Monday, November 30, 2015

William Stafford: "Earth Dweller"

It was all the clods at once become
precious; it was the barn, and the shed,
and the windmill, my hands, the crack
Arlie made in the ax handle: oh, let me stay
here humbly, forgotten, to rejoice in it all;
let the sun casually rise and set.
If I have not found the right place,
teach me; for, somewhere inside, the clods are
vaulted mansions, lines through the barn sing
for the saints forever, the shed and windmill
rear so glorious the sun shudders like a gong.

Now I know why people worship, carry around
magic emblems, wake up talking dreams
they teach to their children: the world speaks.
The world speaks everything to us.
It is our only friend.

"Earth Dweller" by William Stafford. Text as published in The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998).

Art credit: "Windmill Against a Dramatic Prairie Sky," photograph by mavis.

Answering Your Most-Asked Questions

Curator's Note: The End is Beginning With great reluctance I have decided to end this project at the close of 2015.... I will do my best to make these last months a gift to you, with deep bows of gratitude.: Friends,

Thank you for your many kind personal messages as I wind down A Year of Being Here. Please know that I value each message I receive, and I will be sure to answer.

However, since many of you are asking similar questions, I thought it might be helpful briefly to respond to some of them in this post. If I've missed one that is important to you, let me know.

  1. "Why are you ending the project? Have you run out of poems? Do you need more money?" No worries, there is an endless supply of mindfulness poetry in this worldkeep berry-picking! And due to your generous donations, I'm certain that even if I kept the project going for a dozen more years, I'd never run short of funds. So why end? I won't belabor all the reasons, but I'll cite the most important: a scarcity of time. Three years ago, when I began this online "hobby project," it required only a half-hour's labor each day. Now it demands three to four hours, and is hungry for even more. As a result, I don't have enough time to do my "real work," which I truly enjoy. On a related note, no, I don't have any staff (though I do have a dear friend who was kind enough each summer to do postings while I went on a brief vacation with my family). And no, I don't wish to have a staff, because I don't wish to be a manager, but thanks for the suggestion.

  2. "Would you allow me to take over the project?" It's kind of you to ask, but no. Forgive me for not getting into the details of why. But if you're truly interested in doing such a project, I strongly encourage you to create one.

  3. "Will I still be able to access the poetry after the project ends?" Absolutely. The website  ( will remain online. Many of you subscribers and social network followers have never visited the website. I encourage you to take advantage of its two archives (one organized by chronology, the other by author name) and its search function. And of course the project's social networking sites, though inactive, will still be available for reference, comment and sharing.

  4. "Where shall I get my daily poetry now? Is there a similar project you might recommend, once A Year of Being Here concludes?" Again, there is no shortage of poetry berries to pick, if you're looking for them. But I can offer a few suggestions. First, you might join the many subscribers who have told me that they intend to start reading, or rereading, at the beginning of the website's archives—that's three years' worth of poetry, at one poem per day. Second, you might enjoy subscribing to Panhala, a free daily poetry service. ("Panhala" is Hindi for "source of fresh water.") I have subscribed for many years. The poetry, accompanied by photography, is available only via email. To subscribe, send a blank email message to There is no need to put anything in the subject line or body of the message. Finally, I would encourage you to purchase volumes by some of your favorite mindfulness poets and make a commitment to reading some of their work on a regular basis. One poet tends to lead to another.

  5. "Have you thought of doing an anthology of mindfulness poetry?" Yep. That was my original intention when I created A Year of Being Here, but I couldn't interest a publisher. Not wanting to waste the effort I'd put into the project, I decided to go online, at least for a year. That was three years ago! Given your enthusiasm for an anthology, I might eventually reopen my search for a publisher. My decision will rest in part on the results of a short online survey I'll soon be inviting you to complete, if you'll be kind enough to help me out.

