Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jack Ridl: "The Neighbors"

Sometimes they
go outside, maybe

move a rosebush
to the back yard or

clean a window.
Usually they

simply stand,
under a maple

or in a snowfall.
And this is often

when they see
a nuthatch on its

dizzy route down
a trunk, or

the quick flick
of a chickadee

across the yard
and onto a branch.

They don't do
much. That's for

others. They know
how to take things

for granted, know
what to miss.

Every morning
they make breakfast.

And when the sun
sets, they let it go.

"The Neighbors" by Jack Ridl. Text as published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press, 2013). © Wayne State University Press. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

David Ray: "Doing Without"

            ’s an interesting
custom, involving such in-
            visible items as the food
that’s not on the table, the clothes
            that are not on the back
the radio whose only music
            is silence. Doing without
is a great protector of reputations
            since all places one cannot go
are fabulous, and only the rare and
            enlightened plowman in his field
or on his mountain does not overrate
            what he does not or cannot have.
Saluting through their windows
            of cathedral glass those restaurants
we must not enter (unless like
            burglars we become subject to
arrest) we greet with our twinkling
            eyes the faces of others who do
without, the lady with the
            fishing pole and the man who looks
amused to have discovered on a walk
            another piece of firewood.

"Doing Without" by David Ray. Text as published in Gathering Firewood: New Poems and Selected (Wesleyan Press, 1974). © David Ray. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Curator's note: This poem is half of a diptych. Its companion is entitled "Having Too Much," which you can read here.

Art credit: "Old Woman Fishing Alone," photograph by Steve Duffey.

Monday, September 28, 2015

John Fuller: "Calling"

There, don't you hear it too?
Something is calling, although
The day is blank and gray.

The eye fastened on nothing,
The ear undistracted
And we with nothing to say.

But still that sense of calling,
Of something seeking attention
Beyond our consciousness.

That voice in voiceless things
When they cease to be themselves,
Losing their choice and purpose.

Joining the indiscriminate
Otherness which surrounds us
At our own times of withdrawal.

It is then that the world calls us
As if to reinterpret
Or to reconfigure.

Whose is this voice? A god's?
Surely not. It seems
To be the voice of duty

That speaks of origins
And of relationships
Between things grown apart.

And I remember the muezzin
Singing every morning
Raptly, as if for himself.

Singing in the dark hour
At a distance, over all,
And yet outside our door.

His practised lilt spoke more
Of the puzzles of night than of
The determinations of morning.

As though the light had still
To be charmed into being
And each day a reward.

The voice is much like his,
A commanding meditation
Rising from the blankness.

Of a sleeping senselessness,
Thoughtful, improbable,
But stirring us to beauty.

And like his, the voice
Links us for a while
In its reiterations

Then ends abruptly, as if
Distracted by something else
Of no great importance.

"Calling" by John Fuller. Text as published in Ghosts (Random House UK, 2004).

Art credit: "The Adhan: The Muslim Call to Prayer," video published on 07/09/2013 by interestmedia.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gary Snyder: "For All"

Ah to be alive
              on a mid-September morn
              fording a stream
              barefoot, pants rolled up,
              holding boots, pack on,
              sunshine, ice in the shallows,
              northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
             cold nose dripping
             singing inside
             creek music, heart music,
             smell of sun on gravel.

             I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
             of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
             one ecosystem
             in diversity
             under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

"For All" by Gary Snyder. Text as published in The Gary Snyder Reader: Prose, Poetry and Translations, 1952-1998 (Volume I, Counterpoint, 1999).  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ron Stone: "Attention"


“Well... ...That's what you always forget, isn't it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what's happening. And that's the same as not being here and now.”
—Aldous Huxley, Island

If this were the last time we met in this world
what would I wish I had said      or done?
I know death is always somewhere in the neighborhood
for someone as old as I,
just as I know, no matter how much I might beg,
God would never forbid you might die.

