Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer: "The Way It Is"

Over and over we break
open, we break and
we break and we open.
For a while, we try to fix
the vessel—as if
to be broken is bad.
As if with glue and tape
and a steady hand we
might bring things to perfect
again. As if they were ever
perfect. As if to be broken is not
also perfect. As if to be open
is not the path toward joy.

The vase that’s been shattered
and cracked will never
hold water. Eventually
it will leak. And at some
point, perhaps, we decide
that we’re done with picking
our flowers anyway, and no
longer need a place to contain them
We watch them grow just
as wildflowers do—unfenced,
unmanaged, blossoming only
when they’re ready—and mygod,
how beautiful they are amidst
the mounting pile of shards.

"The Way It Is" by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. © Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Reprinted by permission of the poet. Visit the poet's blog, where she posts a poem a day.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, perhaps associated with this source.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Martin Willitts, Jr.: "When Stillness Is Heard"

There was nothing there when I heard a voice.
Haven’t you had a strangeness like this?
I did not respond right away, ignoring it,
and its restlessness increased.
I chucked it off as imagination.
Haven’t you ignored queasy feelings?
Perhaps it was from the empty fields,
but there was stillness in the grass and air.
This uneasiness followed me into the car
and went with me.
When stillness is so quiet, nothing is heard.
There was nothing in my house.
Nothing in the sky. Nothing in the isolated miles.
The voice persisted.
Ever ignore something that refused to be ignored?
It was telling me to enjoy and love.
The message was everywhere it needed to be.
All I had to do was listen—then it was everywhere.

"When Stillness Is Heard" by Martin Willitts, Jr. Text as published in Numinous: Spiritual Poetry (Issue 7, 2011).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Theodore Roethke: "Once More, the Round"

What's greater, Pebble or Pond?
What can be known? The Unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill
More! O More! visible.

Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering All;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love's sake;

And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.


"Once More, the Round" by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Anchor, 2011).

Art credit: "Man Dancing on Top of Mountain," photograph by G. Merrill.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Linda Nemec Foster: "Climbing Cherry Trees"

Before you can possess them in your hand—
soft globes of perfect color—
you must climb and hang on:
become the tree scraping your knees,
the bark leaving its stigmata on your hands.
Only then will you be able to taste
the color, not just the fruit,
but the color of the fruit.
Deep red of fragile skin,
cherry red of succulent heart,
mahogany red of stained pit.
Imagine a stone of pure vermilion
dissolving in your mouth.
The color never leaving your throat
as you sit there in the embrace of the tree
not belonging to the heavens,
but not quite belonging to the earth.

"Climbing Cherry Trees" by Linda Nemec Foster, from Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009). © Linda Nemec Foster. Text presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled image of cherries by unknown photographer.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tom Barrett: "Empty Mind"

Writing about empty mind is not easy.
When I have got it, there are no words.
When the words come, it goes away.

Sitting in anger and fear,
Mind is full of the past and future.
Images of catastrophes big and small
Jostle for a seat at the brain.
Resentment, incredulity and disappointment
Slide their way into heart spaces
Pushing out loving-kindness.
Equanimity lies in pieces.

Some of us scrape up that slimy
Emotional stuff and put it in jars
To carry along with us,
And then we complain that
Our load is too heavy.
We need to put down that
Lumpy sack of ooze
And take a breath.

The sage said,
“I pack no provisions for my long journey—
Entering emptiness under the midnight moon.”
He did not pack his ego,
Or his remembrance of self.
He carried no big plans
Or regrets of the past.
Like a wise fool he may have
Even forgotten to leave.
While he sits still in darkness,
The moon travels the sky.

"Empty Mind" by by Tom Barrett. Text as published on the poet's website, Interlude: An Internet Retreat. Reprinted here by poet permission.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rainer Maria Rilke: "I, 12" ["I believe in all that has never been spoken"]

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

"I, 12" ["I believe in all that has never been spoken"] by Rainer Maria Rilke. Text as published in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated from the original German by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Reprinted with permission of the editors.

Read the German text on page 65 of this online source. 

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Robert Morgan: "Honey"

Only calmness will reassure
the bees to let you rob their hoard.
Any sweat of fear provokes them.
Approach with confidence, and from
the side, not shading their entrance.
And hush smoke gently from the spout
of the pot of rags, for sparks will
anger them. If you go near bees
every day they will know you.
And never jerk or turn so quick
you excite them. If weeds are trimmed
around the hive they have access
and feel free. When they taste your smoke
they fill themselves with honey and
are laden and lazy as you
lift the lid to let in daylight.
No bee full of sweetness wants to
sting. Resist greed. With the top off
you touch the fat gold frames, each cell
a hex perfect as a snowflake,
a sealed relic of sun and time
and roots of many acres fixed
in crystal-tight arrays, in rows
and lattices of sweeter latin
from scattered prose of meadow, woods.