  6. "Are you a poet? Where do you live?" Nope, I'm not a poet (occasional songwriting doesn't count). I don't even know that much about poetry, beyond whether a certain poem speaks to me or not. I grew up in Ohio (USA) but now live with my husband and thirteen-year-old son in South Dakota.

  7. "If you're not a poet, what kind of work do you do?" As I'm fond of joking, I do whatever doesn't make much money. I write books and music, do public speaking, am involved in peace and social justice efforts.... I'm fortunate to have a lot of creative freedom.

  8. "What's next for you? How can I stay informed about your work?" At the moment I'm finishing a novel related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. I have plans for another novel, and who knows, perhaps an anthology of mindfulness poetry(!). If you truly want to stay informed about my work, you can sign up for my mailing list on my website, follow my Facebook page or even my Twitter feed (@phylliscoledai). But let me warn you: As an introvert who would rather be doing other things, I tend to neglect my social media accounts.

I hope these answers are helpful. Thanks so much for your support and interest, everyone! Stay tuned for more end-of-project developments....

Deep peace,
Phyllis Cole-Dai

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ruth L. Schwartz: "Versions of Ghalib: Ghazal I"
["Everything sings, in each moment"]

            Ghalib was a 19th-century Urdu poet. These versions were developed
            from the prose translations provided by Aijaz Ahmad in Ghazals of
            Ghalib (Columbia University Press, 1971). Numbering corresponds to
            the numbers used in that volume.


Everything sings, in each moment, a song—and is,
in the very next moment, unsung.

It's no use being a mirror which sees both sides;
both sides are wrong.

What you claim to know will fail you; so will
what you venerate. Drink up. Refill your cup.

Deliberately love kicks up dust
to irritate the eye between two worlds.


Each song loves and hates itself.
If there's a mirror which tells the difference, don't look.

Forget what you know; don't bother to believe.
Not-knowing is the only cup which can hold the world.

Where love has been and gone, the world grows honest.
Each thing sings: I am essential. I do not exist.

All you think you know is wrong. So is all you worship.
No matter how much you drink, there's more in the cup.


Praise the futility of song. Accept that the shine in the mirror
is wrong. You are not important.

What's a mirror, anyway? Who looks back from that bright glass?
It's love again, come to save us, or drive us mad.

The more you know, the less you see;
faith can't be drunk, though it fills your cup.

Love's like a dust which settles on all things
and clings like skin. Even the sky bows down to it.

"Versions of Ghalib: Ghazal I" ["Everything sings, in each moment"] by Ruth L. Schwartz. Text as published in Dear Good Naked Morning (Autumn House Press, 2005). © Ruth L. Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Peg Runnels: "I Want My Grief"

to be brilliant, fast and gone.
Like Mozart. Or Stevie Ray.
Like fireworks. Boom! Flash!
Ooh, ahh. OK, done. Let’s go.

I want my grief to be brave.
Hurts more now, heals faster,
Grandma said, pouring salt
On a skinned knee.

I want to stand up to grief,
Stand it down, like the
Tiny man, big tank
In Tiananmen Square.

Because. Because if I am brave,
Bold, salty, open enough
The tank, the bleeding, the tears
Will stop sooner. I tell myself.

But grief laughs. Humbles me.
I lose keys, break cups, get lost.
Asked at CarMax Why are you
Selling this car?
I burst

Into an embarrassment of tears.
A friend says, One doesn’t have grief,
Grief has you.

We wrestle, to the mat. I’m pinned.

But sometimes I break free.
Break patterns instead of dishes.
Start to write myself a new story,
To fling myself toward yes,

Begin to say, Oh. Now this. . . . Observe
What life brings. Reframe. Say,
I’m not wrestling grief,
We’re dancing.

So, I put my right foot in . . .
And turn myself about.

"I Want My Grief" by Peg Runnels. © Peg Runnels. Text presented here by poet submission.  

Art credit: "Dance Your Way Through Sorrow," photograph by anaPhenix.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thomas Merton: "When the Shoe Fits"


Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

"When the Shoe Fits" by Thomas Merton. Text as published in In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions, 2005), edited by Lynn R. Szabo.

