Friday, July 31, 2015

Al Young: "For Poets"

Stay beautiful
but don’t stay down underground too long
Don’t turn into a mole
or a worm
or a root
or a stone

Come on out into the sunlight
Breathe in trees
Knock out mountains
Commune with snakes
& be the very hero of birds

Don’t forget to poke your head up
& blink
Walk all around
Swim upstream

Don’t forget to fly

"For Poets" by Al Young. Text as published in I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans (Simon Pulse, 1997 edition).

Listen to the poet read this poem.

Art credit: Photograph of a skydiver, perhaps by #cookieg3.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ginny Lowe Connors: "Hosanna"

I wonder if the children in the rowboat
will remember this particular morning,
the lake restlessly turning over
a thousand scintillating points of light
except for one calm, mirror-like swathe
through which the man rows calmly,
his boy and girl looking out
from the prow of the wooden boat,
while all around them little flames
move across the lake, never arriving
anywhere except into this moment
which seems to me closer to heaven
than any other thing that man or god
might possibly contrive.

"Hosanna" by Ginny Lowe Connors. Text as posted on Your Daily Poem (12/01/13). © Ginny Lowe Connors. Reprinted by permission of the poet. Also see the poet's two collections of poetry: Barbarians in the Kitchen and The Unparalleled Beauty of a Crooked Line, both published by Antrim House.

Art credit: "Sun Sparkling on Blue Waters," photographic print by BeneathNorthernSkies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jeanne Lohmann: "Questions Before Dark"

                                     Day ends, and before sleep
                                     when the sky dies down, consider
                                     your altered state: has this day
                                     changed you? Are the corners
                                     sharper or rounded off? Did you
                                     live with death? Make decisions
                                     that quieted? Find one clear word
                                     that fit? At the sun's midpoint
                                     did you notice a pitch of absence,
                                     bewilderment that invites
                                     the possible? What did you learn
                                     from things you dropped and picked up
                                     and dropped again? Did you set a straw
                                     parallel to the river, let the flow
                                     carry you downstream?

"Questions Before Dark" by Jeanne Lohmann. Text as published in The Light of Invisible Bodies (Daniel and Daniel Publishers, 2015).

Art credit: "Floating Downstream...," pinhole photograph by Scott Speck. From the caption: "This is a 90 second 4x5 pinhole camera exposure, looking down a flowing stream in the Spruce Knob Recreation Area, in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia [USA].... The pinhole camera was placed about an inch above a rock amid the flowing water. It was a breezy day, so the trees overhead, in addition to being stretched near the frame edges, were moving. Lichens can be seen on the rocks on the cliff wall to the right."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zbigniew Herbert: "The Pebble"

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits

filled exactly
with a pebbly meaning

with a scent which does not remind one of anything
does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire

its ardour and coldness
are just and full of dignity

I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by a false warmth

—Pebbles cannot be tamed
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

"The Pebble" by Zbigniew Herbert. Text as published in Postwar Polish Poetry: New Expanded Edition, edited by Czeslaw Milosz (University of California Press, 1983). Translated from the original Polish by Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Barry Spacks: "Within Another Life"

Those whose days were grudging or confused
may come back trapped within another life

as a boulder, or a pane of glass,
or a door that suffers every time it's slammed.

If I return a boulder, love, some summer day
come sit by me and contemplate these horses and these hills.

And if a windowpane, gaze through to see
the meadow on our walks where the brown geese strut.

And if I am a door, come home through me,
be sure I'll keep you safe.

And if a knotted, twisted rope,
from long self-clenching and complexity,

oh love, unbind, unbraid me then
until I flow again like windswept hair.

"Within Another Life" by  Barry Spacks. Text as published in Poetry (December, 1999).

Art credit: "Wind in your hair," photograph by Alexandru Vita.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Anne Alexander Bingham: "It is Enough"

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

"It is Enough" by Anne Alexander Bingham. Text as published by The Writer's Almanac (01/22/14). Read the poet's obituary here.