"Honey" by Robert Morgan. Text as published in Topsoil Road: Poems (LSU Press, 2000). © Robert Morgan. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

The poet reads the poem on his website.  

Art credit: Photograph of a beekeeping smoker, by Michele Onorato.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

William Stafford: "How to Regain Your Soul"

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you again.

"How to Regain Your Soul" by William Stafford, from The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford (Harper Perennial, 1994). Text as posted on The Writer's Almanac (05/26/14).

Art credit: "White Butterflies," photograph by Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sheila Packa: "Not Forgotten"

I learned to ride
the two wheel bicycle
with my father.
He oiled the chain
clothes-pinned playing cards
to the spokes, put on the basket
to carry my lunch.
By his side, I learned balance
and took on speed
centered behind the wide
handlebars, my hands
on the white grips
my feet pedaling.
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn't know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
keep going!
Beneath the trees in the driveway
the distance increasing between us
I eventually rode until he was out of sight.
I counted on him.

That he could hold me was a given
that he could release me was a gift.

"Not Forgotten" by Sheila Packa. Text as published in Cloud Birds (Wildwood River Press, 2011). © Sheila Packa. Reprinted by permission of the poet. This includes permission to archive.

Visit the poet's blog.

Curator's note: Here in the U.S., yesterday was Father's Day. But around the world it was also summer solstice. I chose to postpone the Father's Day poem until today. Enjoy! 

Art credit: "232:366 vintage schwinn kids' bike," photograph taken on August 19, 2012 by Kimberly Knight.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Carolyn Miller: "Rose Garden, Summer Solstice"

Everyone here believes that the roses
are blooming only for them, here where the air
by the formal beds is layered with the scent
of roses. From deep in their flushed and darkening hearts
pour odors of lemons and pepper, apricots, honey,
vanilla and myrrh and musk and semen, apples and quince,
raspberries and wine and ocean, the faint
scent of blood and the fragrance of death and the breath
of the life we are living now, in this place
where the roses are blooming for each of us, alone. 

"Rose Garden, Summer Solstice" by Carolyn Miller, from Light, Moving (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009). © Carolyn Miller.

Art credit: "Charming Purple Rose," image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Carole Ann Borges: "Light"

                                                  No, my friends
                                                  darkness is not everywhere
                                                  for here and there
                                                  I find faces illuminated
                                                  from within.
                                                  Japanese lanterns
                                                  among dark trees

"Light" by Carole Ann Borges. Text as published in Noble Beast (an online journal, 1997). © Carole Ann Borges. Reprinted by permission of the poet. Carole Ann's most recent book is Dreamseeker's Daughter (CreateSpace, 2013).

Art credit: "Lamps #5—Japanese paper lanterns," photograph taken at the Om Gallery, Santa Cruz, California (USA) on July 17, 2010, by gwen.

Curator's note: I offer this poem as a lament for the loss of life in this week's massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina (USA). I offer it as well as encouragement to those who have been, and continue to be, traumatized by such acts of violence, and to all of us who would be light together, illuminating the deep night until morning.

May morning break soon.

My sincere apologies for not posting a poem in response to this tragedy sooner. I had shoulder surgery this week. I want to thank my friend Ruby Wilson for managing the project with prepared posts in my absence.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peter Sears: "Night Fishing"

The water is a glaze like loneliness at ease
with itself I cast and close my eyes for the whir
out across the water, the line striking the surface
and sinking. I like waiting for it to settle on the bottom,
then jig it up a little. I imagine the lure in utter dark.
I play it lightly. Fish rise. Just shy of the surface,
they play their glints off the moon on the water.
I see too my own loneliness. It's not too big
and it breathes easily. Soon, it may pretend it's rain.
Rain blurs the water. There is nothing wrong.
with rain. I take a deep breath and cast and cast.

"Night Fishing" by Peter Sears, from Small Talk: New & Selected Poems (Lynx House Press, 2014). Text as posted on The Writer's Almanac (09/10/14).

Art credit: Untitled image of night fishing by unknown photographer.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "In Every Breath"

in every breath
if you’re the center
of your own desires
you’ll lose the grace
of your beloved

but if in every breath
you blow away
your self claim
the ecstasy of love
will soon arrive

in every breath
if you’re the center
of your own thoughts
the sadness of autumn
will fall on you

but if in every breath
you strip naked
just like a winter
the joy of spring
will grow from within

all your impatience
comes from the push
for gain of patience
let go of the effort
and peace will arrive

all your unfulfilled desires
are from your greed
for gain of fulfillments
let go of them all
and they will be sent as gifts

fall in love with
the agony of love
not the ecstasy
then the beloved
will fall in love with you

"In Every Breath" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, from Rumi: Fountain of Fire. Translated from the original Persian by Nader Khalili (Cal-Earth Press, 1994 edition). Text as posted on Jahane Rumi (05/12/07).

