Thursday, April 30, 2015

Eavan Boland: "Patchwork"

I have been thinking at random
on the universe
or rather, how nothing in the universe
is random—

(there’s nothing like presumption late at night.)

My sumptuous
trash bag of colors—
Laura Ashley cottons—
waits to be cut
and stitched and patched

but there’s a mechanical feel
about the handle
of my secondhand sewing machine,
with its flowers
and Singer painted orange on it.
And its iron wheel.

My back is to the dark.
Somewhere out there
are stars and bits of stars
and little bits of bits.
And swiftness and brightness and drift.

But is it craft or art?

I will be here
till midnight,
cross-legged in the dining-room,
logging triangles and diamonds,
cutting and aligning,
finding greens in pinks
and burgundies in whites
until I finish it.

There’s no reason in it.

Only when it’s laid
right across the floor,
sphere on square
and seam on seam,
in a good light—
a night-sky spread—
will it start to hit me.

These are not bits.
They are pieces.

And the pieces fit.

"Patchwork" by Eavan Boland, from Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980-1990 (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001). Text as posted at this link on the website of the Irish Studies program at Evergreen State College.

Art credit: Detail of a Night Sky quilt being assembled by Meli,
photographer unknown.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ned Balbo: "Fire Victim"

Once, boarding the train to New York City,
The aisle crowded and all seats filled, I glimpsed
An open space—more pushing, stuck in place—
And then saw why: a man, face peeled away,
Sewn back in haste, skin grafts that smeared like wax
Spattered and frozen, one eye flesh-filled, smooth,
One cold eye toward the window. Cramped, shoved hard,
I, too, passed up the seat, the place, and fought on
Through to the next car, and the next, but now
I wonder why the fire that could have killed him
Spared him, burns scarred over; if a life
Is what he calls this space through which he moves,
Dark space we dared not enter, and what fire
Burns in him when he sees us move away.

"Fire Victim" by Ned Balbo, from Lives of the Sleepers (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

Art credit: "Empty BC subway car," image by unknown photographer, posted on NYC the Blog (09/30/08).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Willow Harth: Untitled ["This poem is not meant for you"]

This poem is not meant for you
unless you too have been underground
choking on your life's debris, and
playing peek-a-boo with death seriously

then the surprise of ten thousand buttercups
out of nowhere on every side where they'd
never been before on my daily walk
might have had the effect on you it did on me

because suddenly

I wanted to understand how these particular
flowers came to be—the whole evolutionary
history of mosses, ferns and angiosperms,
the miracle of photosynthesis and DNA, not

to mention the longings of the Milky Way
to reflect itself in the form called flowers and
in these buttercups, which seemed like a
visitation from the sun, urging me to tell you, in
case like me you had forgotten

we are the universe's latest way of blooming.

Untitled ["This poem is not meant for you"] by Willow Harth. Text as posted on On Being with Krista Tippett (07/23/14).

Art credit: Photograph by PA in the Daily Mail (06/02/2013). Caption: "At long last: A vast carpet of buttercups glisten in the sunshine in fields close to the River Wharfe near Bolton Percy in North Yorkshire [England] this morning."

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wendell Berry: "The Peace of Wild Things"

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

"The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry. Text as published in New Collected Poems (Counterpoint Press, 2012).

Curator's note: So many tragedies in the world. I can't acknowledge them all with a poem. But I can't let pass the earthquake and aftershocks that have recently terrorized countless people in Nepal, India and Tibet. May memory hold in its golden cup all those who have perished. May the survivors somehow rest in the peace they need to go on. May we on the outside help bear them up, help carry them to still waters.

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Omar Havana/Getty Images. Caption: "A Buddha statue is surrounded by debris from a collapsed temple in the UNESCO world heritage site of Bhaktapur on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Caroline Johnson: "Blue Sky"

Close the doors.
You’ve already paid your dues.
Light the candles. Breathe
the Lilly of the Valley, the lilacs
in the vase. Reach for a pen.
Take a couple sheets of
parchment paper. Stretch.
Do Chi Gong. It seems obvious,
but sit down. Close your eyes.
Reach into the abyss. Tap into
the divinity, the Oversoul,
the Muse of the Mind. Let
your thoughts spill onto paper.

