or night can be what they wish.
What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort
Of being strangers, at least to ourselves. This is the crux
Of the matter, which is why even now we seem to be waiting
For something whose appearance would be its vanishing—
The sound, say, of a few leaves falling, or just one leaf,
Or less. There is no end to what we can learn. The book out there
Tells us as much, and was never written with us in mind.

"The Night, the Porch" by Mark Strand, from New Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007).

Art credit: "Empty Porch," photograph by peirceman.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Tom Barrett: "What's in the Temple?"

In the quiet spaces of my mind a thought lies still, but ready to spring.
It begs me to open the door so it can walk about.
The poets speak in obscure terms pointing madly at the unsayable.
The sages say nothing, but walk ahead patting their thigh calling for us
       to follow.
The monk sits pen in hand poised to explain the cloud of unknowing.
The seeker seeks, just around the corner from the truth.
If she stands still it will catch up with her.
Pause with us here a while.
Put your ear to the wall of your heart.
Listen for the whisper of knowing there.
Love will touch you if you are very still.

If I say the word God, people run away.
They've been frightened—sat on 'till the spirit cried "uncle."
Now they play hide and seek with somebody they can't name.
They know he's out there looking for them, and they want to be found,
But there is all this stuff in the way.

I can't talk about God and make any sense,
And I can't not talk about God and make any sense.
So we talk about the weather, and we are talking about God.

I miss the old temples where you could hang out with God.
Still, we have pet pounds where you can feel love draped in warm fur,
And sense the whole tragedy of life and death.
You see there the consequences of carelessness,
And you feel there the yapping urgency of life that wants to be lived.
The only things lacking are the frankincense and myrrh.

We don't build many temples anymore.
Maybe we learned that the sacred can't be contained.
Or maybe it can't be sustained inside a building.
Buildings crumble.
It's the spirit that lives on.

If you had a temple in the secret spaces of your heart,
What would you worship there?
What would you bring to sacrifice?
What would be behind the curtain in the holy of holies?

Go there now.

"What's in the Temple?" by Tom Barrett. Text as published on the poet's website, Interlude: An Internet Retreat. Reprinted here by poet permission.

Art credit: Painting by Michael Leunig.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Louise Erdrich: "Grief"

Sometimes you have to take your own hand
as though you were a lost child
and bring yourself stumbling
home over twisted ice.

Whiteness drifts over your house.
A page of warm light
falls steady from the open door.

Here is your bed, folded open.
Lie down, lie down, let the blue snow cover you.

"Grief" by Louise Erdrich. Text as published in Original Fire: Selected and New Poems (Harper Perennial, 2004).

Art credit: "Walking on Thin Ice," photograph by X-ample.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tamara Madison: "What Now is Like"

Let’s go see what Now
is like outside.
Let’s open the door
look up at the sky
feel the cold night air
on our noses.
Let’s look at our breath
as we walk out
to the street.
Let’s look at how Now
holds the moon
in black branches,
how stars shine down
with a Now from long
long ago, how
they stare down
on our Now which
has coaxed them
to wink at us.
Let’s listen
to the night sounds
that rove the dark Now
beneath the traffic.
Let’s stop, look back
into the Now at the end
of the street; there
is something there
but I know it is behind us
in a place called Then
where our footprints
have forgotten
we ever made them.

"What Now is Like" by Tamara Madison. Presented here via poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled image taken in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota (USA), by unknown photographer who hosts this site. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Alice Walker: "Before I Leave the Stage"

Before I leave the stage
I will sing the only song
I was meant truly to sing.

It is the song
of I AM.
Yes: I am Me

I love Us with every drop
of our blood
every atom of our cells
our waving particles
—undaunted flags of our Being—
neither here nor there.

"Before I Leave the Stage" by Alice Walker, from The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers (New Poems) (New Press, 2013).

