Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 2009 poems


While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:6-7

you could have
as warrior, ready
to take us on
one at a time
or en masse . . .

you could have
a whirlwind
swirling, twirling,
twisting around us,
flinging us up into
the air . . .

you could have
with a bag of
in one hand
a time-out chair
in the other;

you came
a tiny
lungs screaming for
fingers grasping for
something to hold onto,
your whole being
completely depending on
us (!) to
feed you
change you
clothe you
protect you
love you

and we were
Winter Trees
by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
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.
By Margaret Atwood

You wake up filled with dread.
There seems no reason for it.
Morning light sifts through the window, there is birdsong,
you can't get out of bed.

It's something about the crumpled sheets
hanging over the edge like jungle
foliage, the terry slippers gaping
their dark pink mouths for your feet,
the unseen breakfast--some of it
in the refrigerator you do not dare
to open--you do not dare to eat.

What prevents you? The future. The future tense,
immense as outer space.
You could get lost there.
No. Nothing so simple. The past, its destiny
and drowned events pressing you down,
like sea water, like gelatin
filling your lungs instead of air.

Forget that and let's get up.
Try moving your arm.
Try moving your head.
Pretend the house is on fire
and you must run or burn.
No, that one's useless.
It's never worked before.

Where is it coming from, this echo,
this huge No that surrounds you,
silent as the folds of the yellow
curtains, mute as the cheerful

Mexican bowl with its cargo
of mummified flowers?
(You chose the colours of the sun,
not the dried neutrals of shadow.
God knows you've tried.)

Now here's a good one:
You're lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 2009 poems

The Wild Geese
by Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
By Elinor Roberts Hartt
The empty silence
this long night
can offer no protection
against that proud
highriding mystery
the moon's perfection.

A Psalm of Life

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!

For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 2009 poems

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it --
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China ,
and India
and Europe , and I thought
how the sun

for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call i

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter

Waiting in Line
by Nick Penna, fifth grade

When you listen you reach
into dark corners and
pull out your wonders.
When you listen your
ideas come in and out
like they were waiting in line.
Your ears don’t always listen.
It can be your brain, your
fingers, your toes.
You can listen anywhere.
Your mind might not want to go.
If you can listen you can find
answers to questions you didn’t know.
If you have listened, truly
listened, you don’t find your
self alone.

Endless Streams and Mountains
Ch'i Shan Wu Chin

By Gary Snyder

Clearing the mind and sliding in
to that created space,
a web of waters streaming overrocks,
air misty but not raining,

seeing this land from a boat on a lake
or a broad slow river,

coasting by.

The path comes down along a lowland stream
slips behind boulders and leafy hardwoods,reappears in a pine grove,

no farms around, just tidy cottages and shelters,

gateways, rest stops, roofed but unwalled work space,
—a warm damp climate;

a trail of climbing stairsteps forks upstream.

Big ranges lurk behind these rugged little outcrops—

these spits of low ground rocky uplifts
layered pinnacles aslant,

flurries of brushy cliffs receding,
far back and high above, vague peaks.
A man hunched over, sitting on a log
another stands above him, lifts a staff,
a third, with a roll of mats or a lute, looks on;
a bit offshore two people in a boat.

The trail goes far inland,
somewhere back around a bay,
lost in distant foothill slopes

& back again
at a village on the beach, and someone's fishing.

Rider and walker cross a bridgeabove a frothy braided torrent
that descends from a flurry of roofs like flowers
temples tucked between cliffs,
a side trail goes there;

a jumble of cliffs above,
ridge tops edged with bushes,
valley fog below a hazy canyon.

A man with a shoulder load leans into the grade.

Another horse and a hiker,

the trail goes up along cascading streambed

no bridge in sight—comes back through chinquapin or
;another group of travelers.
Trail's end at the edge of an inlet
below a heavy set of dark rock hills.
Two moored boats with basket roofing,
a boatman in the bow looks
lost in thought.

Hills beyond rivers, willows in a swamp,
a gentle valley reaching far inland.

The watching boat has floated off the page.

Walking The Marshland
by Stephen Dunn

It was no place for the faithless,
so I felt a little odd
walking the marshland with my daughters,

Canada geese all around and the blue
herons just standing there;
safe, and the abundance of swans.