Let’s pretend you are the newest star.
Rescue your mind from a ditch.
Be aware a certain absurdity attends
outside the door. Awaken.
You are the healing waters.
Close the door, but don’t close
your mind. Come find your
own blue sky.

"Blue Sky" by Caroline Johnson. Text as published in The Prairie Light Review (2012). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Blue Sky Doors," oil painting on canvas, by Michael Chambers.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ed Pilolla: "Favorite Mug"

Your day is like your favorite mug.
You fill it with the necessary stuff
to survive in this world.
Those days
let me be the seasoning.
Other days I get to fill it with your favorite brew
as well as mine,
vanilla and chai leaves and
inside jokes
and a dollop of raw honesty
and honey.

I will gently blow on your day
when it's too hot,
cup my hands to share in the warmth
and fill it with spirits along the way.
Never will I leave your mug
on the countertop with coffee grounds
at the bottom for days.

Don't judge me by my propensity to blast Van Halen
or how I casually enter the bathroom
to brush my teeth while you're peeing
and not pick up on that unhappy look on your face.
Judge me instead by how I thread my fingers through the handle
of your day,
lift the rim of your world to my lips
and drink in your story.

"Favorite Mug" by Ed Pilolla. Text as published in Dragonfly: A Book of Love Letters (CreateSpace, 2010).

Art credit: "Red Coffee Mug," oil painting on canvas, by Kit Hofer.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hannah Stephenson: "The Box Is the Toy"

The river is moving
but the meadow is still.

That is what we think

which is why we forget about
how big of a box the planet is in
and how big of a box
with no sides
that box is in.

"The Box Is the Toy" by Hannah Stephenson. © Hannah Stephenson. Text as presented on The Storialist, the poet's blog (09/26/13). Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Meadow Parsley, Gunderson National Forest, Colorado," image by unknown photographer.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hafiz: "What Happens"

What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken
Your eyes
And your heart
And the cells of your body
To the great Journey of Love?

First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears

And a hundred sweet promises
And those heroic vows
No one can ever keep.

But still God is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.

What happens when your soul
Begins to awake in this world

To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?

O the Beloved
Will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions—

Like Hafiz.

"What Happens" by Hafiz. Text as published in I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz (Sufism Reoriented, 1996). Purported to be translated from the original Persian (Farsi) by Daniel Ladinsky.

Please note that Ladinsky's "translations" are controversial, considered by many to be less Hafiz than Ladinsky himself.

Art credit: "White Dove landing on hand," image by unknown photographer with Getty Images.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Juditha Dowd: "Conversing with an Orange"

YĆ¼ksel taught us the right way
to eat the Turkish portakal.
You do it slowly, talking with friends,
attentive to the task.

I saw that preparation
can be an aspect of taste,
as time may often be of place,
and I memorized the rule:

Slice off the stem,
work your knife in carefully
under the pebbled skin.
Score it in six vertical lines.

An orange can last all evening
with a glass of sweetened tea,
talk melding with the fruit,
the stacked elliptical peel.

You climb the honey-scented hills
of Izmir or Mersin,
build a small white fortress
from the wrinkled seeds.

"Conversing with an Orange" by Juditha Dowd, from Back Where We Belong (Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press, 2012). Text as posted on Your Daily Poem (4/11/2013).

Art credit: "Orange with Leaf," oil on hardboard, painting by Faith Te.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

William Stafford: "Any Morning"

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

"Any Morning" by William Stafford, from Ohio Review (Volume 50, 1993). Text as posted on The Writer's Almanac (11/26/2012).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer (digitally altered by curator).