Art credit: "Phuket Sunset Dance," photograph by Karim (Kim) Khamzin.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Maureen E. Doallas: "Reading Goodnight Moon"

is not like stopping
at McDonald's
for your favorite double-shot latte.

You don't drive through.

You take each word
in a languishing slide off the tongue,
naming what is named
that you never saw before.

Looking, finding, pointing delighted
in the room the moon the light
the red balloon that lifts

Darkness even as sleep
falls fast
and clock's hands change

What you see changing
before a child's eyes.

If you slow long enough
to take in what your child sees
with eyes that

Refuse to be moved
to a new page before
the first page is exhausted

The last page you turn
holds the dream
you thought would never last:

A snuggling close closer still
beneath moon's shadows.

"Reading Goodnight Moon" by Maureen E. Doallas. Text as published in Neruda's Memoirs: Poems (T. S. Poetry Press, 2011). © Maureen E. Doallas. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Page from the children's book Goodnight Moon, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mary Oliver: "Song of the Builders"

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

"Song of the Builders" by Mary Oliver. Text as published in Why I Wake Early: New Poems (Beacon Press, 2005).

Art credit: "Woman bare feet in flower field," photograph taken in Vanoise, French Alps, by Jeff Maion.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jane Hirshfield: "Bees"

In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.

Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.

But the faint cries—ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?

"Bees" by Jane Hirshfield. Text as published in The Lives of the Heart: Poems (Harper Perennial, 1997).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer, perhaps associated with Really Raw Honey.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rick Kempa: "Call It Ours"

All we want is a path
just visible
in the new growth
of the forest floor.

We do not require
a thread of cairns
to mark the route.                                                       
Leave it to us  
to find our way across
the swollen stream
to get our feet wet
if we must, to

blow past the bend
in the switchback
misread the map
become aware

too late that we
are lost, to move
this way and that
kneel in the dirt

to sit at last cross-
legged in the dusk
while the stars emerge
one by one each one
a blessing, to sleep
beneath those stars
and in the first light
find our way back

or forward it won’t
matter because we
will have found it
and can call it ours

"Call It Ours" by Rick Kempa. Originally published as "All We Want Is a Path" in Keeping the Quiet (Bellowing Ark Press, 2008). © Rick Kempa. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "Self-portrait: Looking out at the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers [near Mt. Rainer]," photograph by Luke Humphrey.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ronnie Hess: "Birthday Party"

Bought my own carrot cake with vegan frosting,
put raspberries and carob chips on it along with two candles,
one for last year and one for the next, gathered friends
to talk about old times, lit the candles and sang to myself.
While I was singing, I wondered if it was odd
to orchestrate my own party. A few days before,
after the test had come back negative, I opened the windows
and heard the wren for the first time, its crazy chatter,
how its sound followed me around the house.
I told myself I could be like the bird,
the gardens flutterer, standing on tree branches,
fence posts, high water spigots, singing its heart out.
Yes, I would be that speckled bird, the resolute flier,
unalterably happy.

"Birthday Party" by Ronnie Hess, from A Woman in Vegetable (Kattywompus Press, 2015). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Marsh Wren," photograph by Arman Werth.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lao Tzu: "The uses of not" (Book One, Chapter 11)

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn't
is where it's useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot's not
is where it's useful.

Cut doors and windows
to make a room.
Where the room isn't,
there's room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn't.

"The uses of not" (Book One, Chapter 11) by Lao Tzu, from Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, translated from the original Chinese by Ursula K. Le Guin (Shambhala Publications, 1998 edition). Visit this link for the Chinese and a wide variety of English translations.

Translator's note: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, one of those counter-intuitive truths that, when the mind can accept them, suddenly double the size of the universe. He goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots." 

Art credit: "Empty vessel," photograph taken on July 24, 2011, in Hyderabad, Telengana, India, by swarat_ghosh.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Galway Kinnell: "When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone" [excerpt]


When one has lived a long time alone,
one refrains from swatting the fly
and lets him go, and one hesitates to strike
the mosquito, though more than willing to slap
the flesh under her, and one lifts the toad
from the pit too deep to hop out of
and carries him to the grass, without minding
the poisoned urine he slicks his body with,
and one envelops, in a towel, the swift
who fell down the chimney and knocks herself
against window glass and releases her outside
and watches her fly free, a life line flung at reality,
when one has lived a long time alone.

"When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone" [excerpt] by Galway Kinnell. Text as published in When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone (Knopf, 1990).

