Monday, March 30, 2009


- Denis Levertov

When I opened the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I'll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop
[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 9, 2009.]


- Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

[NOTE: This was posted on Mar 7, 2009.]

Waging Peace

- Sarah Klassan

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace. Isaiah 52: 7

Not something separate. Not
a convenient screen, a wall hastily fabricated
to keep a conflict's blaze contained.
Or the self safe.Nor something hammered out at tables.
And never sentimental, say a moonlit evening,
an incandescent sky. The Pacific Ocean
on a breathless day. You might as wellwage peace as war. You'd have to stand
exposed at the crossroads of unguarded anger,
a presence, not an absence,
not gritting your teeth. Forcing your clenched handsopen. Your heart's hard core
and everything the stubborn mind conceals
revealed. Disarmed
you may become disarming, the terror in your unmasked face
radiant, your unshod, wounded feet beautiful
beyond words.

[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 6, 2009.]

A Chat with My Father

- David Bottoms

Sometimes when my old man tries to talk, his mind runs like a small boy
on a path through the woods.
You know the story. There's home to get to, and it's getting late,
only a little light still slicing through the trees.
And the boy has walked the path so many times,
he thinks he can do it in his sleep. But no. Some bird sounds off
way back in the woods, and he tries to ignore it, but it harps again,
and suddenly he's off the path, deeper and deeper
into the trees, wading the shadows, following the strangest
and most beautiful birdsong he's ever heard
until he crosses a stream and catches in the corner of his eye
a ruby as big as his fist, sure, a ruby or some rock
just as precious, and bends to pick it up when a wild dog ...
no, not a dog, when a wolf barks across a gully,
and he's beating his way through brush and briar,
trailing those barks and howls already fading
in the distance. All the while the woods have grown dark,
and suddenly he looks across the table,
and you see in his eyes that he's lost.
[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 5, 2009.]

Expect Nothing

- Alice Walker

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 5, 2009.]


- Antonio Machado

Wanderer, the road is your
footsteps, nothing else;
wanderer, there is no path,
you lay down a path in walking.

In walking, you lay down a path
and when turning around
you see the road you'll
never step on again.
Wanderer, path there is none,
only tracks on the ocean foam
[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 5, 2009.]

La Haine

- Susan Dane

It starts as a small little thing,
indignation at a trespass,
anger, having been wronged.
It grows into a flag,
parading first down small streets,
sweeping up the meanderers,
then avenues and winning crowds,
cheers along the way.
It writes an anthem,
builds a campaign.
Marching through the mind
it settles thoroughly in memory and vein,
changing our posture,
the way we hold our chin.
By the time it reaches bone,
it has eaten through sinew and spine,
cost us all that was benign.
Then, rises up the starless night,
no song no light.
Suddenly afraid,
we want it out:
cut, poison, burn the blighted stem.
But rampant right breeds cell on cell
out of control,
And having eaten heart
it eats the soul.

[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 5, 2009.]


- Susan Dane

If you want to hear the mountains,
do exactly as I say.
There are rules to things like this.
And I tell you that many
have come this way more than once
and have not heard them yet.
You must leave Lima early.
The flight at five will get you there by six,
before the morning fog wraps Cuzco thick.
When that first crest of snowcaps rises
you'll feel the thinness of your breath.
A quiet ache will settle in the chest.
Do not stop for Indian trinkets.
Drink the coca tea and then go straight to bed.
At four you rise to start again,
this time by train.
But do not think that you are almost there.
The ride will take six hours:
switchbacks laced with waterfalls
and clustered sheep. Sit on the left
to see the Indians wrapped in layered rainbows,
black bowler hats and braids,
spinning llama yarn outside their homes,
the wisdom of their people lost
except when kings return in dreams
and speak about the stones.
At the base of Machu Pichu
there will be five hundred tourists
bursting from the train
like subway riders.
Step aside. Let them push.
Look up to the right
and see the cavern homes where mothers nursed,
and children scattered ants for play.
Listen to the river rushing madly to you;
listen to the rising of your own breath.
There are no other sounds.
There are no birds. No chatter here.
When you can feel the pulse beneath your feet,
then start the climb, the way you must, on foot.
You are the silent stranger coming to this time.
And all the mountains are waiting.
Through a thousand years of solitude,
they have all been pressing toward this moment
of your coming, of your coming.
[NOTE: This was first posted on Mar 5, 2009.]