Art credit: "Dandelion Seeds Fluff Macro," image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Larry Smith: "Walking a Field into Evening"

For learned books, I read the grasses.
For reputation, a bird calls my name.
I cross a stone bridge with the pace of dusk.
At the meadow gate, six cows meditate.

For decades I ran my mind up hill and down;
now idleness tells me what is near.
An arrow of wild geese crosses the sky,
my body still, my feet firm on the ground.

We age like trees now, watch our seedlings
take wind or grow around us.
I’m going to mark my books lightly
with a pencil. When someone wants
to take my picture, I’ll walk towards them
and embrace.

                         No more arguments,
just heart sense, or talk about nothing.
Take long walks in the woods at dawn and dusk,
breathe in the damp musty air,
learn to listen before I die.

"Walking a Field into Evening" by Larry Smith, from Lake Winds: Poems (Bottom Dog Press, 2014). © Larry Smith. Presented here by poet submission.

View a poem video in the poet's voice and with his musical accompaniment.

Art credit: "Cows in meadow," photograph by Bill Tam.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Jane Kenyon: "Philosophy in Warm Weather"

Now all the doors and windows
are open, and we move so easily
through the rooms. Cats roll
on the sunny rugs, and a clumsy wasp
climbs the pane, pausing
to rub a leg over her head.

All around physical life reconvenes.
The molecules of our bodies must love
to exist: they whirl in circles
and seem to begrudge us nothing.
Heat, Horatio, heat makes them
put this antic disposition on!

This year's brown spider
sways over the door as I come
and go. A single poppy shouts
from the far field, and the crow,
beyond alarm, goes right on
pulling up the corn.

"Philosophy in Warm Weather" by Jane Kenyon. Text as published in The Boat Of Quiet Hours: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1986).

Art credit: "Sun Bathing Cat," photograph by Jason Irish.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

May Sarton: "Beyond the Question, 1"

The phoebe sits on her nest
Hour after hour,
Day after day,
Waiting for life to burst out
From under her warmth.

Can I weave a nest for silence,
Weave it out of listening,
Layer upon layer?

But one must first become small,
Nothing but a presence,
Attentive as a nesting bird,
Proffering no slightest wish,
No tendril of a wish
Toward anything that might happen
Or be given,
Only the warm, faithful waiting,
Contained in one’s smallness.
Beyond the question, the silence.
Before the answer, the silence.

"Beyond the Question, 1" by May Sarton. Text as published in Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W. W. Norton, 1993).

Art credit: Nesting phoebe, photograph by Lindell Dillon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mario Benedetti: "Don't Give Up"

Don't give up, you still have time
to reach up and start anew,
Accept your shadows,
Bury your fears,
Free your burdens,
Fly again.

Don't give up, that's what life is
Continue the journey,
Follow your dreams,
Unstuck time,
Move the rubble,
And uncover the sky.

Don't give up, please don't give way,
Even if the cold burns,
Even if fear bites,
Even if the sun sets,
And the wind goes silent,
There is still fire in your soul
There is still life in your dreams.

Because life is yours and yours is the desire
Because you have loved it and because I love you
Because wine exists and love is true.
Because there are no wounds that time doesn't cure.

To open the doors,
Take away the locks,
Abandon the walls that have protected you,
To live life and accept the challenge
Get back laughter,
Practice a song,
Lower the guard and extend the hands
Open the wings
And try again,
Celebrate life and take back the skies.

Don't give up, please don't give way,
Even if the cold burns,
Even if fear bites,
Even if the sun sets,
And the wind goes silent,
There is still fire in your soul
There is still life in your dreams.

Because every day is a new beginning,
Because this is the hour and the best moment.
Because you are not alone, because I love you.

"Don't Give Up" by Mario Benedetti, from unknown source. Text as posted on Peripateia (07/06/12), translated by John Hemingway. English and original Spanish are found at this link. If anyone has further source information, please share.