Monday, April 20, 2015

W. S. Merwin: "Parts of a Tune"

One old man keeps humming the same few notes
of some song he thought he had forgotten
back in the days when as he knows there was
no word for life in the language
and if they wanted to say eyes or heart
they would hold up a leaf and he remembers
the big tree where it rose from the dry ground
and the way the birds carried water in their voices
they were all the color of their fear of the dark
and as he sits there humming he remembers
some of the words they come back to him now
he smiles hearing them come and go

"Parts of a Tune" by W. S. Merwin, from The Shadow of Sirius (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). Text as published at the Merwin Conservancy website.

Art credit: Untitled photograph taken on October 21, 2011, by Martin Gommel.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Linda Pastan: "April"

A whole new freshman class
of leaves has arrived

on the dark twisted branches
we call our woods, turning

green now—color of
anticipation. In my 76th year,

I know what time and weather
will do to every leaf.

But the camellia swells
to ivory at the window,

and the bleeding heart bleeds
only beauty.

"April" by Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light: Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012 edition).

Art credit: Untitled image of bleeding heart blossoms by unknown photographer.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Anne Barney: "Another Moment"

Last night I woke up
too warm and in want
of a breeze.
I went to the window,
in a hurry to open it quickly,
to get back to sleep
before creatures began
to scurry in my thoughts.

I had left up the shade,
and looked forward to rising
early with first light,
that gentle rousing
before the sun shouts over the mountain.
Raising the glass, I stared out,
into a night without moon,
a night of diamonds, just-cut.

One small bit of brilliance
shot through the sky, right then,
falling, it seemed, right
in front of me, and I
felt as my breath
left my body
for just that moment,
a moment given to me

as a gift,
as all my moments are,
a flash
of brilliance, or something
on which to wish,
out of a fathomless darkness
that holds so many,
and lets so many


"Another Moment" by Anne Barney. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Image of a meteor taken by an unknown photographer during the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower.

Friday, April 17, 2015

David Tucker: "The Day Off"

My wife and kids were gone, the house
was empty and light. All morning I read
Barbara Tuchman’s great book
about the Middle Ages.

A plain gray moth slept
on the windowsill, waking now and then
to crawl with the heat of the sun.

The smell of the lilac near the fence
rushed past me—scene of the French cavalry
there, then not there. It all went so fast.

The kids came home,
my wife rushed in talking of dinner,
and the streetlights switched on.

I put my book down somewhere
in the years after the Black Death
Farms lay abandoned and whole towns
had disappeared. In an abbey
by the Seine, the last monk alive left a note,

and the moth on the windowsill
was gone—slipping though a hole
in the screen and into the night.

"The Day Off" by David Tucker. Text as published in Late for Work (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thomas Centolella: "Splendor"

One day it's the clouds,
one day the mountains.
One day the latest bloom
of roses—the pure monochromes,
the dazzling hybrids—inspiration
for the cathedral's round windows.
Every now and then
there's the splendor
of thought: the singular
idea and its brilliant retinue—
words, cadence, point of view,
little gold arrows flitting
between the lines.
And too the splendor
of no thought at all:
hands lying calmly
in the lap, or swinging
a six iron with effortless
tempo. More often than not
splendor is the star we orbit
without a second thought,
especially as it arrives
and departs. One day
it's the blue glassy bay,
one day the night
and its array of jewels,
visible and invisible.
Sometimes it's the warm clarity
of a face that finds your face
and doesn't turn away.
Sometimes a kindness, unexpected,
that will radiate farther
than you might imagine.
One day it's the entire day
itself, each hour foregoing
its number and name,
its cumbersome clothes, a day
that says come as you are,
large enough for fear and doubt,
with room to spare: the most secret
wish, the deepest, the darkest,
turned inside out.

"Splendor" by Thomas Centolella, from Views from along the Middle Way (Copper Canyon Press, 2002).

Art credit: "Kostino [Bulgaria] Solargraph," photograph taken in 2011 by Boris Pophristov. A solargraph is a long-exposure image that shows the path of the sun as it arcs across the sky, usually over several months, sometimes longer. From the caption: "Six months exposure with a beer can pinhole camera installed on the highest cliffs of Kostino."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frank O'Hara: "Poem"

Here we are again together
as the buds burst over the trees their
light cries, walking around a pond in yellow weather.