There is no perfect word to speak,
no perfect deed to perform.
When after today I have left or am left,
if I am never to see you again,
then I just want to be fully here     now,
to be fully awake while we may.

There will be time for sleep after today.

"Attention" by Ron Stone. © Ron Stone. Text presented here by poet submission.  

Art credit: "Sunset Stroll," photograph by Lynne Lancaster.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Danna Faulds: "Allow"

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

"Allow" by Danna Faulds. Text as published in Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga (Peaceable Kingdom Books, 2002)

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wendell Berry: "The Want of Peace"

All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
receiving the river's grace,
the gardner's musing on rows.

I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.

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

Curator's note: The word "gardner's" in the last line of the first stanza is as spelled in the text.

Art credit: "Fly fishing," photograph taken in Yellowstone National Park [USA] by Ranch Seeker.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Freya Manfred:
"To My Son, Laughing in His Sleep"

Since he was a baby
I have awakened in the night
by the bell-sweet sound
of his laugh.
I am propelled,
cold, knees creaking,
across the cluttered floor
to his bed,
my face above his face:
yes, he is asleep,
and smiling.

Back in my bed I hear again
his high warble.
How I envy this boy
who is not mine,
who was never mine.
How I praise him
for making everything in the world right
for one moment.

"To My Son, Laughing in His Sleep" by Freya Manfred. Text as published in My Only Home (Red Dragonfly Press). © 2003 by Freya Manfred. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Curator's note: The poet also encourages you to browse the artwork of her sons at this link.

Art credit: Photograph of "Baby G" by April Newman Photography.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

C. K. Williams: "Clay Out of Silence"


in tribute
C. K. Williams
(1936 - 2015)

chances are we will sink quietly back
into oblivion without a ripple
we will go back into the face
down through the mortars as though it hadn’t happened

earth: I’ll remember you
you were the mother you made pain
I’ll grind my thorax against you for the last time
and put my hand on you again to comfort you

sky: could we forget?
we were the same as you were
we couldn’t wait to get back sleeping
we’d have done anything to be sleeping

and trees angels for being thrust up here
and stones for cracking in my bare hands
because you foreknew
there was no vengeance for being here

when we were flesh we were eaten
when we were metal we were burned back
there was no death anywhere but now
when we were men when we became it


"Clay Out of Silence" by C. K. Williams. Text as published in Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014). Hear the poet read this poem here.

Curator's note: We mark the passing of another mindfulness poet. The award-winning C. K. Williams, whose writing expressed strong social conscience, died September 20th at the age of 78 from multiple myeloma. In an interview with PBS Newhour in 2000, Williams described the writing process as "a kind of fusion of will and submission and inspiration that’s quite marvelous, where something sometimes will—at its very best—seem to be happening through you and to you, rather than you making it happen."

Art credit: Portrait of C. K. Williams by Oliver Morris.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Peter Pereira: "A Pot of Red Lentils"

simmers on the kitchen stove.
All afternoon dense kernels
surrender to the fertile
juices, their tender bellies
swelling with delight.

In the yard we plant
rhubarb, cauliflower, and artichokes,
cupping wet earth over tubers,
our labor the germ
of later sustenance and renewal.

Across the field the sound of a baby crying
as we carry in the last carrots,
whorls of butter lettuce,
a basket of red potatoes.

I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.

"A Pot of Red Lentils" by Peter Pereira. Text as published in Saying the World (Copper Canyon Press, 2003). 

Art credit: Photograph of a bowl of butternut and red lentil soup, by unknown photographer. Find the recipe at Nadia, The Good Food Cook.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Amy Lowell: "September, 1918"

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.

"September, 1918" by Amy Lowell, from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950). Text as posted at The Poetry Foundation.

Curator's note: September, 1918, was a time of major Allied offensives during World War I.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Franco Pagnucci: "All Day"

Great sweeps of wind,
were settling the cold in.
Chickadees twittered
from the hollows of the spruce
and stayed put.