The girls liked saying the words,
gosling, egret, whooping crane, and they liked
when I agreed. The casinos were a few miles
to the east.

I liked saying craps and croupier
and sometimes I wanted to be lost
in those bright
windowless ruins. It was April,
the gnats and black flies
weren't out yet.
The mosquitoes hadn't risen
from their stagnant pools to trouble
paradise and to give us
the great right to complain.

I loved these girls. The world
beyond Brigantine
awaited their beauty and beauty
is what others want to own.
I'd keep that
to myself. The obvious
was so sufficient just then.

Sandpiper. Red-wing
Blackbird. "Yes," I said.
But already we were near the end.
Praise refuge,
I thought. Praise whatever you can.
Water Table

by Billy Collins
It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.

This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.

The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.

Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.

But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September 2009 poems

September Meditation
By Burton D. Carley

I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and nights by which we count time remember their own passing.

I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars.
I do not know if the squirrel remembers last fall's gathering or if the bluejay remembers the meaning of snow.
I do not know if the air remembers September or if the night remembers the moon.
I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.
Perhaps that is the reason for our births -- to be the memory for creation.
Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.
Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:
"What can you tell me about September?"

My Life Before I Knew It

By Lawrence Raab

I liked rainy days

when you didn't have to go outside and play.

At night I'd tell my sister

there were snakes under her bed.

When I mowed the lawn I imagined being famous.

Cautious and stubborn, unwilling to fail,

I knew for certain what I didn't want to know.

I hated to dance. I hated baseball,

and collected airplane cards instead.

I learned to laugh at jokes I didn't get.

The death of Christ moved me,

but only at the end of Ben Hur.

I thought Henry Mancini was a great composer.

My secret desire was to own a collie

who would walk with me in the woods

when the leaves were falling

and I was thinking about writing the stories

that would make me famous.

Sullen, overweight, melancholy,

writers didn't have to be good at sports.

They stayed inside for long periods of time.

They often wore glasses. But strangers

were moved by what they accomplished

and wrote them letters. One day

one of those strangers would introduce

herself to me, and then

the life I'd never been able to foresee

would begin, and everything

before I became myself would appear

necessary to the rest of the story.

by Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.
The Prayer Tree
by Michael Leunig

God give us rain when we expect sun.
Give us music when we expect trouble.
Give us tears when we expect breakfast.
Give us dreams when we expect a storm.
Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.
God play with us, turn us sideways and around.
The Ball
by Wislawa Szymborska
As long as nothing can be known for sure
(no signals have been picked up yet),
as long as Earth is still unlike
the nearer and more distant planets,

as long as there's neither hide nor hair
of other grasses graced by other winds,
of other treetops bearing other crowns,
other animals as well-grounded as our own,

as long as only the local echo
has been known to speak in syllables,

as long as we still haven't heard word
of better or worse mozarts,
platos, edisons somewhere,

as long as our inhuman crimes
are still committed only between humans,

as long as our kindness
is still incomparable,
peerless even in its imperfection,

as long as our heads packed with illusions
still pass for the only heads so packed,

as long as the roofs of our mouths alone
still raise voices to high heavens--

let's act like very special guests of honor
at the district-firemen's ball
dance to the beat of the local oompah band,
and pretend that it's the ball
to end all balls.

I can't speak for others--
for me this is
misery and happiness enough:

just this sleepy backwater
where even the stars have time to burn
while winking at us


By Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

by Jeanne Lohmann


is whatever comes along,
practice always here while we

keep on shore, all the time
saying we want to get wet.

But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples

and waves that tell us:
don't be so serious, rumble in

where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 2009 poems

On a Perfect Day
by Jane Gentry
... I eat an artichoke in front
of the Charles Street Laundromat
and watch the clouds bloom
into white flowers out of
the building across the way.
The bright air moves on my face
like the touch of someone who loves me.
Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens
through membranes of vacancy. A ship,
riding the bright glissade of the Hudson , slips
past the end of the street. Colette's vagabond
says the sun belongs to the lizard
that warms in its light. I own these moments
when my skin like a drumhead stretches on the frame
of my bones, then swells, a bellows filled
with sacred breath seared by this flame,
this happiness.
By Gary Synder
The glimpse of a once loved face
gone on a train.
Lost in a new town, no one knows the name.
lone man sitting in the park
Chanced on by a friend
of thirty years before,
what do they say.
Play chess with bottle caps.
"for sale" sign standing in the field:
dearest, dearest,
Soot on the sill,
a garden full of weeds

"Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares and the calm of our tempest; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts, it is the daughter of charity, and the sister of meekness."
-- Jeremy Taylor, 1653
Enjoy the Day
By Gary Snyder
One morning on a ridgetop east of Loowit
after campfire coffee

looking at the youthful old volcano
breathing steam and sulfer
sunrise lava
bowls of snow

went up behind a mountain hemlock
asked my old advisors where they lay

what's going on?

they say

"New friends and dear sweet old tree ghosts
here we are again. Enjoy the day."
Red Bird Explains Himself
by Mary Oliver
“Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bring sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.

But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.

And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

The tender flesh itself
will be found one day
-- quite surprisingly --
to be capable of receiving,
and yes, full
capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
another this impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
that now and ever animates
all things. His life-giving
agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness –
made perfect in the flesh.

St. Irenaeus
Adapted and translated by Scott Cairns

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 2009 poems

By Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

June 2009 poems

To Alexander Graham
By W.S. Graham

Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock .
I smelt the tar and the ropes.

It seemed that I was standing
Beside the big iron cannon
The tugs used to tie up to
When I was a boy. I turned
To see Dad standing just
Across the causeway under
That one lamp they keep on.

He recognised me immediately.
I could see that. He was
The handsome, same age
With his good brows as when
He would take me on Sundays
Saying we’ll go for a walk.

Dad, what am I doing here?
What is it I am doing now?
Are you proud of me?
Going away, I knew
You wanted to tell me something.

You stopped and almost turned back
To say something. My father,
I try to be the best
In you you give me always.

Lying asleep turning
Round in the quay-lit dark
It was my father standing
As real as life. I smelt
The quay’s tar and the ropes.

I think he wanted to speak.
But the dream had no sound.
I think I must have loved him.
What’s Left
by Kerrie Hardie

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age. Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.

I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.
From “Meditation” 
by Teilhard de Chardin (French) c.1881

is the free and imaginative outflowing
of the Spirit over all unexplored paths.
It links those
who love in bonds that unite,
but do not destroy, causing them to discover in their mutual contact
an exultation capable of stirring in the very core
of their being all that they possess
of ‘uniqueness’ and ‘creative’ power.
Love alone
can unite living beings
so as to complete and fulfill them,
for it alone joins them by what is deepest
in themselves. All we need
is to imagine our ability to love
developing until it embraces the totality
of the people of the Earth.

this transformation of love is quite possible.
What paralyzes life is failure to believe
And failure to dare.
The day will come when,
after harnessing space,
the winds,
the tides,
and gravitation,
We shall harness for God the energies of love.
And, on that day, for the second time
in the history of the world,
we shall have discovered fire.
The Moment
by Margaret Atwood
Morning in the Burned House)

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May 2009 poems

Mysteries, Yes
By Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Seek Patience

by Maya Angelou

Seek patience
and passion
in equal amounts.

Patience alone
will not build the temple.

Passion alone
will destroy its walls.

In Praise of the Great Bull Walrus

by Alden Nowlan

I wouldn't like to be one
of the walrus people
for the rest of my life
but I wish I could spend
one sunny afternoon
lying on the rocks with them.
I suspect it would be similar
to drinking beer in a tavern
that caters to longshoremen
and won't admit women.
We'd exchange no
cosmic secrets. I'd merely say,
"How yuh doin' you big old walrus?"
and the nearest of
the walrus people
would answer,
"Me? I'm doin' great.
How yuh doin' yourself,
you big old human being, you?"
How good it is to share
the earth with such creatures
and how unthinkable it would have been
to have missed all this
by not being born:
a happy thought, that,
for not being born is
the only tragedy
that we can imagine
but never fear.