Art credit: "There Is Always Hope," wallpaper (also by various other names) by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Anonymous: "Song for Going to the Water" [Cherokee]

If your heart is not well,
If your spirit is not well,
These words may help you.

Wake in the hour
Just before dawn.
Wake in the hours
Before first light.
Wake when the animals of the night
Have ended their songs,
When the animals of the day
Have not yet begun their songs.

Walk without words.
Follow the path
That leads to the stream.

Then, as the first light
Touches the stream,
Bend to the water,
Speak these words:

"Long Person, I come to ask your help."

Then hold up
A cup of that water
And drink the dawn.

"Song for Going to the Water," purportedly from the Cherokee tradition. Text as published in ISTEP + English/Language Arts Test Preparation and Practice Workbook, Glencoe Language Arts Grade 7, Teacher's Annotated Edition (The McGraw-Hill Companies, undated).

Art credit: "River Stour [near Wimborne] at Dawn," photograph by Andrew Child.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Yosa Buson: Untitled ["Ah, what a pleasure"]

                                          Ah, what a pleasure
                                               to cross a stream in summer—
                                          sandals in hand.

Untitled ["Ah, what a pleasure"] by Yosa Buson. Text as posted on the website of Radical Loving Care: Journal of Sacred Work (07/18/07). Translated from the original Japanese by Steven D. Carter.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Kay Ryan: "New Rooms"

The mind must
set itself up
wherever it goes
and it would be
most convenient
to impose its
old rooms—just
tack them up
like an interior
tent. Oh but
the new holes
aren’t where
the windows

"New Rooms" by Kay Ryan. Text as published in Poetry (July/August 2012). 

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tere Sievers: "Hear the Water's Music"

There is only one way, aging beauties,
to go down this river,
to hear the water's music over the rocks,
to find a loving I, Thou, Who.
I say, spring out of the boat,
jump in naked, tender,
with your ferocious heart torn open.

"Hear the Water's Music," by Tere Sievers. © Tere Sievers. Text presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Daniel Balda.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Wendell Berry: "VI: Sabbaths 2001" ["Sit and be still"]

Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.

"VI: Sabbaths 2001" ["Sit and be still"] by Wendell Berry. Text as posted on the website of Parabola (10/11/12).

Art credit: Untitled illustration of "hands in meditation with tree," mixed media, by Elena Ray.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Joy Harjo: "Emergence"

It's midsummer night. The light is skinny;
a thin skirt of desire skims the earth.
Dogs bark at the musk of other dogs
and the urge to go wild.
I am lingering at the edge
of a broken heart, striking relentlessly
against the flint of hard will.
It's coming apart.
And everyone knows it.
So do squash erupting in flowers
the color of the sun.
So does the momentum of grace
gathering allies
in the partying mob.
The heart knows everything.
I remember when there was no urge
to cut the land or each other into pieces,
when we knew how to think
in beautiful.
There is no world like the one surfacing.
I can smell it as I pace in my square room,
the neighbor's television
entering my house by waves of sound.
Makes me think about buying
a new car, another kind of cigarette
when I don't need another car
and I don't smoke cigarettes.
A human mind is small when thinking
of small things.
It is large when embracing the maker
of walking, thinking and flying.
If I can locate the sense beyond desire,
I will not eat or drink
until I stagger into the earth
with grief.
I will locate the point of dawning
and awaken
with the longest day in the world.

"Emergence" by Joy Harjo, from Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales  (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000).