Art credit: Untitled image of California artist Jim Denevan executing a sand drawing. From the artist's website: "Jim Denevan creates temporary drawings on sand, earth, and ice that are eventually erased by waves and weather. These drawings range in scale from smaller beach compositions to large scale land works the size of a city." See more of his artworks here.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: Untitled ["Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself"]

Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the hearth of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness, thanksgiving gives
birth to alertness.
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.

Untitled ["Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself"], attributed to Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Source unknown. If you have bibliographic information for this poem, please share.

Curator's note: This poem is offered in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Art credit: "Hunger," photograph by (digitally altered by curator).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Richard Taylor: "Wild Turkeys"

Rushed to reach the dentist's
and scratch one more item
off my list of things to do,
I hurry down the porch steps,
stopping, car door half open,
as I glance beyond the porch steps,
to see not one or two but seven turkeys
foraging on the hillside,
lean, each cupped in its feathery sheen
like ancient scales or bark,
each going its own unruffled way,
wattled bills picking who knows
what—seeds or insects—
except one preening in the sunlight,
wings flexed open in airy languor,
clear ground between it
and anything like harm.
They gabble. They dip
with each mincing step
as though warming to flightlessness,
Slowly, in some long association
dyed deep in the wing,
in a tongue for which
there are no words,
they answer to light,
working their way upward
toward the treeline at the crest,
past the furry shadow of a lone cedar.
Whichever way they turn is home.

"Wild Turkeys" by Richard Taylor, from Rain Shadow (Broadstone Books, 2014). Text as published by The Writer's Almanac (7/24/2014).

Art credit: Untitled photograph by The National Wild Turkey Federation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Seamus Heaney: Chorus from The Cure at Troy


Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.

Chorus from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney. Text as published in The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991 reprint edition).

Art credit: "Beautiful Mountain Lightning Kyukw," wallpaper by unknown photographer.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Carl Dennis: "Unfolding"

If there is no spirit unfolding itself in history,
No gradual growth of consciousness
Beneath the land grabs and forced migrations,
The bought elections, the betrayal of trust
By party faction in the name of progress—
What about spirit in the personal realm
Unfolding slowly inside us, so slowly
That our best days seem like a holding action?
Seasons repeat themselves, but the tree
Shading the yard keeps growing.
Don’t be chagrined that the sadness you felt
This evening beside the bed of a friend
Who’s growing weaker wasn’t more profound
Than the sadness of yesterday, that you still
Can’t imagine a fraction of what he’s feeling
As the world he loves slips from his grasp,
No progress from your perspective,
But who’s to say what you might notice
If the scroll of the last few months were unrolled
On the table before you, how clear it might be
That your understanding of all you’re losing
In losing him has been slowly deepening?
Another day, you say to yourself, at dusk
As you climb your porch steps, which you notice
Could use some scraping and painting this weekend,
A fresh coat that with luck will last a year.

"Unfolding" by Carl Dennis. Text as published in The New Yorker (10/24/2011). 

Art credit: "Dark Wood Stain Peeling Off," photograph by AznDragon533 (digitally altered by curator).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Anne Porter: "Living Things"

Our poems
Are like the wart-hogs
In the zoo
It's hard to say
Why there should be such creatures

But once our life gets into them
As sometimes happens
Our poems
Turn into living things
And there's no arguing
With living things
They are
The way they are

Our poems
May be rough
Or delicate
Or great

But always
They have inside them
A confluence of cries
And secret languages

And always
They are improvident
And free
They keep
A kind of Sabbath

They play
On sooty fire escapes
And window ledges

They wander in and out
Of jails and gardens
They sparkle
In the deep mines
They sing
In breaking waves
And rock like wooden cradles.

"Living Things" by Anne Porter. Text as published in Living Things: Collected Poems (Steerforth Press, 2006).