Shell Free

- Susan Dane

Ten thousand pecks they say
to break the shell
and wiggle free,
wide-eyes blinking.
Nothing to be done to hurry things.
It needs 10,000 pecks to build the beak.
What must it think?
At 10,000, beats
one peck at a time, blind,
until the darkness cracks
and a different air wraps its flapping
cold around it. Light dazes in
a rush of smells and greens.
Are we too breaking free bit by bit?
Certainly there is much
that closes us in
our own invisible porcelain:
the hourglass,
and sleepless nights,
and lives with sand walls sliding,
and everywhere the tight jacket
of desire keeps us wrapped
around ourselves.
Still I wonder if the metaphor itself
is not half-cracked.
The question never asked:
Are we the tiny embryo
pressing to be born?
Or is there something far unknown
fighting for its breath in us-- against us--
cramped, curled and nerve pinched,
its oxygen receding?
Are we the chick or shell?
The cage or caged?
Or does some mystery make one of two?
That with 10,000 pecks
this dark sufferer
splinters all our little hardnesses;
And then this folded over doubled thing,
crammed and squeezed,
breaks free
and when it does,
God Himself wriggles out, ever so fragile,
hesitant, still wet, but bodied!
And the mystery!
It doesn't leave us behind,
like some broken thing,
an empty shell,
but brings us on its frangible wings
to a new home,
that is precisely wild,
and we,
clumsy but unfettered,

[NOTE: This was posted on Mar 5, 2009.]

Written in a Carefree Mood

- Lu Yu

Old man pushing seventy,
in truth he acts like a little boy,
whooping with delight when he spies some mountain fruits,
laughing with joy, tagging after village mummers;
with the others having fun stacking tiles to make a pagoda,
standing alone staring at his image in a jardiniere pool.
Tucked under his arm, a battered book to read,
just like the time he first set off for school.

[NOTE: This was posted on Mar 2, 2009.]

In View of the Fact

- A. R. Ammons

The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it's this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won't: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we'll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .
[NOTE: This was posted on Mar 2, 2009.]


- Kay Ryan

Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time's fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn't be
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.
[NOTE: This was posted on Feb. 26, 2009.]

The World is Being Run on Time

- Francis Brabazon

The world is being run on time, by time, for time, and at no
time are we free
Just to sit and enjoy even the outward forms of the Beloved's

Each drop-bubble in time is a sphere bounded, but infinite;
So fragile, yet the whole of creation is in it.

It is a mirror, never reflecting truth, but the drop-soul's
No matter how deep one dives in the truth-quest or how high
one aspires.

Good man, bad man -- economy-tailored or king-sized --
Each gazes in his bubble-mirror self-hypnotized.

Since the blows of my will are too feeble to break my looking-
At least, Beloved, let it reflect only your beloved face.

Then, though still in time, I will no longer be a fool
Under time's tyranny, but under your benign rule.

The amazing universe and this beautiful earth will vanish,
leaving not a trace behind,
When your glance shatters this so-unbreakable mirror of my

[NOTE: This was posted on Feb 25, 2009.]


- Dorothy Walters
First, you must let your heart
be broken open
in a way you have never
felt before,
cannot imagine.

You will
not know if what you are
is anguish or joy,
something predestined
or merely old wounds
flowing once more,
reminders of all that is
unfinished in your life.

Something will flood into
your chest
like air sweetened by
desert honeysuckle,
love that is too

You will stand there,
very still,
not seeing what this is.
Later, you will not remember
any of this
until the next time
when you will say,
yes, yes, I have known this before,
it has come again,
just as your eyes fold under
once more.
[NOTE: This was posted on Feb. 25, 2009.]


- Louise Jenkins

Past mishaps might be attributed to an incomplete
understanding of the laws of aerodynamics or perhaps even
to a more basic failure of the imagination, but were to be
expected. Remember, this is solo flight unencumbered by
bicycle parts, aluminum and nylon or even feathers. A tour
de force, really. There's a lot of running and flapping involved
and as you get older and heavier, a lot more huffing and
puffing. But on a bright day like today with a strong
headwind blowing up from the sea, when, having slipped the
surly bonds of common sense and knowing she is watching,
waiting in breathless anticipation, you send yourself
hurtling down the long, green slope to the cliffs, who knows?
You might just make it.
[NOTE: This was first posted on Oct. 28, 2008.]

Natural Selection

- Alan Shapiro

Natural Selection
proceeds by chanc
eand necessity
becomes nonrandom
through randomness
builds complexity
from simplicity
nurtures consciousness
evolves purposelessly
creatures who demand
and discover
natural selection

[NOTE: This was first posted on Oct. 16, 2008.]

Friday, March 27, 2009


-Tess Gallagher

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don't cut that one.
I don't cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.

for Drago Stambuk

-from Dear Ghosts. © Graywolf Press, 2006.
[First posted June 25, 2007]

Appeal to the Grammarians

-Paul Violi

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we're capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we're ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn't bounce back,
The flat tire at journey's outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it—here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, "See, that's why
I don't like to eat outside."

from Overnight. © Hanging Loose Press, 2007.
[First posted May 22, 2007]


-Rainier Maria Rilke

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colours
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so helplessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs —

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

[First posted April 24, 2007]

The Longly-Weds Know

-Leah Furnas

That it isn't about the Golden Anniversary at all,
But about all the unremarkable years
that Hallmark doesn't even make a card for.