Fresh clouds, and further
oh I do not care to go!
not beyond this circling friendship,
damp new air and fluttering snow
remaining long enough to make the leaves
excessive in the quickness of their mild return,
not needing more than earth and friends to see the winter so.

                                                                                           [April 15, 1954]

"Poem" by Frank O'Hara. Text as published in Poems Retrieved (City Lights Books/Grey Fox, 2013 edition).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Vicki Cronis-Nohe | The Virginian-Pilot. Caption: "Snowflake flurries surround a tree in spring bloom on March 21, 2013, in Chesapeake [Virginia, USA]."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cornelius Eady: "A Small Moment"

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What's that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking
What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn't;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here's what
She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. "I am picking
Out the good ones," she tells me. It's
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.

"A Small Moment" by Cornelius Eady, from Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008).

Art credit: "Fresh Daily Bread Vintage Metal Art Retro Bakery Tin Sign," image by unknown photographer.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "You Are the Only Student You Have"

You are the only faithful student you have.
All the others leave eventually.

Have you been making yourself shallow
with making others eminent?

Just remember, when you're in union,
you don't have to fear
that you'll be drained.

The command comes to speak,
and you feel the ocean
moving through you.
Then comes, Be silent,
as when the rain stops,
and the trees in the orchard
begin to draw moisture
up into themselves.

(Mathnawi, V, 3195-3219)

"You Are the Only Student You Have" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from Feeling the Shoulder of the Lion: Poetry and Teaching Stories of Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks (Shambhala, 2000).

Art credit: "Rain in the Orchard," 12"x12" oil on panel painting of a Sauvie Island (Oregon, USA) landscape by Randall David Tipton.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Edward Hujsak: "Sorting Things Out"

Gather all your memories
inside your circled arms
and clasped hands.
Be still and breathe deeply.
Gaze down and place
them all in order.
Let times of joy
and exhilaration
rise to the top.
Make room
for days of grief
and make a special place
for when you reached out
and helped another.
Let darker memories
sink to the bottom,
hidden in haze.
An expiation,
each soul owes to itself.

"Sorting Things Out" by Edward Hujsak. Text as presented on Your Daily Poem (11/24/12).

Art credit: "Eternal Hug," oil on canvas, by Jiawei Shen. This painting portrays Australian art curator Ace Bourke and his lion friend Christian. Bourke and Christian last saw each other in the African wild in 1972, but this painting dates from 2013 and represents Bourke as he appeared at that time. Learn more about the story of these friends here. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dana Yost: "A New Approach"

There are more ways to look
at yourself than just considering
yourself, I am told. You can be
defined by the way you treat others,
the way you behave in circumstances
beyond your dictate.
You can be defined by outlasting
your past, not prefiguring your future,
by finding a point at the center
of a therapist’s hand-drawn crucifix
and being comfortable
there: Apart from yourself
and the judgments and grievances
of the brain, at ease over coffee
with an elder, trying to learn
why a skid loader needs
the hydraulics it does,
not slope-shouldered with
the ruins of a decision—not yours—
that left you where you are today.
But enjoying the way the red finch
lands on the rail of the feeder
a few feet in front of you.

"A New Approach" by Dana Yost. Originally published in The Awakenings Review (Spring 2011). Presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: "House Finch male variant," photograph taken in Baja California Sur, Mexico, by Chris and Debbie Llewellyn.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Elizabeth Spires: "Zen Sonnet"

It was April and we were reading the book about Zen
you were writing your Zen poems and we were talking
about the moment we were in and I was thinking thoughts
that were not Zen: how I know too much too little to teach you

and then I stepped back from each thought and watched it 
disappear a horse without a rider over a sharp-edged horizon.