Art credit: "Warthog," photograph by Layzeboy Photography.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

January Gill O'Neil: "How to Make a Crab Cake"

Start with your own body,
the small bones of the hands
moving toward the inlets of the fingers.

Wanting it too much invites haste.
You must love what is raw
and hungered for.

Think of the crab cake as the ending,
as you till away at the meat, digging for
errant shells and jagged edges.

Always, it’s a matter of guesswork
but you hold it together
by the simplest of ingredients,

for this is how the body learns to be generous,
to forgive the flaws inherited
and enjoy what lies ahead.

Yet you never quite know
when it happens,
the moment when the lumps

transcend egg and breadcrumbs,
the quiver of oil in a hot pan,
to become unworldly:

the manifold of pleasure
with the sweet ache of crab
still bright on your tongue.

"How to Make a Crab Cake" by January Gill O'Neill. Text as published in Underlife (CavanKerry Press, 2009). © January Gill O'Neill. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: "How to Make a Crab Cake," video uploaded to YouTube by January Gill O'Neill on 6/21/2010.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Edward Thomas: "The Owl"

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

"The Owl" by Edward Thomas. Text as published in Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 1980), edited by R. George Thomas.

Art credit: Untitled photograph, likely by Chris Watkins.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

W. S. Merwin: "To Myself"

Even when I forget you
I go on looking for you
I believe I would know you
I keep remembering you
sometimes long ago but then
other times I am sure you
were here a moment before
and the air is still alive
around where you were and I
think then I can recognize
you who are always the same
who pretend to be time but
you are not time and who speak
in the words but you are not
what they say you who are not
lost when I do not find you

"To Myself" by W. S. Merwin. Text as published in Present Company (Copper Canyon Press, 2007).

Art credit: Image from a presentation by The Stories from the Ground, a collective of artists specializing in "micro-theatre" shadow puppetry performances.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Julia de Burgos: "I Was My Own Route"

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows,
and my feet level on the promissory earth
would not accept walking backwards
and went forward, forward,
mocking the ashes to reach the kiss
of new paths.

At each advancing step on my route forward
my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings
of the old guard.

But the branch was unpinned forever,
and at each new whiplash my look
separated more and more and more from the distant
familiar horizons;
and my face took the expansion that came from within,
the defined expression that hinted at a feeling
of intimate liberation;
a feeling that surged
from the balance between my life
and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.

Already my course now set in the present,
I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth,
of the soils without history,
of the soils without a future,
of the soil always soil without edges
of all the men and all the epochs.

And I was all in me as was life in me...

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:
an attempt at life;
a game of hide and seek with my being.
But I was made of nows;
when the heralds announced me
at the regal parade of the old guard,
the desire to follow men warped in me,
and the homage was left waiting for me.

"I Was My Own Route" ("Yo Misma Fui Mi Ruta"), by Julia de Burgos. Text as published in Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos (Curbstone Books, 1997), translated from the original Spanish by Jack Agueros

Art credit: "Muddy feet," photograph by Gary Allman –

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Billy Collins: "This Much I Do Remember"

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

"This Much I Do Remember" by Billy Collins. Text as published in Picnic, Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998).

Art credit: "Three Oranges," acrylic on paper, painting by Anna Vreman.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rhina Espaillat: "Guidelines"

Here’s what you need to do, since time began:
find something—diamond-rare or carbon-cheap,
it’s all the same—and love it all you can.

It should be something close—a field, a man,
a line of verse, a mouth, a child asleep—
that feels like the world’s heart since time began. 

Don’t measure much or lay things out or scan;
don’t save yourself for later, you won’t keep;
spend yourself now on loving all you can. 

It’s going to hurt. That was the risk you ran
with your first breath; you knew the price was steep,
that loss is what there is, since time began 

subtracting from your balance. That’s the plan,
too late to quibble now, you’re in too deep.
Just love what you still have, while you still can.