Art credit: Untitled photograph of a released swift by G. Kaiser (digitally altered by curator).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tom Hennen: "From a Country Overlooked"

There are no creatures you cannot love.
A frog calling at God
From the moon-filled ditch
As you stand on the country road in the June night.
The sound is enough to make the stars weep
With happiness.
In the morning the landscape green
Is lifted off the ground by the scent of grass.
The day is carried across its hours
Without any effort by the shining insects
That are living their secret lives.
The space between the prairie horizons
Makes us ache with its beauty.
Cottonwood leaves click in an ancient tongue
To the farthest cold dark in the universe.
The cottonwood also talks to you
Of breeze and speckled sunlight.
You are at home in these
great empty places
along with red-wing blackbirds and sloughs.
You are comfortable in this spot
so full of grace and being
that it sparkles like jewels
spilled on water.

"From a Country Overlooked" by Tom Hennen. Text as published in Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected & New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).

Art credit: "Tallgrass Cottonwood Sunset," photograph taken at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Flint Hills, Kansas (USA) by Kevin Sink.

From the caption: "For me, the Cottonwoods have an existential quality. Standing alone on the prairie, they take the full brunt of wind, storms, and lightning. They face all these hardships and unpredictability alone, yet as a result become stronger for it, and then can offer shelter to other wildlife in their branches and shade. Sounds a bit like the human experience!"

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Susana Thénon: "Nuptial Song"

i got married
i got married to myself
i said yes
a yes that took years to arrive
years of unspeakable suffering
crying with the rain
locking myself up in my room
because i—the great love of my existence—
was not calling myself up
was not writing to myself
was not visiting myself
and sometimes
when i dared call myself
to say: hello, am i OK?
I would deny myself

i even managed to write my name in a list of bores
i did not really want to join
because they babbled too much
because they’d not leave me alone
because they’d fence me in
because i could not stand them

at the end I did not even pretend
when I needed myself

i intimated to myself
that i was fed up

and once i stopped calling myself
and stopped calling myself

and so much time went by that I missed myself
so i said
how long has it been since my last call?
must have been ages
and i called myself up and i answered and could not believe it
because even if it seems incredible
i had not healed
i had only shed blood

then i told myself: hello, is it me?
it’s me, i told myself, and added:
such a long time no see
me from myself myself from me

do i want to come home?

yes, i said

and we got together again

i felt good together with myself
just like me
i felt good together with myself
and so
from one day to the next
i got married and i got married
and am together
and not even death can separate me

"Nuptial Song" by Susana Thénon, from The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, edited by Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon Grosman (Oxford University Press, 2009). Translated from the original Spanish (found online on page 423 of the source) by Renata Treitel.

Thanks to Faye Harasack for suggesting this poem (in a slightly different translation) for the collection.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wendy Cope: "The Orange"

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

"The Orange" by Wendy Cope. Text as published in Serious Concerns (Faber & Faber, 1993).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Anne Sexton: "From the Garden"

Come, my beloved,
consider the lilies.
We are of little faith.
We talk too much.
Put your mouthful of words away
and come with me to watch
the lilies open in such a field,
growing there like yachts,
slowly steering their petals
without nurses or clocks.
Let us consider the view:
a house where white clouds
decorate the muddy halls.
Oh, put away your good words
and your bad words. Spit out
your words like stones!
Come here! Come here!
Come eat my pleasant fruits.

"From the Garden" by Anne Sexton. Text as published in The Complete Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).

Art credit: "Avalanche Lily," photograph taken in Olympic National Park (Washington, USA) in August, 2011, by Gary Luhm.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Julia Fehrenbacher: "Recipe for Falling in Love"

The truth is
if we slowed down
and got close enough
we wouldn't be able to handle
the beauty

on this summer evening, everywhere
my eyes fall
another miracle
stares back

giant oaks spread out like gods
big-eared bunnies munching under open sky
blackberries plump on the vine
invite me to taste their almost sweet
insides. As I round the corner
I lock eyes with three deer—all of us still
and staring. With our eyes
we say—I love you. Winged ones
I cannot see sing
their end-of-the-day lullaby

each step
lifts me higher
until at last, breathing more deeply
than I have in a long time
I see

the whole wide sweeping
tree-filled valley. And then—I weep
for, truly I cannot handle the beauty
even from this distance. Then—
I would not make this up
a whole family of wild turkeys
cross the trail in front of me—each one pausing
to wait for the next. All of this

my heart
gets to see, to feel—to memorize. With light
now fading
I begin my long slow
walk home

slow enough to notice
golden grass bent in prayer
slow enough
to bend too—praying
that I will never stop

praying that I will walk
slow enough to fall in love
again and again
and again

even if it makes me weep
even it feels too much to handle

that each step draws me close
and closer still

"Recipe for Falling in Love" by Julia Fehrenbacher. Text presented here by poet submission. © Julia Fehrenbacher.

Art credit: "Turkeys on the Deer Trail," oil painting on canvas by Kenneth Helgren.