Invisible Work

by 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.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April 2009 poems

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

In Colorado , In Oregon , upon
by Joshua Beckman

In Colorado , In Oregon , upon
each beloved fork, a birthday is celebrated.
I miss each and every one of my friends.
I believe in getting something for nothing.
Push the chair, and what I can tell you
with almost complete certainty
is that the chair won't mind.
And beyond hope,
I expect it is like this everywhere.
Music soothing people.
Change rolling under tables.
The immaculate cutoff so that we may continue.
A particular pair of trees waking up against the window.
This partnership of mind, and always now
in want of forgiveness. That forgiveness be
the domain of the individual,
like music or personal investment.
Great forward-thinking people brought us
the newspaper, and look what we have done.
It is time for forgiveness. Dear ones,
unmistakable quality will soon be upon us.
Don't wait for anything else.

Mysteries, Yes

By Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

By Franz Wright, God’s Silence, 2006
But if they were condemned to suffer
this unending torment, sooner or later
wouldn’t they become the holy?

The Hymnal (blue) 1982

By James Richardson

O Gracious Light (twenty-five)

to dawn’s early light (seven-hundred-twenty)

You’ll find the block numbers up on the wall

       they change every week.

Then find a blue book in front of you.

So many hands hold it,

       their eyes careening across scratches

              and dots.

       mouths in Os, open, take a breath,

oh please take a breath

So many hands smudge the corners

       afraid to touch above the tiny italic,

       never veering above

              Watts, Proulx or Winkworth.

The book, after all, is silent, always.

       Or is it?

       The tunes leaping from eye to fingers to keyboard

The rest of us faking it a little,

       Or a lot.

       Warbling up and down with the dots and scratches,

              cross hatches become sounds,

              and that is a miracle if ever there was one.

Ever notice the lower corners on the cover of the Hymnal (blue) 1982?

       A little tatered, bent, flattened

specks of brown paper sticking out,

bits of cardboard fraying,

Like my voice.

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2009 poems

by Lynn Ungar

By what are you saved? And how?
Saved like a bit of string,
tucked away in a drawer?
Saved like a child rushed from
a burning building, already
singed and coughing smoke?
Or are you salvaged
like a car part -- the one good door
when the rest is wrecked?

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven't you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything,
makes everything
beautiful, without exception?

By Ruth L. Schwartz

It was a flower once, it was one of a billion flowers
whose perfume broke through closed car windows,
forced a blessing on their drivers.
Then what stayed behind grew swollen, as we do;
grew juice instead of tears, and small hard sour seeds,
each one bitter, as we are, and filled with possibility.
Now a hole opens up in its skin, where it was torn from the
branch; ripeness can’t stop itself, breathes out;
we can’t stop it either. We breathe in.


The Orange  
Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

The Apple Orchard
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Come let us watch the sun go down
and walk in twilight through the orchard's green.
Does it not seem as if we had for long
collected, saved and harbored within us
old memories? To find releases and seek
new hopes, remembering half-forgotten joys,
mingled with darkness coming from within,
as we randomly voice our thoughts aloud
wandering beneath these harvest-laden trees
reminiscent of Durer woodcuts, branches
which, bent under the fully ripened fruit,
wait patiently, trying to outlast, to
serve another season's hundred days of toil,
straining, uncomplaining, by not breaking
but succeeding, even though the burden
should at times seem almost past endurance.
Not to falter! Not to be found wanting!

Thus must it be, when willingly you strive
throughout a long and uncomplaining life,
committed to one goal: to give yourself!
And silently to grow and to bear fruit.

by David Ignatow

You wept in your mother's arms
and I knew that from then on
I was to forget myself.

Listening to your sobs,
I was resolved against my will
to do well by us
and so I said, without thinking,
in great panic, To do wrong
in one's own judgment,
though others thrive by it,
is the right road to blessedness.
Not to submit to error
is in itself wrong
and pride.

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.

An Armor of Roses
By Rumi

Take January’s advice. Stack wood.
Weather inevitably turns cold, and you

make fires to stay healthy. Study
the grand metaphor of this yearly work.

Wood is a symbol for absence. Fire,
for your love of God. We burn form

to warm the soul. Soul loves winter
for that, and accepts reluctantly the

comfort of spring with its elegant,
proliferating gifts. All part of the

plan: fire becoming ash becoming
garden soil becoming mint, willow, and

tulip. Love looks like fire. Feed
yourself into it.