It's about the 2nd anniversary when they were surprised
to find they cared for each other more than last year

And the 4th when both kids had chickenpox
and she threw her shoe at him for no real reason

And the 6th when he accidentally got drunk on the way
home from work because being a husband and father
was so damn hard

It's about the 11th and 12th and 13th years when
they discovered they could survive crisis

And the 22nd anniversary when they looked
at each other across the empty nest, and found it good.

It's about the 37th year when she finally
decided she could never change him

And the 38th when he decided
a little change wasn't that bad

It's about the 46th anniversary when they both
bought cards, and forgot to give them to each other

But most of all it's about the end of the 49th year
when they discovered you don't have to be old

to have your 50th anniversary!!!!

from To Love One Another. © Grayson Books.
[First posted April 21, 2007]

To Hold

-Jean Nordhaus

Before I left for camp, my mother sewed my name
with a firm stitch into everything I owned.
She even looped a string of nametapes
through the scissors I keep to this day on my desk.

She wanted to be sure, when she sent me into the woods,
she'd get the right child back at summer's end,
that I'd not be left in the laundry drum
like an unmarked sock. Others—

careless lazy mothers-favored marking pens,
illegible black letters bleeding into stain.

My mother knew nothing was permanent.
She'd seen how fast a child could disappear:
her two dead sisters with names like flowers:
Lily, Rose, their summery smells, indelible voices.

That's why she sewed my name so tight
on all four sides, double-knotted the knots.
So I wouldn't forget when she sent me off
into the wet, the dark, the wild: I was hers.

from Innocence. © The Ohio State University Press.
[First posted March 21, 2007]

Small Town

-Midge Goldberg

For Alfred Nicol

What goes around comes around, I tell you.
One minute I'm squinting out the car window,
sure I recognize the mom of one
of my Little Leaguers, 'cept she's kissing some guy
not her husband under the parking lot light
down to the Stop and Shop, so I wave, big-like,
kind of being a jerk, although I wouldn't
ever really say anything about it.
Next thing I know, a siren, flashing red
and blue, some cops waving at me to stop.
I pull over, roll down the window, blinded
by the flashlight. They start to say they saw
me rolling through the stop, then get a whiff —
really, it's just the way the leather jacket
picks up all the smoke and the smell of the booze —
and I'm out of the car, walking the damn straight line,
saying the alphabet way too loud, then standing
on one leg (like I could do that sober)
counting one-mississippi, two-
mississippi with the kid's mom
across the street watching the whole damn thing
or at least part of it, 'cause I looked once
and saw her watching, then I looked again
during the mississippi's, and she was gone.
They let me go with a warning — gotta love 'em.
Maybe I'll give her a call. Probably not.

from Flume Ride. © David Roberts Books.
[First posted February 22, 2007]

Cinderella's Diary

-Ron Koertge

I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say
but it's true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?

Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, callused hands, selfish,
abrupt ...

Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
Those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I'd never seen.

-from Fever. © Red Hen Press.
[First posted February 6, 2007]

Thanks, Robert Frost

-David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought...
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

-from Music of Time: Selected and New Poems. © The Backwaters Press.
[First posted February 1, 2007]


-Beverly Rollwagen

She just wants an understudy, a body
double for the days when she does
not feel like appearing in any of the roles
she has assumed and/or been assigned.
She places an ad in the paper. Wanted:
one wife, mother, daughter, neighbor,
friend. Live-in OK. Own car necessary.
No lines to memorize; everything ad-
libbed. No days off.

-from "She Just Wants."
[First posted January 31, 2007]

Thursday, March 26, 2009


-Kim Garcia

Above the snow, a single maple holding forth
its dying flame. Among the feats of Nature:
the wild
greening from dry bulb, sour alchemy of rot, a rusty
handprint of lichen;
the eager
space-seeking species springing up after fire,
as though they took no lesson from destruction
but to begin again, twice as joyful.

from Madonna Magdalene. © Turning Point.
[First posted January 30, 2007]

The Walrus and the Carpenter

-Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright —
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done —
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead —
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head —
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat —
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more —
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages-and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed —
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice.
I wish you were not quite so deaf —
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

[First posted January 22, 2007]

The Jumblies

-by Edward Lear

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They called aloud, "Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
"O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, "How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
"O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, "How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, "If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve, —
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

[First posted January 21, 2007]

The Rites of Manhood

- Alden Nowlan

It's snowing hard enough that the taxis aren't running.
I'm walking home, my night's work finished,
long after midnight, with the whole city to myself,
when across the street I see a very young American sailor
standing over a girl who's kneeling on the sidewalk
and refuses to get up although he's yelling at her
to tell him where she lives so he can take her there
before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk
and my guess is he picked her up in a bar
and later they got separated from his buddies
and at first it was great fun to play at being
an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with
hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to
find a solution to the infinitely complex
problem of what to do about her before he falls into
the hands of the police or the shore patrol
—and what keeps this from being squalid is
what's happening to him inside:
if there were other sailors here
it would be possible for him
to abandon her where she is and joke about it
later, but he's alone and the guilt can't be
divided into small forgettable pieces;
he's finding out what it means
to be a man and how different it is
from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.