Don’t count on schemes, it’s far too short a span
from the first sowing till they come to reap.
One way alone to count, since time began:
love something, love it hard, now, while you can. 

"Guidelines" by Rhina Espaillat, from Her Place in These Designs (Truman State University Press, 2008). Text as posted at Ronnow Poetry.

Art credit: "Delfina and Dimas," oil painting by Diego Rivera.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ron Stone:
"Memo to Self
Re: Meditation"

Right now you don’t have to parse the entire
universe in infinite, particulate detail;
for just these few minutes merely sit and become
only breath, that is to say, spirit.

Now… what you see is a world without you,
as it was before you were born and
will be when you’re no longer here.
Are you amazed that it goes on without you?

Slowly learn the lesson about who you are:
dust of the earth, dust of a star.
The stuff that is you has always been here
fulfilling its purpose in losing its Self.

Until you.

Now it’s become human body and brain;
it believes it’s an I and stands apart
from the rest of creation, asserting its right
to be Lord of All, whatever the price.

But you know in these moments the price is too high,
far more than our planet is able to pay.
In your ego-fed effort to have it your way
you have "become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

The world doesn’t need you the way you need it.
For these next few minutes, let go and just be,
and become not an ego in charge of it all
but a part of the Whole in search of your place.

"Memo to Self Re: Meditation" by Ron Stone. © Ron Stone. Text presented here by poet submission. 

Curator's note: The poet comments that he is currently using this selection as a "centering exercise when [beginning his] morning meditation."

 Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi: "Zero Circle"

Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
     to gather us up.

We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we're lying.
If we say No, we don't see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.

So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.

"Zero Circle" by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Text as published in Ten Poems to Change Your Life, edited by Roger Housden (Harmony, 2001). Poem translated from the original Farsi by Coleman Barks.

Curator's note: Confronted by the terrible news out of Beirut, Lebanon, and Paris, France, I've set aside today's scheduled post and turned to Rumi. As I watch the coverage of these tragedies, it strikes me that the attacks were deliberate assaults not only on public places but on beauty—the beauty of cookery (restaurant), the beauty of drama (theater), the beauty of music (concert hall), the beauty of sport (stadium), the beauty of learning (school), and more generally, the beauty of human fellowship. Let us grieve the dead and wounded together, and in the name of beauty and our shared humanity, let us join together to be "a mighty kindness" in a world torn by the ugliness of violence and hatred.

Art credit: "Mysterious Blue Tunnel to the Light, Way to Another World," image by unknown photographer.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Charles Bukowski: "helping the old"

I was standing in line at the bank today
when the old fellow in front of me
dropped his glasses (luckily, within the
and as he bent over
I saw how difficult it was for
and I said, “wait, let me get
them. . . “
but as I picked them up
he dropped his cane
a beautiful, black polished
and I got the glasses back to him
then went for the cane
steadying the old boy
as I handed him his cane.
he didn’t speak,
he just smiled at me.
then he turned

I stood behind him waiting
my turn.

"helping the old" by Charles Bukowski, from You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense (HarperCollins, 2002). Text as posted on Poeticous.

 Art credit: "Hand of senior man leaning on walking stick," photograph by AdStock RF.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Danna Faulds: "Walk Slowly"

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still and just like that,
something in me settles, softens,
makes space for imperfection. The harsh
voice of judgment drops to a whisper
and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race;
that we will all cross the finish line;
that waking up to life is what we were born for.
As many times as I forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I am going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, to be and walk
slowly into the mystery.

"Walk Slowly" by Danna Faulds. Go In and In: Poems from the Heart of Yoga (Peaceable Kingdom Books, 2002)

Art credit: "Woman Carrying Load on Her Head," image by unknown photographer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Muriel Rukeyser: "Poem"

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane.
The news would pour out of various devices
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

"Poem" by Muriel Rukeyser, from The Speed of Darkness: Poems (Random House, 1968). Text as published online by the Poetry Foundation. 

