Sunday, May 2, 2021

 

Peaches—Six in a Tin Bowl, Sarajevo

If peaches had arms
surely they would hold one another
in their peach sleep.

And if peaches had feet
it is sure they would
nudge one another
with their soft peachy feet.

And if peaches could
they would sleep
with their dimpled head
on the other’s
each to each.

Like you and me.

And sleep and sleep.

by Sandra Cisneros

Monday, April 26, 2021

 

little prayer

let ruin end here

let him find honey
where there was once a slaughter

let him enter the lion’s cage
& find a field of lilacs

let this be the healing
& if not     let it be

by Danez Smith from Poems
of Healing, Karl Kirchwey, ed.

THE END REWARD
by Jonathan Greene

What passes in this world
for clever

amusing sleight of hand
or child’s play

or a magic trick that has
made all disappear

in the end does not fill
the requisite gravitas

and solace of Quiet
one has worked all of a life

to be gifted.



Jonathan Greene, “The End Reward” 

from Ebb & Flow. Published by Broadstone Books

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

 My Heart Leaps Up
by William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
      A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
      Or let me die!
The Child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wild Geese Alighting on a Lake
by Anne Porter

I watched them
As they neared the lake
They wheeled
In a wide arc
With beating wings
And then
They put their wings to sleep
And glided downward in a drift
Of pure abandonment
Until they touched
The surface of the lake
Composed their wings
And settled
On the rippling water
As though it were a nest.

Anne Porter, "Wild Geese Alighting on a Lake" from Living Things, Zoland Books.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Tulips for Elsie
by Jonathan Potter

The day before you died I thought I'd bring
You tulips for your bedside table, bright
Ones, pink and white, to give your gaze a place
To rest, to make your labor seem less harsh.
I told my daughter so, my four-year-old
Who'd told me I should visit you, who'd hinted:
Your work, this dying business you were in,
Was making worldly things seem flimsy, thin.
The day moved on and tulips left my mind, though,
Until I thought of you again, too late,
The night descending, bringing sleep's regrets.
The morning came and with its obligations
Distracting me, I let my dream of tulip

Fields plow under and turned to hear the news.


Jonathan Potter, "Tulips for Elsie" from

Tulips for Elsie  (Korrektiv Press 2021).

Friday, January 8, 2021

Glass
by C.K. Williams

I'd have thought by now it would have stopped,
as anything sooner or later will stop, but still it happens

that when I unexpectedly catch sight of myself in a mirror,
there's a kind of concussion, a cringe; I look quickly away.

Lately, since my father died and I've come closer to his age,
I sometimes see him first, and have to focus to find myself.

I've thought it's that, my precious singularity being diluted,
but it's harsher than that, crueler, the way, when I was young,

I believed how you looked was supposed to mean,
something graver, more substantial: I'd gaze at my poor face

and think, "It's still not there." Apparently I still do.
What isn't there? Beauty? Not likely. Wisdom? Less.

Is how we live or try to live supposed to embellish us?
All I see is the residue of my other, failed faces.

But maybe what we're after is just a less abrasive regard:
not "It's still not there," but something like "Come in, be still."



"Glass" from COLLECTED POEMS by C. K. Williams.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

 

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Field Guide
by Tony Hoagland

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,

I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water

at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,

hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That’s all.

I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page

in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know

where to look for the good parts.



Tony Hoagland, “Field Guide” from  

Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

 

Winter Is the Best Time
by David Budbill

Winter is the best time
to find out who you are.

Quiet, contemplation time,
away from the rushing world,

cold time, dark time, holed-up
pulled-in time and space

to see that inner landscape,
that place hidden and within.



David Budbill, "Winter Is the Best Time" from While We've Still Got Feet.

Monday, December 28, 2020

 

Leaning In
by Sue Ellen Thompson

Sometimes, in the middle of a crowded store on a Saturday
afternoon, my husband will rest his hand
on my neck, or on the soft flesh belted at my waist,
and pull me to him. I understand

his question: Why are we so fortunate
when all around us, friends are falling prey
to divorce and illness? It seems intemperate
to celebrate in a more conspicuous way

so we just stand there, leaning in
to one another, until that moment
of sheer blessedness dissolves and our skin,
which has been touching, cools and relents,

settling back into our separate skeletons
as we head toward Housewares to resume our errands.