-from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread.
[First posted November 29, 2006]


-Ronald Wallace


Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows' ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There's a business
like show business.
There's something new
under the sun.

Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There's rest for the weary.
There's turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

-from Long for This World: New and Selected Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press.
[First posted June 18, 2006]

What we want

-Linda Pastan

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names-
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

- from Carnival Evening. © W.W. Norton.
[First posted June 9, 2006]

For All

-Gary Snyder

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.

[First posted May 30, 2006]

I am what is loved

- St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)

I said to God,
"What are you?" And He replied,
"I am what is loved. I am not what should be loved
for how cruel that would then
be for my

[First posted May 25, 2006]

The Waitresses

-Matt Cook

The waitresses
At the restaurant
Have to keep reminding
The schizophrenic man
That if he keeps acting
Like a schizophrenic man
They'll have to ask him to leave the restaurant.
But he keeps forgetting that he's a schizophrenic man,
So they have to keep reminding him.

- Eavesdrop Soup. © Manic D Press.
[First posted April 25, 2006]

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Siguiriya's Steps

- Federico Garcia Lorca, Translated by Gilles de Seze

Among black butterflies
Goes a Moorish girl
beside a white serpentof mist.
Earth of light,
sky of earth.
She goes chained to the tremor
of a rhythm that never settles;
she has a heart of silver
she handles a dagger in her hand.
Where are you going, Siguiriya,
with that headless rythm?
What moon will gather up
your pain of lime and oleander?
Earth of light
sky of earth

[NOTE: This was posted on Oct 16, 2008.]


- Wendell Berry

And now to the Abyss I pass
Of that Unfathomable Grass...

Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don't call it death --
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don't know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say

Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all's despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought's unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don't muck up my face

With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day's round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.

He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.

[NOTE: This was posted on Oct 12, 2008.]

Someone Should Start Laughing

- Hafiz

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing -- Now!

[NOTE: This was posted on Oct 4, 2008.]


- Jane Hirshfield

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.

[NOTE: This was posted on Oct 4, 2008.]


- Wendell Berry

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

[NOTE: This was posted on Sep 28, 2008.]

The Silence

- Wendell Berry

Though the air is full of singing
my head is loud
with the labor of words.

Though the season is rich
with fruit, my tongue
hungers for the sweet of speech.

Though the beech is golden
I cannot stand beside it
mute, but must say

"It is golden," while the leaves
stir and fall with a sound
that is not a name.

It is in the silence
that my hope is, and my aim.
A song whose lines

I cannot make or sing
sounds men's silence
like a root. Let me say

and not mourn: the world
lives in the death of speech
and sings there.

[NOTE: This was posted on Sep 8, 2008.]


- A. R. Ammons

An individual spider web
identifies a species:

an order of instinct prevails
through all accidents of circumstance,
though possibility is
high along the peripheries of
you can go all
around the fringing attachments

and find
disorder ripe,
entropy rich, high levels of random,
numerous occasions of accident:

the possible settings
of a web are infinite:

how doesthe spider keep
while creating the web
in a particular place?

how and to what extent
and by what modes of chemistry
and control?

it is
how things work: I will tell you
about it

it is interesting
and because whatever is
moves in weeds
and stars and spider webs
and known
is loved:
in that love,
each of us knowing it,
I love you,

for it moves within and beyond us,
sizzles in
to winter grasses, darts and hangs with bumblebees
by summer windowsills:

I will show you
the underlying that takes no image to itself,
cannot be shown or said,
but weaves in and out of moons and bladderweeds,
is all and
beyond destruction
because created fully in no
particular form:

if the web were perfectly pre-set,
the spider could
never find
a perfect place to set it in: and

if the web were
perfectly adaptable,
if freedom and possibility were without limit,
the web would
lose its special identity:

the row-strung garden web
keeps order at the center
where space is freest (intersecting that the freest
"medium" should
accept the firmest order)

and that
diminishes toward the
allowing at the points of contact
entropy equal to entropy

[NOTE: This was posted on Jul 8, 2008.]