Art credit: "Ascension I" [widely known on the Internet as "Emergence"], oil painting by Frank Howell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Albert Huffstickler: "Don't Ask the Angels How They Fly"

Knowing there's only so much time,
I don't rejoice less but more.
Knowing how many things will now
not happen, I wish them Godspeed
and pass them on to someone
down the line. I honor my
regrets, the part of me that
never happened or happened wrong
and proceed on course though
the course is not known. Only
the end is known and some days
it's a comfort. We live on
love, whether it's there or
not and rejoice in it even in
its absence. If I had known,
I'd have come here better equipped—
but that's another one of those
things you can't change—as we
can't alter that part of us
that lives on memory, knowing
all the while that time is not
real and that what we are we
never were in the light of that
timeless place where we really
belong, have belonged always.
And what's left then is only
to bless it all in the light of
what we don't and will never
know or at least not here where
the light is only a shadow of
that light we almost see sometimes—
that light that's really home.

                 On my 69th birthday—Dec. 17, 1996

"Don't Ask the Angels How They Fly" by Albert Huffstickler. Text as published in di.verse.ity: an austin international poetry festival anthology, edited by Scott Wiggerman and Margaret Ward-Barrett (Austin Poets International, Inc., 1997). This anthology is downloadable.

Many thanks to subscriber Jazz Jaeschke for locating the source of this poem.

Art credit: Untitled image from a beautiful set of black and white photographs by Hengki Lee. See the entire gallery at this link.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kirsten Dierking: "The Ordinary"

It's summer, so
the pink gingham shorts,
the red mower, the neat rows
of clean smelling grass
unspooling behind
the sweeping blades.

A dragonfly, black body
big as a finger, will not leave
the mower alone,
loving the sparkle
of scarlet metal,
seeing in even a rusting paint
the shade of a flower.

But I wave him off,
conscious he is
wasting his time,
conscious I am
filling my time
with such small details,
distracting colors,

like pink checks,
like this, then that,
like a dragonfly wing
in the sun reflecting
the color of opals,
like all the hours
we leave behind,
so ordinary,
but not unloved.

"The Ordinary" by Kirsten Dierking. Text as published in Northern Oracle: Poems (Spout Press, 2007). © Kirsten Dierking. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: A "close-up of the wing of a Green Darner dragonfly," macroscopic photograph by Paul Kelly.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Joe Paddock: "One's Ship Comes In"

I swear
my way now will be
to continue without
plan or hope, to accept
the drift of things, to shift
from endless effort
to joy in, say,
that robin, plunging
into the mossy shallows
of my bird bath and
splashing madly till
the air shines with spray.
Joy it will be, say,
in Nancy, pretty in pink
and rumpled T-shirt,
rubbing sleep from her eyes, or
joy even in
just this breathing, free
of fright and clutch, knowing
how one’s ship comes in
with each such breath.

"One's Ship Comes In" by Joe Paddock, from Dark Dreaming, Global Dimming (Red Dragonfly Press, 2009).

Curator's note: The poet is married to Nancy Paddock, another of our mindfulness poets and presumably the "Nancy" of this poem. 

Art credit: "Bathing Robin," photograph by Adrienne Smith.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Michael Escoubas: "Towel and Basin"

“Instead of going to heaven at last,
I’m going all along.” Emily Dickinson

This morning I plodded in pajamas
and bare toes toting my full water pitcher,
prepared as an offering for my
hanging blue Fan plant. The tall
grass washed my feet as Jesus might.

I was met by a congregation
of glad-handed Hostas greeting
and touching me, choirs of Clematis
robed in purple, jovial Jonquils clad in yellow,
sun-facing Spiderworts, and sweet green Mint
mingled with spicy Oregano, breathing
their fragrances, glistening and glowing
in sunlight and dew.

They danced when they saw me;
asked no questions, made no judgments,
anointed me with dew, toweled my dusty
feet with warm sun, then sent me on
to do for another what they had done for me.

"Towel and Basin" by Michael Escoubas. © Michael Escoubas. Text presented here by poet submission.

Curator's note: This poem won the 2014 Illinois State Poetry Society competition in the free verse category. It was published recently in Limited Magazine (06/15).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer associated with Gardenista.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jane Hirshfield: "Tree"

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books—

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

"Tree" by Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt: Poems (HarperCollins, 2001).