Sue Ellen Thompson, "Leaning In" from  

The Golden Hour. Copyright © 2006

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

 

Translation

Months later, my father and I
discovered his mother’s last word—
deep in the downstairs freezer,
one loaf of dark rye.

Its thaw slowed the hours.

I could not bear
the thought of eating it.
Then the ice subsided. The bread
was firm, fragrant, forgiving.

My father got the knife,
the butter. The slices
held. Together we ate
that Finnish silence.

 

by Susanna Brougham in the

Spring 2020 issue of Beloit

Poetry Journal

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 Eagle Poem
by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.



"Eagle Poem" by Joy Harjo, from  In Mad Love and War

© Wesleyan University Press, 1990.

Monday, November 16, 2020

 

Winter Morning by James Crews
 

When I can no longer say thank you

for this new day and the waking into it,

for the cold scrape of the kitchen chair

and the ticking of the space heater glowing

orange as it warms the floor near my feet,

I know it’s because I’ve been fooled again

by the selfish, unruly man who lives in me

and believes he deserves only safety

and comfort. But if I pause as I do now,

and watch the streetlights outside flashing

off one by one like old men blinking their

cloudy eyes, if I listen to my tired neighbors

slamming car doors hard against the morning

and see the steaming coffee in their mugs

kissing chapped lips as they sip and

exhale each of their worries white into

the icy air around their faces—then I can

remember this one life is a gift each of us

was handed and told to open: Untie the bow

and tear off the paper, look inside

and be grateful for whatever you find

even if it is only the scent of a tangerine

that lingers on the fingers long after

you’ve finished peeling it.

 

James Crews is the editor of the anthology,

Healing the Divide:  Poems of Kindness and

Connection, Green Writers Press.

 

 

 

 


Monday, November 9, 2020

 

Valediction

I hear before seeing, no need to see
to know morning’s ocarina, plaintive
call, soft strut on leafmeal. It was the first
creature I saw when the needle was done
and my sheepdog limped into last night.
That dove, I thought, will house his sable
spirit, coat feathered like joy in the wind.
Dove comes when my scattered mind

needs herding—bitter anniversaries,
leavings dire as tornadic rumble. Comes
when sky rivers blue, cooing all’s well
after all. Comes not to forbid mourning,
but trills core deep, beyond the senses,
glances back to make sure I follow
its white-tipped tail. Plaintive ocarina,
call me to bear all the light coming.

by Linda Parsons, 2020

 roots
by Lucille Clifton

call it our craziness even,
call it anything.
it is the life thing in us
that will not let us die.
even in death's hand
we fold the fingers up
and call them greens and
grow on them,
we hum them and make music.
call it our wildness then,
we are lost from the field
of flowers, we become
a field of flowers.
call it our craziness
our wildness
call it our roots,
it is the light in us
it is the light of us
it is the light, call it
whatever you have to,
call it anything.


Lucille Clifton, “roots” from How to Carry Water: Selected Poems.

Friday, October 23, 2020

 

A Pasture Poem
by Richard Wilbur

This upstart thistle
Is young and touchy; it is
All barb and bristle,

Threatening to wield
Its green, jagged armament
Against the whole field.

Butterflies will dare
Nonetheless to lay their eggs
In that angle where

The leaf meets the stem,
So that ants or browsing cows
Cannot trouble them.

Summer will grow old
As will the thistle, letting
A clenched bloom unfold

To which the small hum
Of bee wings and the flash of
Goldfinch wings will come,

Till its purple crown
Blanches, and the breezes strew
The whole field with down.