A Lesson in Drawing

- Nizar Qabbani

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
"... But this is a prision, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?"
And I tell him: "Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds."
My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
"Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?"
I tell him, "Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers."
My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
"But this is a tear, father, not a poem!"
And I tell him:"When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poemis no more than a tear wept by writing fingers."
My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping.

[NOTE: This was posted on Jul 4, 2008.]

From the Edge of the World (Excerpt)

- Adonis

I release the earth and I imprison the skies. I fall down in order to stay faithful to the light, in order to make the world ambiguous, fascinating, changeable, dangerous, in order to announce the steps beyond.
The blood of the gods is still fresh on my clothes. A seagull's scream echoes through my pages. Let me just pack up my words and leave.

[NOTE: This was posted on Jul 4, 2008.]

Two Poems by Yehuda Amichai

Translated by Chana Bloch

Once I sat on the steps by agate at David's Tower,I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of touristswas standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You seethat man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an archfrom the Roman period. Just right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!"I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,"You see that arch from the Roman period? It's not important: but next to it,left and down a bit, there sits a man who's bought fruit and vegetables for his family."

An Arab Shepherd is Searching for his Goat on Mount Zion
An Arab shepherd is searching for his goat on Mount Zion
and on the opposite mountain I am searching for my little boy.
An Arab shepherd and a Jewish father
both in their temporary failure.
Our voices meet above
the Sultan's Pool in the valley between us.
Neither of us wants the child or the goat
to get caught in the wheels
of the terrible Had Gadya* machine.
Afterward we found them among the bushes
and our voices came back inside us,
laughing and crying.
Searching for a goat or a son has always been
the beginning of a new religion in these mountains.

* Lit. "Only one kid." A song chanted at the close of the Passover seder service, seen by some commentators as an allegory for the Jewish people.

[NOTE: These were posted on Jul 3, 2008.]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sestina, In Search of God

- Bobbie Benson, October 2004

I spent a lifetime trying to figure our God.

He was all tangled up in the emotions I felt for my grandmother.

I was a doubter from early on and would search

for proof that he existed. “Move my Easter basket,” I would whisper

in prayer, “from the dresser to the floor. Then I can laugh

your name out loud to all nonbelievers in this state.”

But it never happened. It left me in a state

of confusion. I also felt that God

had no sense of humor. I didn’t hear him laugh

in Calvary Baptist Church, the one that grandmother

and I went to. We always had to be reverent and whisper.

How was I allowed to find the truth if I couldn’t search?

My sister and I used to watch Search

for Tomorrow and then we’d read our daily devotional that stated

it was a sin to watch TV. “Grandma,” I’d whisper,

“Reverend Bacon was so mean to Mrs. Gibbs, yet would God

think I was a sinner more than Reverend Bacon?” Grandmother

shrugged her shoulders. “It’s not my place to judge or laugh.”

The fact that all the nonbelievers in Africa were going to hell was not a laughing

matter to me. I’d search

the Bible for some proof that grandmother

and Reverend Bacon must be wrong. Can you live in a state

of grace and condemn others to eternal damnation? “God

was a just God,” I’d whisper

to my sister. Grandmother would scold, “It’s a sin to whisper.

You don’t want others to feel excluded.” Thank God it’s not a sin to laugh.

If it had been intended that we not have joy in this life, why would God

have created so many joys to behold? The search

for these truths left me in a state

of bewilderment. How could I love my grandmother

so much and yet have a grandmother

that believed with such unwavering faith? I’d whisper

my prayers to God and ask him to deliver me to a state

of pure acceptance. It would never last for long. I’d laugh

at some absurd contradiction that presented itself in the Bible and search

for a way to help grandmother understand that I believed in God

or some supreme being and that I certainly believed in grandmother but that the

institution of church whispered

hypocrisy to every state in the union. I told her that I would continue to laugh

and search and surely I was loved by God.

[Note: This poem by Bobbie Benson was originally posted by her in November 2007.]

Over a Cup of Coffee

- Stephen Dobyns

Over a cup of coffee or sitting on a park bench or
walking the dog, he would recall some incident
from his youth—nothing significant—climbing a tree
in his backyard, waiting in left field for a batter's
swing, sitting in a parked car with a girl whose face
he no longer remembered, his hand on her breast
and his body electric; memories to look at with
curiosity, the harmless behavior of a stranger, with
nothing to regret or elicit particular joy. And
although he had no sense of being on a journey,
such memories made him realize how far he had
traveled, which, in turn, made him ask how he
would look back on the person he was now, this
person who seemed so substantial. These images, it
was like looking at a book of old photographs,
recognizing a forehead, the narrow chin, and
perhaps recalling the story of an older second
cousin, how he had left long ago to try his luck in
Argentina or Australia. And he saw that he was
becoming like such a person, that the day might
arrive when he would look back on his present self
as on a distant relative who had drifted off into
uncharted lands.