Spring was a pale shade of yellow a green that kept deepening 
there was desire and there was a sense of unfolding and I thought
how we can do anything there is no need for an excess of feeling 
we can walk through the door that was made for entering and exiting
abandoning the poems that were never ours though we wrote them 
to the one who walks into this room when we are gone.
So let us go out into the world and wander a little 
beggars with empty bowls in straw hats grass sandals.

"Zen Sonnet" by Elizabeth Spires, from Southwest Review (Volume 99, Number 3). Text as presented on Poetry Daily (September 1, 2014).

Art credit: "Buddha statue close-up [of] Monk's alms bowl," photograph by Worradirek Muksab.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Steve Kowit: "Notice"

in tribute
Steve Kowit

This evening, the sturdy Levi's
I wore every day for over a year
& which seemed to the end
in perfect condition,
suddenly tore.
How or why I don't know,
but there it was: a big rip at the crotch.
A month ago my friend Nick
walked off a racquetball court,
got into this street clothes,
& halfway home collapsed & died.
Take heed, you who read this,
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart,
& kiss the earth & be joyful,
& make much of your time,
& be kindly to everyone,
even to those who do not deserve it.
For although you may not believe
it will happen,
you too will one day be gone,
I, whose Levi's ripped at the crotch
for no reason,
assure you that such is the case.
Pass it on.

"Notice" by Steve Kowit. Text as published in The Dumbbell Nebula (Roundhouse Press, 1999).  

Curator's note: We mark the passing of another mindfulness poet, Steve Kowit, who described the writing of poetry as "gloriously good fun ... a delectable game, and yet ... also, at the same time, a high spiritual exercise." Let's remember him with an extended passage from a 2004 interview, which he valued enough to post on his website.

"I want poets to do whatever magic they do while honoring their ability to communicate. The cognitive vacuity of post-modern poetry doesn’t appeal to me at all and I would hope that the younger poets writing take their inspiration from those poets—present and past—who had something of use to say, and who wanted to get it said so that the reader would hear it. That means craft at the service of content. ‘Content’ has been something of a dirty word these past many decades. Write as wildly and uninhibitedly as you wish, but make sure you’re bringing the reader with you. Otherwise, you’re just showing off, just spinning your wheels. But my more general advice would be write as much as you can; read as much as you can; read widely not only in the American tradition and the British tradition, but at the fount of world poetry.... Fall in love with as many poems and poets as you can. When you find poems you love, xerox them or scan them into your computer and compile an anthology. Let it all influence you."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Czeslaw Milosz: "Encounter"

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

                                                         Wilno, 1936

"Encounter" by Czeslaw Milosz, from The Collected Poems, 1931-1987 (Ecco Press, 1988). Text as presented by the Poetry Foundation.

Art credit: Photograph of "a brown hare at dawn in Norfolk, [England," taken by Ian Paul Haskell.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Denise Levertov: "The Thread"

Something is very gently,
invisibly, silently,
pulling at me—a thread
or net of threads
finer than cobweb and as
elastic. I haven't tried
the strength of it. No barbed hook
pierced and tore me. Was it
not long ago this thread
began to draw me? Or
way back? Was I
born with its knot about my
neck, a bridle? Not fear
but a stirring
of wonder makes me
catch my breath when I feel
the tug of it when I thought
it had loosened itself and gone.

"The Thread" by Denise Levertov. Text as published in Poems, 1960-1967 (New Directions, 1983).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Larry Smith: "In Early Spring"

Road catkins, russet and tan, let the
wind sweep over them as dusk
seeps in along the lake,
and I pass road puddles
swelling to ponds, mirroring
the sky's own silveriness.
At the railroad tracks seven geese
veer off and set down in a field
so that only their necks
speak for them, telling us all
to go on while they rest
by the barn. Today a man
asked me if I were depressed,
and I looked up and smiled.
No more than these geese or catkins
as light falls around them, no
more than those pine boughs
lifting in the wind—just so,
life goes on.

"In Early Spring" by Larry Smith, from A River Remains (WordTech Editions, 2006). © Larry Smith. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Seven Geese Leaving," photograph taken September 11, 2007, by Yakographer.