The bald eagle came down
into a low pine
below the northwest hill
out of the wind.

In late afternoon
an orange horizon,
and a clear night. Stars.
I loved the feel in the west
of days getting longer.

"All Day" by Franco Pagnucci. Text as published in Tracks on Damp Sand (North Star Press, 2014). © Franco Pagnucci. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "A bald eagle, Haliaeetus Leucocephalus, swoops in to land on a tree branch in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming [USA]," photograph by Randall K. Roberts.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Anna Swir: "I Talk to My Body"

My body, you are an animal
whose appropriate behavior
is concentration and discipline.
An effort
of an athlete, of a saint and of a yogi.

Well trained,
you may become for me
a gate
through which I will leave myself
and a gate
through which I will enter myself.
A plumb line to the center of the earth
and a cosmic ship to Jupiter.

My body, you are an animal
for whom ambition
is right.
Splendid possibilities
are open to us.

"I Talk to My Body" by Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska), from A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, edited by Czeslaw Milosz (Mariner Books edition, 1998). Poem translated from the original Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan.  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Martha Sprackland: "Refugees"

I sit on my coat
and think about home:
the warm cosy glow of the fire,
the smell of home baked bread…
I brush tears to the grass.
A small child wanders over,
sits down with a bump.
I glance at him,
and he gazes at me intently.
A sharp, blue gaze,
I offer him a piece of bread
and he takes it. A flicker of a smile.
I put my arm around his skinny shoulders.
Silently, together, we sit, and think, and cry.


"Refugees" by Martha Sprackland. Text as published on the website of The Poetry Society (UK) (1999). © Martha Sprackland. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Curator's note: Unable to sleep, I prepared this post in the middle of the night. Surely there is something more each of us can do, right where we are, to respond with kindness and courage during this massive outpouring of refugees from war-torn Syria. (And they, of course, aren't the only refugees in the world who are suffering....)

Art credit: "A Syrian refugee boy eats bread in the Western Bekaa village of Jub Jennin [Lebanon]," photograph by

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jane Hirshfield: "A Day Comes"

A day comes
when the mouth grows tired
of saying “I.”

Yet it is occupied
still by a self which must speak.
Which still desires, is curious.
Which believes it has also a right.

What to do?

The tongue consults with the teeth
it knows will survive
both mouth and self,

which grin—it is their natural pose—
and say nothing.

"A Day Comes" by Jane Hirshfield. Text as published in After: Poems (HarperCollins, 2006).  

Art credit: "Joyful Buddha II," image by

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Albert Huffstickler: "The Edge of Doubt"

There is always
that edge of doubt.
Trust it.
That's where
the new things come from. If
you can't live with it,
get out because,
when it's gone
you're on automatic,
repeating something
you've learned.
Let your prayer be:
save me from that tempting
certainty that
leads me back
from the edge,
that dark edge where
the first light breaks.

"The Edge of Doubt" by Albert Huffstickler. Text as published in Journal for Anthroposophy (Fall, 1994).

Curator's note: This is an update to today's post, which presented the poem with very different line breaks and capitalization. I had been unable to locate a source for that earlier version. My thanks to subscriber Julie Roehm for providing a source citation so I could track down this text.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Karen Kraco: "To the Owners of the Bungalow at 304 University Ave. NE"


Every morning I pull over to the curb
and your laughing pansies climb in, until the car is full.
Open wide, they press bright pink faces and soft green leaves
against the windows—waving to drivers, flashing smiles
at leggy joggers, winking at the traffic cop. A bunch of them
always beg for oldies, so I switch off the news. We rock
and bop and doo-wop-wop across the Hennepin Avenue bridge.

At the ramp, the voice in the box—Take the Ticket Now, Please—
gives them the giggles. I step out of the car, surrounded
by this cloud of flowers. We take the stairs two at a time,
John grins when he hands me the mail, and Ann,
downing coffee in the lounge, perks up enough
to think of the joke she had forgotten the day before.