[NOTE: This was posted on Jun 30, 2008.]

The Strength of Fields

James L. Dickey

... a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power and a life-enhancing return ...
Van Gennep: Rites de Passage

Moth-force a small town always has,
Given the night.
What field-forms can be,
Outlying the small civic light-decisions over
A man walking near home?
Men are not where he is
Exactly now, but they are around him around him like the strength
Of fields. The solar system floats on
Above him in town-moths.
Tell me, train-sound,
With all your long-lost grief,
what I can give.
Dear Lord of all the fields
what am I going to do?
Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it how
To withdraw how to penetrate and find the source
Of the power you always had
light as a moth, and rising
With the level and moonlit expansion
Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.
You? I? What difference is there? We can all be saved
By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night and you walk with me we know simplicity
Is close to the source that sleeping men
Search for in their home-deep beds.
We know that the sun is away we know that the sun can be conquered
By moths, in blue home-town air.
The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures. They look on and help. Tell me, freight-train,
When there is no one else
To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
Like the profound, unstoppable craving
Of nations for their wish.
Hunger, time and the moon:
The moon lying on the brain
as on the excited sea as on
The strength of fields. Lord, let me shake
With purpose. Wild hope can always spring
From tended strength. Everything is in that.
That and nothing but kindness. More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green. That is where it all has to start:
With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
Than save every sleeping one
And night-walking one
Of us.
My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.

[NOTE: This poem was posted on Jun 14, 2008. It was a part of Jimmy Carter's inaugration speech. It is difficult to capture the visual form of the poem on this blog, which autoformats lines to be left aligned.]


- Naomi Shihab Nye

"A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he'd prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.
In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.
Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn't have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
"Shihab"—"shooting star"—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, "When we die, we give it back?"
He said that's what a true Arab would say.
Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.
I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

[NOTE: This was posted on June 13, 2008, welcoming Melissa to the group -- not sure what the connection between Melissa and this poem is, nevertheless...]

Little Gidding (Four Quartets)

- T. S. Eliot
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England. With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
Calling We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

[NOTE: This was posted on Feb 14, 2008 with this note: Here is an excerpt from Eliot's Little Gidding, which is a part of his famed Four Quartets. If you like this samplar, you can find the rest of the Four Quartets at:]

The Gathering Evening

- Alberto Rios

Shadows are the patient apprentices of everything.
They follow what might be followed,

Sit with what will not move.
They take notes all day long --

We don't pay attention, we don't see
The dark writing of the pencil, the black notebook.

Sometimes, if you are watching carefully,
A shadow will move. You will turn to see

What has made it move, but nothing.
The shadows transcribe all night.

Transcription is their sleep.
We mistake night as a setting of the sun:

Night is all of them comparing notes,
so many gathering that their crowd

Makes the darkness everything.
Patient, patient, quiet and still.

One day they will have learned it all.
One day they will step out, in front,

And we will follow them, be their shadows,
And work for our turn --

The centuries it takes
To learn what waiting has to teach.

[Note: Originally posted in August 2008.]


- Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes any sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in February 2009.]

The Wisdom of the Deer

- Kent Osborne

…a deer

standing before me


telling me by his presence

through his very manner of being there

what I did


all I could do

what I did

was truly

all I could do

the deer didn’t move

for what seemed like the longest time

kept standing there



as if the fallen leaves

adorning his great hall

were lush earthen carpet

And I had been granted a brief audience

with a nobility

whose lineage was pure and undefiled

and then I understood

the wisdom of the deer

the secret to my own dignity

all I have ever been

is all I will ever need

I must look back

and respectfully awaken the hero of my personal journey

the whole story

imperfections and all

is where the treasure resides

no need to be in the future

out there

in the next big thing

I already have one thing

a communion with my self.

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in October 2008.]

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

- Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately. Well one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her problem?

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu-biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, sho bit se-wee? The minute she heard any words she knew however poorly used - she stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you'll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with him in English.

I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and would ride next to her Southwest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts out of her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, the lovely woman from Laredo; we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers and the two little girls for our flight, one African-American, one Mexican-American ran around serving us all apple juice and lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend by now we were holding hands had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves.

Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, this is the world I want to live in.

The shared world. Not a single person in this gate once the crying of confusion stopped has seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen, anywhere. Not everything is lost.

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in June 2008.]

Invisible Work

~ Alison Luterman

Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only
but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while,
as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried
by great winds across the sky,
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.

There are mothers
for everything, and the sea
is a mother too,
whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean
a moment, against the blue
shoulder of the air. The work
of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art.

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in June 2008.]

Out Beyond

- Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

[Note: Originally posted in October 2008.]

Spring Giddiness

- Rumi

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.

Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

All day and night, music,
a quiet, bright
reedsong. If it
fades, we fade.