 Art credit: "After the Show," photograph by Garrett Crawford.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

David Ray: "Thanks, Robert Frost"

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought...
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

"Thanks, Robert Frost" by David Ray, from Music of Time: Selected and New Poems (Backwaters Press, 2006). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Snow falling from backlit trees, Stowe, Vermont, USA," photograph by Don Landwehrle.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don Colburn: "There"

Water, bone, bed, bedrock—
whatever is underneath, below what’s below.
Sudden touchable quiet, shadow
of a shadow. Weather. Sadness turning
ordinary. Nameless illness coming on.
A knock at the door so gentle
it could be anything. Distance.
The just thing not said, or said too late
or said exactly and without mercy.
Wind rising. Whatever might rise.

"There" by Don Colburn. First published in Ploughshares and later in As If Gravity Were a Theory (Cider Press Review, 2006). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Bicycle (Shadow of a Shadow Collection)," mixed media & acrylic on canvas, by Shadi Abosada.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Edward Hirsch: "I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic"

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusky snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage—silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

"I Am Going to Start Living Like a Mystic" by Edward Hirsch. Text reprinted with permission from Lay Back the Darkness (Knopf, 2003), © Edward Hirsch.

Art credit: "The Wingprint," photograph of a strike mark in the snow, presumably taken by  The attacker was likely a Great Horned Owl or Northern Hawk Owl, preying on a "vanquished squirrel." Photograph slightly altered digitally by curator.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Philip Levine: "Gospel"

in tribute
Philip Levine

The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there's
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don't
ask myself what I'm looking for.
I didn't come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I've said to myself,
although it greets me with last year's
dead thistles and this year's
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider's cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I've never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. "Soughing" we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.

"Gospel" by Philip Levine. Text as published in Breath: Poems (Knopf, 2006).

Curator's note: Philip Levine—one of our mindfulness poets, voice of the working class, and one-time Poet Laureate of the U.S.—died this week at the age of 87. Here are two quotes for us to remember him by. First, "Now I must wait and be still and say nothing I don't know, nothing I haven't lived over and over, and that's everything." And, "I'm saying look, here they come, pay attention. Let your eyes transform what appears ordinary, commonplace, into what it is, a moment in time, an observed fragment of eternity."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Marybeth Holleman: "Yesterday, on the Familiar Trail"

                             A routine walk, you know the kind: your mind
                             is far away, and it’s just your bones walking,
                             marking the rhythm of heartbeat to footstep.
                             It’s always like this right before you see them,

                             the ones who never take an absent-minded step,
                             staring at you with heads lowered, ears erect,
                             paws spread wide and hackles half-raised,
                             golden eyes deciding whether you’re predator
                             or prey. What other category do they need?
                             What other thought? It’s you,

                             with your thousand and one concepts, who must
                             step back toward that joy-sap rising, step back
                             into the only world that is.

"Yesterday, on the familiar trail" by Marybeth Holleman. Text as published in Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim (Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer Solstice, 2010). Presented here by poet submission. Check out Marybeth's blog, Art and Nature.

Art credit: "Grey Wolf," image by unknown photographer apparently at

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Maya Angelou: "Love's Exquisite Freedom"

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

"Love's Exquisite Freedom" by Maya Angelou. Published as an art book by the same title, illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones (Welcome Books, 2011).

Curator's note: This poem is commonly found on the blogosphere under the title "Touched by an Angel," a title for which I can't account.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Robert Bly: "The Third Body"

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

"The Third Body" by Robert Bly, from Eating the Honey of Words: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 1999).

Art credit: "Together Old in Italy," painting in watercolor and ink by Miki de Goodaboom. Inspired by a couple the artist observed in Montepulciano, Tuscany.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dale Biron: "Gratefulness"

Each day the engine of my gratefulness
must be coaxed and primed into action.
Of course like any old clunker,
it would just as soon stay put.
For even after the labored start beats the inertia,
and the plume of white smoke struggles upward,
the same hills always appear,
soaring daily—tall and ominous as before.
There is the long slow hill of “aging”
so gradual and smooth at first.
And then that steep grade called “the news.”
Yes, and always some mountain of a war
looming out there, never too far in the distance.
Even an old idea or a feeling long abandoned
might conspire to halt this fragile progress –
valves sputtering, tires flattening, clutch slipping.
But the old “potato, potato, potato” sound
of the engine, and all its mysterious fuel,
for which I am truly grateful
keeps stumbling along.

