Friday, January 1, 2016

Phyllis Cole-Dai:
"On How to Pick and Eat Poems"


I'm not a poet. But for today, as we mark the end of A Year of Being Here (and the start of 2016), I've written you a poem. It was the best gesture of gratitude I could think to offer you.

Before presenting the poem, let me thank you one last time, in every language of the world, for the gift of the past three years. You readers are out there by the thousands, in at least 50 countries. What has united you in this reading community has been your love of poetry—and not just any poetry, but poetry that speaks straight, and beautifully, about life in the present moment; poetry that teaches or reminds us, or even exemplifies for us, how to greet life openly, compassionately, without judgment. Mindfulness poetry, in other words.

It has been my pleasure and my privilege to share with you mindfulness poems that I've collected over the years. I haven't exhausted my supply, by any means, but it's time for me to move along. I bow to all the incredible poets, photographers and artists who have made A Year of Being Here possible. I bow to all of you readers, who have been so generous with your donations, your gifts, your feedback and good wishes, and most of all with your sharing of poems with friends, relatives, colleagues, support groups, communities of faith, patients, students.... I've been amazed by the many stories you've told me about how the poems have rippled out to touch someone at just the right moment. You yourselves have made that happen, and the world is better for it.

A special word of thanks to all of you who took time to complete my end-of-project survey regarding a possible anthology of mindfulness poetry. (If you haven't yet done so, you can still submit yours today by clicking here.) I'll be sure to inform you if such a book develops.

I encourage all of you to keep searching out and sharing poems (and other forms of creative expression) that nurture, inspire, comfort and empower. Remember that the project website and social media accounts will remain up for you to use. But don't stop there. Go looking. The year is new. Let it take you somewhere you've never been.

Now I bow to you, with a full heart, where our humanity meets. I've given you all I can, and you've given me more than you'll ever know. Thank you forever.

Deep peace,


Stop whatever it is you’re doing.
Come down from the attic.
Grab a bucket or a basket and head for light.
That’s where the best poems grow, and in the dappled dark.

Go slow. Watch out for thorns and bears.
When you find a good bush, bow to it, or take off your shoes.
Then pluck. This poem. That poem. Any poem.
It should come off the stem easy, just a little tickle.
No need to sniff first, judge the color, test the firmness.
You’ll only know it’s ripe if you taste.

So put a poem upon your lips. Chew its pulp.
Let its juice spill over your tongue.
Let your reading of it teach you
what sort of creature you are
and the nature of the ground you walk upon.
Bring your whole life out loud to this one poem.
Eating one poem can save you, if you’re hungry enough.

When birds and deer beat you to your favorite patch,
smile at their familiar appetite, and ramble on.
Somewhere another crop waits for harvest.
And if your eye should ever light upon a cluster of poems
hanging on a single stem, cup your hand around them
and pull, without greed or clinging.
Some will slip off in your palm.
None will go to waste.

Take those you adore poem-picking when you can,
even to the wild and hidden places.
Reach into brambles for their sake,
stain your skin some shade of red or blue,
mash words against your teeth, for love.
And always leave some poems within easy reach
for the next picker, in kinship with the unknown.

If you ever carry away more than you need,
go on home to your kitchen, and make good jam.
No need to rush, the poems will keep.
Some will even taste better with age,
a rich batch of preserves.

Store up jars and jars of jam. Plenty for friends.
Plenty for the long, howling winter. Plenty for strangers.
Plenty for all the bread in this broken world.

"On How to Pick and Eat Poems" by Phyllis Cole-Dai. © Phyllis Cole-Dai. Offered in profound gratitude to the community of A Year of Being Here. Listen to Phyllis read the poem here.

Art credit: "Berry Red Vintage Berry Bucket," photograph by