[Note: Originally posted in February 2008.]

Old Coat, New Year

- Lynette Score
(A young Ann Arbor poet)

I love when I find money
In the pockets of my clothes

Never knowing where it comes from,
Thinking maybe it grows

Like a flower in a driveway
Or a tree along a highway,
Growing not because it's planted
But because it's just that season
Like a present with no reason
From myself unto myself.

[Note: Originally posted in December 2007.]


- Leo Dangel
(Hogs and Personal, 71)

I fell asleep angry,
My fist doubled
Under my leg.
How wonderful
It feels to wake
Deep in the night
And open my hand
To moonlight so bright
I can count my fingers.

[Note: Originally posted in November 2007.]

Corn Growing Music

- Leo Dangel
(Old Man Brunner Country, 65)

In that hazy stillness
Between summer and fall,
They say you can hear
Corn grow. Leaves stir
And sing a whispering song.

I look over my field
And want to conduct
My million-stalk chorus.
I could wave my arms
Like a lunatic-louder,
Louder, you bastards,
I still owe the bank
For your seed.

I listen again as leaves
Flutter down the rows.
Maybe each stalk sings
Its own growing song,
As I sing mine, or maybe
It's only the wind.

[Note: Originally posted in November 2007.]

Some People Like Poetry

- Wislawa Szymborska
(Translation by Baranczak & Cavanagh)

Some people--
that means not everyone.
Not even most of them, only a few.
Not counting school, where you have to,
and poets themselves,
you might end up with something like two per thousand

but then, you can like chicken noodle soup,
or compliments, or the color blue,
your old scarf,
your own way,
petting the dog.

but what is poetry anyway?
More than one rickety answer
has tumbled since that question first was raised.
But I just keep on not knowing, and I cling to that
like a redemptive handrail.

[Note: Originally posted in November 2007.]

Poem by Rumi

When our water here

becomes saturated with pollution

it gets led back to the original water, the ocean.


After a year of receiving starlight,

the water returns, sweeping new robes along.


Where have you been? In the ocean of purity.

Now I am ready for more cleaning work.

If there were no impurity, what would water do?

It shows its glory in how it washes a face,

and in other qualities as well,

the way it grows the grass

and lifts a ship across to another port.


When the river slows with the weight of silt

and corruption, it grows sad and prays,

Lord, what you gave me I gave others.

Is there more? Can you give me more?


Clouds draw the water up to become rain;

the ocean takes the river back into itself.


What this means is

we often need to be refreshed.

[Note: Originally posted in March 2008.]

A Dumb Experiment

- Rumi
(Translated by Coleman Barks)

Break open your personal self
to taste the story of the nutmeat soul.

These voices come from that rattling against the outer shell.

The nut and the oil inside
have voices that can only be heard
with another kind of listening.

If it weren't for the sweetness of the nut,
the inner talking, who would ever shake a walnut?

We listen to words
so we can silently
reach into the other.

Let the ear and the mouth get quiet,
so this taste can come to the lip.

Too long we have been saying poetry,
talking discourses, explaining the mystery out loud.

Let us try a dumb experiment.

[Note: Originally posted in February 2008.]

A poem by Mark Nepo

Having loved enough and lost enough,
I'm no longer searching
just opening,

no longer trying to make sense of pain
but trying to be a soft and sturdy home
in which real things can land.

These are the irritations
that rub into a pearl.

So we can talk for a while
but then we must listen,
the way rocks listen to the sea.

And we can churn at all that goes wrong
but then we must lay all distractions
down and water every living seed.

And yes, on nights like tonight
I too feel alone. But seldom do I
face it squarely enough
to see that it's a door
into the endless breath
that has no breather,
into the surf that human
shells call God.

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in February 2008.]

Poem by Hafiz

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.

But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.

You can stay that way
And even bloom!

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
from your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter.

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved.
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.

Whenever you say God's name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!

O keep squeezing drops of the sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,
Be wise,
Cast all your votes for dancing!

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in February 2008]

Song of Myself

- Walt Whitman
(Excerpt from "Song of Myself")

"Gently, but with undeniable strength
divesting myself of the holds that would hold me
I inhale great draughts of space

The North and the South are mine
And the East and the West are mine
I am larger, better than I thought
I did not know I held so much goodness

All seems beautiful to me

Henceforth, I ask not for good fortune
I am my own good fortune."

[Note: Originally posted by Bobbie in December 2007]

I'm Nobody!

- Emily Dickinson

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

[Note: Originally posted in June 2007]

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Hand

- Mary Ruefle

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

[NOTE: This was posted on Feb 11, 2008.]

Happiness is Contagious

- William Martin

If you always compare your children's abilities
to those of great athletes, entertainers, and
they will lose their own power.
If you urge them to acquire and achieve,
they will learn to cheat and steal
to meet your expectations.