"Gratefulness" by Dale Biron. Text as posted on

Art credit: "Close-Up of Steam Engine Train Wheel," photograph by John Short.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gregory Orr: Untitled ["If deepest grief is hell"]

If deepest grief is hell,
When the animal self
Wants to lie down
In the dark and die also. . .

If deepest grief is hell,
Then the world returning
(Not soon, not easily)
Must be heaven.

The joke you laughed at
Must be heaven
Or the funny thing
The cat did
At its food dish.

Guides you back
To the world.

That dark so deep
The tiniest light
Will do.

Untitled ["If deepest grief is hell"] by Gregory Orr, from Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved
(Copper Canyon Press, 2005).

Art credit: "Bowl Cat," photograph by Ben Torode.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Joy Harjo: "Ah, Ah"

for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tatttoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

"Ah, Ah" by Joy Harjo, from How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001 (W. W. Norton and Company, 2002).

Art credit: Detail of "Steering Paddle," carved from yellow cedar, 6 feet by 7.25 inches, by Dean Heron (Kaska/Tlingit).

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ellen Bass: "Pray for Peace"

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas—

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

"Pray for Peace" by Ellen Bass, from The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007). Text as presented on the poet's website.

Art credit: "Top down view of a praying statue with folded hands," photograph taken in December 2013 by Amardeep Photography. Shot at a temple in Singapore of Avilokiteshvara (Quan Yin), "the Goddess who looks upon the world with compassion," the photograph was taken from above the head of a statue of a devotee with folded hands.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Karen Kraco: "Reminder"

                                        Friend death tugs my sleeve.
                                        What's your plan for this bright day?
                                        Each breath, yours to spend.

"Reminder" by Karen Kraco. Text presented here by poet submission.  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Robert Frost: "Dust of Snow"

                                                    The way a crow
                                                    Shook down on me
                                                    The dust of snow
                                                    From a hemlock tree

                                                    Has given my heart
                                                    A change of mood
                                                    And saved some part
                                                    Of a day I had rued.

"Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost. from The Voice of the Poet: Robert Frost (Random House Audiobooks, 2003). Text as presented on the Poetry Foundation.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Marjorie Saiser: "The Muse Is a Little Girl"

The muse is a little girl, impossibly polite.
She arrives when you’re talking
or walking away from your car.
She’s barefoot, she stands
next to you, mute; she taps your sleeve,
not even on your skin, just touches the cloth
of your plaid shirt, touches it twice.
She feels with her index finger the texture
and you keep talking, or you don’t.
She will wait one minute. She is not hungry
or unhappy or poor. She goes somewhere else
unless you turn and look at her
and write it down. I’m kidding.
She’s a horse you want to ride, she’s a tall horse,
she’s heavy, as if she could bear armor.
You can’t catch her with apples.
I don’t know how you get on.
I remember my cold fingers in the black mane.

"The Muse Is a Little Girl" by Marjorie Saiser. Text as published in Lost in Seward County (The Backwaters Press, 2001). © Marjorie Saiser. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by photographer whose name is illegible in the upper left.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Chana Bloch: "The Joins"

        Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.

What's between us
often seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.

Seems flexible, but it's not;
what's between us
is made of clay,

like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.

We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history,

the cup more precious to us
we saved it.

In the art of kintsugi,
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin

with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite

they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.

"The Joins" by Chana Bloch. Text as published in The Southern Review (Winter 2014).

Curator's note: Kintsugi is the Japanese way of honoring and repairing broken ceramic objects with a special lacquer mixed with silver, gold or platinum. It's an embracing of the flawed or imperfect, honoring it as essential. As the artist Barbara Bloom writes, "[Japanese kintsugi artists] believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful."

Art credit: A bowl restored the kintsugi way by Morti and Patty at the Lakeside Pottery and Ceramics Restoration Studio, image by unknown photographer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gwendolyn Brooks:
"Speech to the Young
Speech to the Progress-Toward
(Among them Nora and Henry III)"

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for The-End-of-the-Song.
Live in the along.

"Speech to the Young, Speech to the Progress-Toward (Among them Nora and Henry III) by Gwendolyn Brooks, from Blacks (Third World Press, 1991). 

Art credit: "Tightrope Walker," digital painting by roweig.