"A Pasture Poem" by Richard Wilbur, 

from Anterooms. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

 What if you slept...
             by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Public Domain

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

 

The New Song
by W. S. Merwin

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

from the book, The Moon Before Morning

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

 O sweet spontaneous
by e e cummings
 
O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the
doting

               fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched
and

poked
thee
, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded
thy

         beauty                  how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
gods
         (but
true

to the incomparable
couch of death thy
rhythmic
lover

              thou answerest

them only with

                                spring)
 

"O Sweet Spontaneous" by e e cummings. Public Domain.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

 

Monarchs, Viceroys, Swallowtails 

For years they came tacking in, full sail, 
Riding the light down through the trees,
Over the rooftops, and not just monarchs,
But viceroys, swallowtails, so many
They became unremarkable, showing up
As they did whether we noticed them or not,
Swooping and fanning out at the bright
Margins of the day. So how did we know
Until it was too late, until they quit coming,
That the flowers in the flower beds
Would close their shutters, and the birds
Grow so dull they’d lose the power to sing,
And how later, after the river died,
Others would follow, admirals, buckeyes,
All going off like some lavish parade
Into the great overcrowded silence.
And no one bothered to tell the trees
They wouldn’t be coming back any more,
The huge shade trees where they used 
To gather, every last branch and leaf sagging
Under the bright freight of their wings.

 by Robert Hedin, in Alaska Quarterly Review (2020)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Musial
by George Bilgere

My father once sold a Chevy
to Stan Musial, the story goes,
back in the fifties,
when the most coveted object
in the universe of third grade
was a Stan-the-Man baseball card.

No St. Louis honkytonk
or riverfront jazz club
could be more musical
than those three syllables
rising from the tongue of Jack Buck
in the dark mouths
of garages on our street,

where men like my father
stood in their shirt-sleeved exile,
cigarette in one hand, scotch
in the other, radio rising
and ebbing with the Cards.

If Jack Buck were to call
my father's drinking that summer,
he would have said
he was swinging for the bleachers.
He was on a torrid pace.
In any case, the dealership was failing,
the marriage a heap of ash.

And knowing my father, I doubt
if the story is true,
although I love to imagine
that big, hayseed smile
flashing in the showroom, the salesmen
and mechanics looking on
from their nosebleed seats at the edge
of history, as my dark-suited dad
handed the keys to the Man,
and for an instant each man there
knew himself a part of something
suddenly immense,

as when,
in the old myths, a bored god
dresses up like one of us, and falls
through a summer thunderhead
to shock us from our daydream drabness
with heaven's dazzle and razzmatazz.


"Musial" by George Bilgere.

Monday, September 21, 2020

 

In Passing

 

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious

 

by Lisel Mueller

Monday, September 14, 2020

 

And Now It’s September,

 

and the garden diminishes: cucumber leaves rumpled
and rusty, zucchini felled by borers, tomatoes sparse
on the vines. But out in the perennial beds, there’s one last
blast of color: ignitions of goldenrod, flamboyant
asters, spiraling mums, all those flashy spikes waving
in the wind, conducting summer’s final notes.
The ornamental grasses have gone to seed, haloed
in the last light. Nights grow chilly, but the days
are still warm; I wear the sun like a shawl on my neck
and arms. Hundreds of blackbirds ribbon in, settle
in the trees, so many black leaves, then, just as suddenly,
they’re gone. This is autumn’s great Departure Gate,
and everyone, boarding passes in hand, waits
patiently in a long, long line.

 

by Barbara Crooker, first published in Spillway magazine

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

 

At the Pitch
by Maxine Kumin

If I could only live at the pitch
that is near madness, Eberhart wrote

but there was his wife Betty hanging onto
his coattails for dear life to the end of her life.

No one intervened when my mother’s brother’s
wife ran off with the new young rabbi

every woman in the congregation had a crush on.
They rose unleashed, fleeing west

into the sooty sky over Philadelphia
in a pillar of fire, at the pitch that is near madness

touching down in the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Cleveland. Chicago. O westward!

O fornication! I was sixteen.
Eberhart had written his poem before

he sailed off to World War II and a boy
had just put his tongue in my mouth

which meant he could make
me do anything. No one

holding onto his coattails, no one onto my skirt
until my father switched on the back porch light.

 

“At the Pitch” by Maxine Kumin from Where I Live: New & Selected Poems.