Encourage your children's deepest joys,
not their superficial desires.
Praise their patience,
not their ambition.
Do not value the distractions and diversions
that masquerade as success.
They will learn to hear their own voice
instead of the noise of the crowd.

If you teach them to achieve
they will never be content.
If you teach them contentment,
they will naturally achieve everything.

We all want our children to be happy.
Somehow, some way today
show them something that makes you happy,
something you truly enjoy.
Your own happiness in contagious.
They learn the art from you.

[NOTE: This was posted on Dec 21, 2007.]

A Selection of Basho's Haiku

A. A bee
A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

B. A caterpillar
A caterpillar,
this deep in fall --
still not a butterfly.

C. A field of cotton
A field of cotton --
as if the moon
had flowered.

D. How admirable
How admirable!
to see lightning and not think
life is fleeting.

E. The dragonfly
The dragonfly
can't quite land
on that blade of grass.

F. The oak tree
The oak tree:
not interested
in cherry blossoms.

G. When the winter chrysanthemums go
When the winter chrysanthemums go,
there's nothing to write about
but radishes.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Dec 14, 2007.]

A Selection of Dogen's Poems

A. Impermanence
To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane's bill.

B. Enlightenment
Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.

C. On Nondependence of Mind
Water birds
going and coming
their traces disappear
but they never
forget their path.

D. Viewing Peach Blossoms and Realizing the Way
In spring wind
peach blossoms
begin to come apart.
Doubts do not grow
branches and leaves.

E. Mountain Seclusion
I won't even stop
at the valley's brook
for fear that
my shadow
may flow into the world.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Dec 14, 2007.]

Brotherhood (Homage to Claudius Ptolemy)

- Octavio Paz

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

[NOTE: This was posted on Dec 2, 2007.]

Between Going and Coming

- Octavio Paz

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

[NOTE: This was posted on Dec 2, 2007.]

Three Oddest Words

- Wislawa Symborska

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.

When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.

When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Dec 1, 2007.]

What Should We Do About That Moon?

- Hafiz

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night hundred beetles and all their cousins

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the 'night candle' rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument
Said to his friend - for no apparent

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Nov 29, 2007.]

The Self Forgets Itself

- Kabir

The self forgets itself
as a frantic dog in a glass temple
barks himself to death;
as a lion, seeing a form in the well,
leaps on the image;
as a rutting elephant sticks his tusk
in a crystal boulder.
The monkey has his fistful of sweets
and won't let go. So
from house to house
he gibbers.
Kabir says, parrot-on-a-pole:
who has caught you?

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Nov. 27, 2007.]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sojourns in the Parallel World

- Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension--though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal--then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
--but we have changed, a little.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Nov 2, 2007.]


- Denise Levertov

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Nov 2, 2007.]

The Fountain

- Denise Levertov

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched—but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,
up and out through the rock.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Nov 1, 2007.]

Endless Poem

- Yehuda Amichai

In a modern museum
In an old synagogue
In the synagogue
Within me
My heart
Within my heart
A museum
Within a museum
A synagogue
Within it
Within me
My heart
Within my heart
A museum

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Aug 27, 2007, welcoming Monica to the group.]

Fear of the Inexplicable

- Rainer Maria Rilke

But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. For if we think of this existence ofthe individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in Poe's stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeonsand not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.

We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on Aug 8, 2007.]

How is Your Heart?

- Charles Bukowski

during my worst times
on the park benches
in the jails
or living with
I always had this certain
I wouldn't call it
it was more of an inner
that settled for
whatever was occuring
and it helped in the
and when relationships
went wrong
with the
it helped
through the
wars and the
the backalley fights
to awaken in a cheap room
in a strange city and
pull up the shade-
this was the craziest kind of

and to walk across the floor
to an old dresser with a
cracked mirror-
see myself, ugly,
grinning at it all.
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the

[NOTE: This was posted on Aug 24, 2007.]

The Writer

- Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.
I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which
The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped
in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

[NOTE: This was originally posted on June 15, 2007, as part of a series of poems marking Father's Day.]

Father's Song

- Gregory Orr

Yesterday, against admonishment,
my daughter balanced on the couch back,
fell and cut her mouth.
Because I saw it happen I knew
she was not hurt, and yet
a child's blood so red
it stops a father's heart.
My daughter cried her tears;
I held some ice
against her lip.
That was the end of it.
Round and round: bow and kiss.
I try to teach her caution;
she tried to teach me risk.

[NOTE: This was posted on June 15, 2007, as part of a series of poems marking Father's Day.]

A Little Tooth

- Thomas Lux

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all
over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,
your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

[NOTE: This was posted on June 15, 2007, as part of a series of poems marking Father's Day.]