Curator's note: This poem is offered in observance of Veterans Day in the United States. 

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Adrian Mitchell: "Human Beings"

                look at your hands
    your beautiful useful hands
                you’re not an ape
            you’re not a parrot
    you’re not a slow loris
        or a smart missile
            you’re human

            not british
        not american
            not israeli
    not palestinian
        you’re human

            not catholic
    not protestant
        not muslim
            not hindu
    you’re human

    we all start human
        we end up human
            human first
                human last
            we’re human
        or we’re nothing

    nothing but bombs
        and poison gas
    nothing but guns
        and torturers
    nothing but slaves
    of Greed and War
    if we’re not human

                    look at your body
    with its amazing systems
    of nerve-wires and blood canals
        think about your mind
    which can think about itself
        and the whole universe
            look at your face
    which can freeze into horror
            or melt into love
        look at all that life
            all that beauty
            you’re human
        they are human
        we are human
    let’s try to be human


"Human Beings" by Adrian Mitchell, from The Shadow Knows: Poems 2000-2004 (Bloodaxe Books, 2004). Text as published on the website of Poetry International.

Video credit: "The T-Mobile Welcome Back," video by Life's for Sharing, uploaded to YouTube on 10/29/2010. Note: This is a promotional video, but its presentation here isn't an endorsement of any product or company.

Poet photograph credit: Billy Fox (digitally altered by curator).

Monday, November 9, 2015

Barbara Crooker: "It's Monday Morning,"

mid-November, the world turned golden,
preserved in amber. I should be doing more
to save the planet—plant a tree, raise
a turbine, put solar panels on the roof
to grab the sun and bring it inside. Instead,
I’m sitting here scribbling, sitting on a wrought
iron chair, the air cold from last night’s frost,
the thin sunlight sinking into the ruined
Appalachians of my spine. I know it’s all
about to fall apart; the signs are everywhere.
But on this blue morning, the air bristling
with crickets and birdsong, I do the only thing
I can: put one word in front of the other,
and see what happens when they rub up against
each other. It might become something
that will burst into flame.

"It's Monday Morning," by Barbara Crooker. Text as published in Small Rain (Purple Flag, 2014). © Barbara Crooker. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown artist.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wendell Berry: "Sabbaths 1999, VII"

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight.

                                  The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite.

                 What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.

"Sabbaths 1999, VII" by  Wendell Berry. Text as published in Given: Poems (Counterpoint, 2005). 

Art credit: "Autumn Leaf Falling from Tree," photograph by Verity E. Milligan.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Margaret Chula: A Selection of Tanka

November morning
I help Mother
write her obituary
    wisps of fog
    shroud the maple leaves

there’s always something
to let go of
    the long slant of ash
        on the incense stick

cleaning out
Mother’s lingerie drawer
the tears in her stockings
sewn up so tightly—
all my unanswered questions

 yesterday’s desires
    what were they?
       a vase
    without flowers
holds only itself

walking the path
through the dark garden
moonlight shines
on the flower
with no scent

A selection of tanka by Margaret Chula. Text as published in Just This: Tanka (Mountains and Rivers Press, 2013). © Margaret Chula. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.


Friday, November 6, 2015

David Lee:
"November Idyll: After the still life"

Leviticus 7:12-15

Above the grain field stubble
a lift of cranes

like a great table cloth

"November Idyll: After the still life" by David Lee. Text as published by Orion Magazine (November/December 2007).

Art credit: "Monte Vista Crane Festival," photograph by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Tourism Office.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gregory Orr: Untitled ["Grief will come to you"]

Grief will come to you.
Grip and cling all you want,
It makes no difference.

Catastrophe? It's just waiting to happen.
Loss? You can be certain of it.

Flow and swirl of the world.
Carried along as if by a dark current.

All you can do is keep swimming;
All you can do is keep singing.

Untitled ["Grief will come to you"] by Gregory Orr. Text as published in How Beautiful the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2009).

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.