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


  1. Happy New Year, Phyllis, and farewell, it's been a great run

    1. Right back at you, Rick! A special thanks to you for your reading (and commenting) presence. I've always appreciated what you had to say. (Great jam.) Wishing you all the best....

  2. I bow to you and your wonderful poem/gift...Be well!

    1. Thank you, my friend. May your pail always be full! Deep peace....

  3. Thank you again for all the poems you've sent to inspire, comfort, enlighten, and delight us. The poem you sent today is a juicy treat to savor as we begin the new year. Please keep writing--you have that gift!

  4. Thank you again for all the poems you've sent to inspire, comfort, enlighten, and delight us. The poem you sent today is a juicy treat to savor as we begin the new year. Please keep writing--you have that gift!

    1. Such kind, encouraging words. Thank you. Be well.

  5. Your poems have healed me. Thank you.


    1. I'm happy to have brought you poems that healed, Gail. Continue to read good medicine! Be well.

  6. So beautiful! Thank you for the poems you have offered as daily bread and this beautiful poem you have shared with us here from your own spirit.

    1. You're very welcome, my friend. Thank you for your kind words. Deep peace always.

  7. Such simple words but made so powerful by your spirit! Farewell for now but do come back, renewed and touch our hearts again. Stay well Phyllis. Peace to the World.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, friend. I wish you all the same, with bows of respect.

  8. Lovely! It filled my soul with nourishment this morning. Thank you!

  9. I'm munching happily. Today, this snowy day, is a day with Rumi for me.

  10. I just stumbled upon your site when searching for Wm. Stafford's "The Gift" poem. And to my great surprise discovered your poetic gift, "On How to Pick and Eat Poems" ... absolutely the perfect fruit to begin this and every day. Many thanks!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Enjoy the site!

  11. Is there any chance of a second anthology, More Poetry of Presence? I'd be in line to preorder. Thank you for this wonderful collection. I start every day on your site and often share the poems with others, as directed above :).

    1. Absolutely! POETRY OF PRESENCE VOLUME II will be published by Grayson Books sometime this spring (2023). I'm glad you found this site and have found it a faithful companion!

    2. Wow Phyllis Cole-Dai,
      here it is 3/4/2023 and I’ve somehow wondrously come upon your cache of poems even though the last share was sometime in 2016! EuXapistw EFHARISTO THANK YOU A COMMUNION AND KINSHIP OF THANKYOUs GRATITUDE, and CELEBRATION! Fresh air and open windows to let the breezes bathe us!
      Blessings to you and to your mindfully lived and celebrated moments, shared.
      Mary McL


Thank you for participating respectfully in this blog's community of readers.