I won’t lie to you. Every moment is not smooth sailing.
Sometimes the trucks pass way too close. We sway,
shake our heads, drop a few petals. And some days
are just too much for us. We close up early, exhausted.

People tell me that in these parts, the frost sets fast.
I say winter will come when it does, but for now
I travel with a car full of blossoms. Thank you
for tending them from end to end of that strip
that elsewhere fills with weeds and rubble,
for lending them to passersby!

"To the Owners of the Bungalow at 304 University Ave. NE" by Karen Kraco. Text as published in the "Minnesota Poetry Calendar 2001." Presented here by poet submission. 

Art credit: "Pansy Glow," watercolor painting by Doris Joa.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Robert Rosenbloom: "Breakfront"

I am forever grateful to my mother
for prayers she uttered alongside
our breakfront, for the yearly
metamorphosis of this

bulky red-brown furniture
into ark and tabernacle.
I am grateful for how she
helped blessings rain down

on its contents, a hardcover
War and Peace no one read,
a chrome serving tray
meant for show,

a miniature torah scroll from
one of the bar-mitzvah cakes,
all visible behind the glass,
baseball card sets, a shoebox

full of family photos stored below,
behind one of its doors,
linen tablecloths and expensive
silverware kept in the drawers.

I am thankful for how she dovined*
before this tall, unsecured
ceilingscraper on the High Holy Days,
how it shook when she rocked

back and forth in awe, how
in a housedress, she turned
a circle of spotless living room
carpet into sacred ground

 *Rocking back and forth in prayer

"Breakfront" by Robert Rosenbloom. Text as posted on Your Daily Poem (11/15/2014).

Curator's note: I offer this poem to mark the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah, which begins this evening. My thanks to Rabbi Jill Zimmerman of the Jewish Mindfulness Network for both helping me understand this poem better and recommending the companion art.

Art credit: "A Jewish woman praying," image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Julie Cadwallader-Staub: "Longing"

Consider the blackpoll warbler.

She tips the scales
at one ounce
before she migrates, taking off
from the seacoast to our east
flying higher and higher
ascending two or three miles
during her eighty hours of flight
until she lands,
in Tobago,
north of Venezuela
three days older,
and weighing half as much.

She flies over open ocean almost the whole way.

Oh she is not so different from us.
The arc of our lives is a mystery too.
We do not understand,
we cannot see
what guides us on our way:
that longing that pulls us toward light.

Not knowing, we fly onward
hearing the dull roar of the waves below.

"Longing" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub. © Julie Cadwallader-Staub. Text as posted on the poet's website. 

Art credit: Untitled still from a video of "flying over moonlit ocean at night," by Jesse Parkhill.

Friday, September 11, 2015

James P. Lenfestey: "Driving Across Wisconsin"

September 11, 2001

Do the trees know what has happened?
Is that why that one's crown
is rimmed with fire, that one's arm
droops a flagging yellow?

Sumac, thick as people
on a crowded street,
redden suddenly at the tips.

Ferns in dark hollows of the forest
reveal their veins.

Bouquets of asters, purple and white,
offer themselves from the side of the road
to all the wounded passing by.

"Driving Across Wisconsin" by James P. Lenfestey, from Saying Grace (Marsh River Editions, 2004). Text as posted on the poet's website.

Curator's note: This poem is offered in remembrance on the anniversary of 9/11/2001.

Art credit: "Autumn Asters," photograph taken on October 4, 2013, by Jacky Parker.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nguyen Phan Que Mai: "The Poem I Can't Yet Name"

For my grandmother

My hands lift high a bowl of rice, the seeds harvested
in the field where my grandmother was laid to rest.
Each rice seed tastes sweet as the sound of lullaby
from the grandmother I never knew.
I imagine her soft face as they laid her down into the earth,
her clothes battered, her skin stuck to her bones;
in the great hunger of 1945, my village
was hungry for graves to bury all the dead.
Nobody could find my grandmother’s grave,
so my father tasted bitter rice for sixty-five years.