Art credit: Photograph of a redwood leaf by NewLeafPics.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Robert Bly: "Wanting Sumptuous Heavens"

No one grumbles among the oyster clans,
And lobsters play their bone guitars all summer.
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
There is no end to our grumbling; we want
Comfortable earth and sumptuous Heaven.
But the heron standing on one leg in the bog
Drinks his dark rum all day, and is content.

"Wanting Sumptuous Heavens" by Robert Bly. Text as published in The New Yorker (11/05/07).  

Art credit: Video, with Robert Bly's reading of the poem, created for MotionPoems by

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mary Oliver: "The Faces of Deer"

When for too long I don't go deep enough
into the woods to see them, they begin to
enter my dreams. Yes, there they are, in the
pinewoods of my inner life. I want to live a life
full of modesty and praise. Each hoof of each
animal makes the sign of a heart as it touches
then lifts away from the ground. Unless you
believe that heaven is very near, how will you
find it? Their eyes are pools in which one
would be content, on any summer afternoon,
to swim away through the door of the world.
Then, love and its blessing. Then: heaven.

"The Faces of Deer" by  Mary Oliver. Text as published in New and Selected Poems: Volume Two (Beacon Press, 2007).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lorna Crozier: "A Summer's Singing"

Where does that singing start, you know,
that thin sound—almost pure light?
Not the birds at false dawn or their song
when morning comes, feathered throats
warm with meaning. A different kind of music.

Listen, it is somewhere near you.
In the heart, emptied of fear,
stubbornly in love
with itself at last, the old
desires a ruined chorus,
a radiant bloody choir.

Where does the singing start?
Here, where you are, there’s room
between your heartbeats,
as if everything you have ever been
begins, inside, to sing.

"A Summer's Singing" by Lorna Crozier, from Everything Arrives at the Light (McClelland & Stewart, 1995). © Lorna Crozier. Reprinted by permission of the poet. Her latest two books, both out this year, are The Wrong Cat and The Wild in You.

Art credit: "Saint-Tropez, Sunset," oil on canvas, painting by Henri Manguin (1904).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rolf Jacobsen: "—When They Sleep"

All people are children when they sleep.
there’s no war in them then.
They open their hands and breathe
in that quiet rhythm heaven has given them.

They pucker their lips like small children
and open their hands halfway,
soldiers and statesmen, servants and masters.
The stars stand guard
and a haze veils the sky,
a few hours when no one will do anybody harm.

If only we could speak to one another then
when our hearts are half-open flowers.
Words like golden bees
would drift in.
—God, teach me the language of sleep.

"When They Sleep" by Rolf Jacobsen. Text as published in The Roads Have Come to an End Now: Selected and Last Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, translated by Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald and Robert Hedin (Copper Canyon Press, 2001). Translated from the original Norwegian (found on page 44 of this online source) by Robert Hedin.

 Art credit: Untitled photograph by REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/Files. Caption: "A U.S. soldier of 2-12 Infantry 4BCT-4ID Task Force Mountain Warrior takes a break during a night mission near Honaker Miracle camp at the Pesh valley of Kunar Province of Afghanistan in August, 2009."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bruce Taylor: "Gardening as a Form of Worship"

To bring us to our knees.
To bring us back to quiet.
Inclined as we are
to this labor and attention.

Where there’s little
choice but to begin
with the intensive
care of the present.

Grub up the dying,
start with something new.
Deprive the bad
and nurture the good.

Simple stuff it seems
at first, herbs drying,
a red flood ripening
upon a cool and shady sill.

The blue cold’s cluster
in the morning glory vines.
The ardor of the marigold
gone ethereally green.

"Gardening as a Form of Worship" by Bruce Taylor, from The Longest You've Lived Anywhere: Poems New & Selected 2013 (Upriver Press, 2013). © Bruce Taylor. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.