After sixty-five years, my father and I stood
in front of my grandmother’s grave.
I heard my father call “Mum,” for the first time;
the rice field behind his back trembled.


My two feet cling to the mud.
I listen in the burning incense to my grandmother’s soul spread;
uniting deep with the earth, taking root in the field,
she quietly sings lullabies, calling rice plants to blossom.

Lifting the bowl of rice in my hands, I count every seed,
each one glistening with the sweat of my relatives,
their backs bent in the rice fields,
the fragrance of my grandmother’s lullaby alive on each one.

"The Poem I Can't Yet Name" by Nguyen Phan Que Mai, translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and Bruce Weigl. Text as published in The Secret of Hoa Sen: Poems (BOA Editions, Lannan Translations Selection Series, 2014). © Nguyen Phan Que Mai. Reprinted by permission of the poet and BOA Editions.

Art credit: "A woman works in the rice fields in the central highlands of Vietnam, March 2014," photograph by Sebastien Bicard.

Author photograph: Don Usner (digitally altered by curator).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Seamus Heaney: "Postscript"

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

"Postscript" by Seamus Heaney. Text as published in The Spirit Level: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996).

My thanks to subscriber Monique Metzemaekers for suggesting this poem.

Art credit: "Postscript," text performed by Seamus Heaney, video by Cian Vaughan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Max Ehrmann: "A Prayer"

LET me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times. May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of the quiet river, when a light glowed within me, and I promised my early God to have courage amid the tempests of the changing years. Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments. May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit. Though the world know me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself. Lift my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others, lest I condemn myself. Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path. Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope. And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time's olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening's twilight find me gentle still.

"A Prayer" by Max Ehrmann. Text as published in The Poems of Max Ehrmann (Dodge Publishing Company, 1906).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Gary Johnson: "Good Workers"

Let us praise good workers (you know who you are)
Who come gladly to the job and do what you can
For as long as it takes to repair the car
Or clean the house—the woman or man
Who dives in and works steadily straight through,
Not lagging and letting others carry the freight,
Who joke around but do what you need to do,
Like the home caregiver who comes daily at eight
A.m. to wash and dress the man in the wheelchair
And bring him meals and put him to bed at night
For minimum wage and stroke his pale brown hair.
He needs you. "Are you all right?" "I'm, all right,"
      He says. He needs you to give him these good days,
      You good worker. God's own angels sing your praise.

"Good Workers" by Gary Johnson. Text as published on The Writer's Almanac (01/09/2011).

Art credit: "Helping a Disabled Man in Wheelchair," still shot from video by marians @ VideoHive.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mary Oliver: "I Have Decided"

I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and the silence. It’s said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered. That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood. Slowly, no doubt. I’m not talking about a vacation.

Of course, at the same time I mean to stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

"I Have Decided" by  Mary Oliver. Text as published in A Thousand Mornings: Poems (Penguin Press, 2012).

Art credit: "Blur biker," photograph taken on December 3, 2013, by Thomas Toft.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Gary Margolis: "I haven't met anyone who hasn't offered me her humanity"

on this sojourn. Or his.
These days I have stepped away
from my life among the maples

and elms. And have found more
than September’s pears,
here by the salt marsh.

These bronze bells.
A woman, by the side
of the road, building a stone

wall, her knees in a ditch,
tells me to go ahead
and pick one. Or wait for

the wind to drop a handful
into my hat. I have removed.
In the presence of a sudden god

waiting for anyone to appear
this morning, who doesn’t
know what he needs to be

offered. To receive more
than he imagined a few days away
could provide. To see a storm

of maple leaves as the tides they are.
The apples, at home, their own kind
of burnishing, rented pear.

"I haven't met anyone who hasn't offered me her humanity" by Gary Margolis. © Gary Margolis. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled photograph of Conference pears, likely by Debby Hatch at Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens.