Friday, April 30, 2010

Words: A Poem 4/30

A fitting end to poetry month: A poem telling of the delicacy and mystery with which these words are written. My favorite month has drawn to an end. Thanks for indulging me. Can't wait for August (my other favorite month)!!

Words: A Poem

Remember: each word is a mystery,
A thing to be handled like fire or love.

Tramp like a fool through the whispering wood
And you'll never lay eyes on the singer.

Carefully, carefully, stand back and wait.
Watch where the word goes, behold how it moves:

Its nuance and hue, its contour and weight -
It flits like a finch, just over the page.

Only at last, when it trusts you enough,
It alights and allows you to write it.

-Andrew Peterson

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sonnet 65 4/29

Poetry month wouldn't be complete without a little Shakespeare.

Sonnet 65

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

-William Shakespeare

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In Sickness and Health 4/28

In Sickness and Health

My friend whose husband
will soon succumb to cancer
loves to lie next to him at night

to smell him and feel the warm
stomach and flanks through his pajamas
the two of them are glad

he can still walk the streets of New York
still get tickets to the Philharmonic on impulse
they never fight anymore.

-Alicia Suskin Ostriker, from The Book of Seventy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why I Think Theological Study is Not Optional for Believers

"Theology is not some intellectual option that makes us 'smart' Christians; it is the graced understanding that makes us faithful disciples."
-James K.A. Smith

The Portrait 4/27

The Portrait

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

-Stanley Kunitz

Monday, April 26, 2010

slaveship 4/26


loaded like spoons
into the belly of Jesus
where we lay for weeks for months
in the sweat and stink
of our own breathing
why do you not protect us
chained to the heart of the Angel
where the prayers we never tell
are hot and red as our bloody ankles
can these be men
who vomit us out from ships
called Jesus Angel Grace of God
onto a heathen country
ever again
can this tongue speak
can this bone walk
Grace of God
can this sin live

-Lucille Clifton

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shaving 4/25


I'm not shaving, I'm writing about it.
and I conjure the most elaborate idea -
how my beard is a creation of silent labor
like ocean steam rising to form clouds,
or the bloom of spiderwebs each morning;
the discrete mystery of how whiskers grow,
like the drink roses take from the vase,
or the fall of fresh rain, becoming
a river, and then rain again, so silently.
I think of all these slow and silent forces
and how quietly my father's life passed us by.

I think of those mornings, when I am shaving
and remember him in a masquerade of foam, then,
as if it were his beard I took the blade to,
the memory of him in tiny snips of black whiskers
swirling in the drain - dead pieces of the self
from the face that never taught me how to shave.
His legacy of whiskers that grow like black seeds
Sown over my cheek and chin, my own flesh.

I am not shaving, but I will tell you about the mornings
with a full beard and the blade in my hand,
when my eyes don't recognize themselves
in a mirror echoed with a hundred faces
I have washed and shaved - it is in that split second,
when perhaps the roses drink and the clouds form,
and perhaps the spiders spin and the rain transforms,
that I most understand the invisibility of life
and the intensity of vanishing, like steam
at the slick edges of the mirror, without a trace.

-Richard Blanco

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Rainy Day 4/24

Ah, finally. Waiting for the perfect dreary, rainy day for this one. It hasn't rained all month!!

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, April 23, 2010

Imagining It 4/23

Imagining It

At eighteen, in Paris,
I just woke up out of a dream
just before dawn, and stepped through the long window
from my cold room with its red silk walls.
Shivering a little in my dressing gown,
I leaned on the balustrade
and, look, overnight a light snow had fallen;
no car had driven over it yet, it lay in the street
as white, as innocent, as snow on the open fields.
Then something approached with a calm rhythm
of hoof-beats made softer by the snow, the sound
of a quiet heart. It was a heaped-up wood cart
pulled by a gray horse who walked along slowly,
head down, while the driver
sat at the back of one shaft and hunched over
to light his cigarette.

From above, I saw clearly
the lit match in the old man's cupped hands, its glow
on his long jaw, the small well of flame
between his living palms like the flare
of the soul in his body. He went on
down the street, and the sky went on
growing lighter, and I saw how he left
his dark tracks behind him on the whiteness
of the snow, just the lines of the two wheels,
slightly wavering, and the dints of the horse's hooves
between them, a writing in an undiscovered
language, something whose meaning
we feel sure we know, and still can't quite

When I stepped inside again,
I stopped thinking about love for a minute - I thought about it
almost all the time then - and thought instead
about being alive for a while in a world
with cobblestones, new snow, and the unconscious
poem printed by hooves on the maiden street.

Of course I was not yet ready to be grateful.

-Kate Barnes, from Where the Deer Were

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To My Son's Girlfriend 4/22

Happy Earth Day! In retrospect, I wish I had saved "Spiders" for Earth Day, but, alas, I did not think that far ahead. Now I am left with no poems that are even remotely earth-y, so I give you this one instead.

To My Son's Girlfriend

I'm tempted to ask
what you see in him.
Although you probably
see the good that I see
I wonder if you realize
how much he is my handiwork,
or which of the qualities
you daydream about in class
are the ones that I take pride in,
his cordiality, for example,
or love of silliness.

It's uncomfortable for me
to think of anyone else
loving him the way I do,
possessing him in a way
that only his mother and I
have ever possessed him,
and I can't deny being jealous,
not so much reluctant
to share or relinquish him
as resolved to remind you
that he's been around
longer than your love,
under construction if you will,
and that each cute trait
or whatever occurs to you
when you hear his name
I feel proprietary about,
like a woodworker
who makes a table
intending to sell it
but prays that no buyer
will recognize its worth.

-Michael Milburn, from Drive By Heart

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flounder 4/21


Here, she said, put this on your head.
She handed me a hat.
You 'bout as white as your dad,
and you gone stay like that.

Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down
around each bony ankle,
and I rolled down my white knee socks
letting my thin legs dangle,

circling them just above water
and silver backs of minnows
flitting here and there between
the sun spots and the shadows.

This is how you hold the pole
to cast the line out straight.
Now put that worm on your hook,
throw it out and wait.

She sat spitting tobacco juice
into a coffee cup.
Hunkered down when she felt the bite,
jerked the pole straight up

reeling and tugging hard at the fish
that wriggled and tried to fight back.
A flounder, she said, and you can tell
'cause one of its sides is black.

The other side is white, she said.
It landed with a thump.
I stood there watching that fish flip-flop,
switch sides with every jump.

-Natasha Trethewey, from Domestic Work

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

His Elderly Father as a Young Man 4/20

His Elderly Father as a Young Man

This happened before I met your mother:
I took Jennie Johanson to a summer dance,
and she sent me a letter, a love letter,
I guess, even if the word love wasn't in it.
She wrote that she had a good time
and didn't want the night to end.
At home, she lay down on her bed
but stayed awake, listening to the songs
of morning birds outside her window.
I read that letter a hundred times
and kept it in a cigar box
with useless things I had saved:
a pocket knife with an imitation pearl handle
and a broken blade,
a harmonica I never learned to play,
one cuff link, an empty rifle shell.

When your mother and I got married,
I threw the letter away -
if I had kept it, she might wonder.
But I wanted to keep it
and even thought about hiding places,
maybe in the barn or the tool shed,
but what if it were ever found?
I knew of no way to explain why
I would keep such a letter, much less
why I would take the trouble to hide it.

-Leo Dangel, from Home from the Field

Monday, April 19, 2010

Naming My Daughter 4/19

Twenty-six years ago, on this day, I was born and I was named. And I. Love. My. Name. And I love naming things. And I love this poem. And I love my parents who named me. And I wonder what my other names would be and if I would love them as much as the name I am called now.

Naming My Daughter

In the Uruba tribe of Africa, children are
named not only at birth but throughout their
lives by their characteristics and the events
that befall them.

The one who took hold in the cold night
The one who kicked loudly
The one who slid down quickly in the ice storm
She who came while the doctor was eating dessert
New one held up by heels in the glare
The river between two brothers
Second pot on the stove
Princess of a hundred dolls
Hair like water falling beneath moonlight
Strides into the day
She who runs away with motorcycle club president
Daughter kicked with a boot
Daughter blizzard in the sky
Daughter night-pocket
She who sells sports club memberships
One who loves over and over
She who wants child but lost one
She who wants marriage but has none
She who never gives up
Diana (Goddess of the Chase)
Doris (for the carrot-top grandmother
she never knew)
Fargnoli (for the father
who drank and left and died)
Peter Pan, Iron Pumper
Tumbleweed who goes months without calling
Daughter who is a pillar of light
Daughter mirror, Daughter stands alone
Daughter boomerang who always comes back
Daughter who flies forward into the day
where I will be nameless.

-Patricia Fargnoli, from Necessary Light

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Plum-Dark Humor 4/18

Plum-dark Humor

David teaches history to children. Today,
he is showing them a film of the war
in Vietnam. "America," he explains,
"was defending the South," as he watches
what he'd seen as a child from the living room floor.
Some of the children have decided to put their heads
down. And David doesn't feel well
sitting in the small chair.

Two images are clearest in his mind:
the naked girl on fire, running,
and this man, hands bound behind him,
being pushed, a small crowd nearby.
Another person, khaki uniform, holding a gun,
enters into view, waves the people back with his pistol,
fires into the man's brain and, bent,
the man fall sideways. Blood pumps and flows
warmly from his temple, oozes, slows,
forming a puddle on the dried-mud road.
David feels dizzy, tries to turn the projector off,
but instead switches the control to REVERSE.

And the dead man's mind draws
the blood back in, and the corpse flies up,
straightening out, and stands as instantly
the wound heals; the murderer waves the crowd on
walking backwards out of the picture.

Some of the children are laughing.

-Maurice Kilwein Guevara

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Question 4/17

Happy 34th anniversary, Mom & Dad!! I was going to post the poem about about marital commitment on your anniversary, but I ended up posting it during the funeral weekend instead. So now I am posting this poem, instead, which is fairly unrelated to marriage. But I wanted to wish you a happy anniversary anyway. :-)


I haven't been back for years, he says, meaning his
hometown, which is out there somewhere beyond the
sweep of his arm - not quite forgotten, one of those
places it's all right to come from, but who would ever
go back there for very long, and what would there be
to do? Maybe that should be an end to it, though there's
a sadness in his voice and a kind of secrecy, as if he's
about to say something about how it was to live there -
some special thing he remembers, like a neighbor's
green apple tree. And what did the post office look like,
and when did they tear down the theater? And it's too
bad that Mrs. So-and-s0 died, even if she was a very
old lady. Maybe that's what he wants - to come back
to that old hometown years later, slightly famous or
simply tired, and somebody there will know him and
be glad he's come back, even though it's just for a little
while. And yes, he'll say, it's good to be back home again,
and the word is strange in a way he hadn't realized.
Maybe he's traveled farther than he thought, and if this
really isn't home, what is?

-Mark Vinz

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Report on Madness 4/16

A Report on Madness

We've been neighbors all our lives.
Yesterday I saw him
at the edge of the west forty,
with his rusty fishing rod,
casting into the cornfield.
When I got down there,
he was reeling in a daredevil lure
with corn leaves and bits of stalk
hanging on the hooks.
I asked him how they were biting.
It wasn't funny, I know,
but what else could I say?
A few more dry years
and any one of us might not be far
from fishing out of cornfields.
He kept casting.
His face was like one of those stones
he had picked for years from his field
and piled along the fence,
but the motion of his arm
made me think of a graceful dancer.
I stood back until he snagged
on a cocklebur and broke his line.
Then he let me
put my hands on his shoulders -
they felt warm and hard
through his denim coat -
and I turned him toward home.

-Leo Dangel, from Home From the Field

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Carpenter Bee 4/15

Carpenter Bee

All winter long I have passed
beneath her nest - a hole no bigger
than the tip of my thumb.

Last year, before I was here,
she burrowed into the wood
framing my porch, drilled a network

of tunnels, her round body sturdy
for the work of the building. Torpid
the cold months, she now pulls herself

out into the first warm days of spring
to tread the air outside my screen door,
floating in pure sunlight, humming

against a backdrop of green. She too
must smell the wisteria, see
- with her hundreds of eyes - purple

blossoms lacing the trees. Flower-
hopping, she draws invisible lines,
the geometry of her flight. Drunk

on nectar, she can still find her way
back; though now, she must be
confused, disoriented, doubting even

her own homing instinct - this beeline,
now, to nowhere. Today, the workmen
have come, plugged the hole - her threshold -

covered it with thick white paint, a scent
acrid and unfamiliar. She keeps hovering,
buzzing around the spot. Watching her,

I think of what I've left behind, returned to,
only to find everything changed, nothing but
my memory intact - like her eggs, still inside,

each in its separate cell - snug, ordered, certain.

-Natasha Trethewey, from Domestic Work

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Elegance 4/14


No elegance is
ascribed to sweat: dripping from
the carpenter's nose

onto the clean ply-
wood. Yet I recall in my
big sheepskin how I

sweated in the snow,
heaving the axe and peavey,
and how sweet it was.

And how jubilee
cried in jay-song to the gray
sky, and the white owl

sailed on extended
wings unerringly among
the snow-clad spruces.

-Hayden Carruth, from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

White Woods 4/13

My favorite poem that I wrote this past year. I wrote it on a crisp winter morning when every branch in the forest was glistening with frost. I was feeling kind of mopey that morning until I saw the white woods; this unexpected beauty amidst the death of winter caused my heart to sing and I spent most of the day reflecting on the sight - a physical representation of Christ's purity covering the ugly death of my sin. I put a pause on my plans, placed my car in park at the end of the shared driveway and just sat, staring, so captured was I by the sight of the white woods. Moments before, my mind raced with every thought of the day but suddenly I was filled with a peaceful quiet as my attention turned fully to the glistening grove. As I sat and soaked in the sight until it was seared in my mind, I sensed the beauty of the gospel contrasting with the ugliness and death incurred by my false idols and it produced within me a similarly-distracting, all-consuming, I-just-can't-tear-my-eyes-away, please-don't-make-me-leave-yet kind of awe. And so this poem was born.

White Woods

Frost clings to every deviate branch.
Beauty captures my wandering attention.
Purity covers death;
Jesus Christ, my righteousness.
Beauty captures my wandering allegiance.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Spiders 4/12

I like this poem mostly for the third verse.


In fall, in the garden and the fields beyond, in the delicate
yellow space between anything, spiders, plump as acorns, spin
their webs; they are the wildest woven things; they are the
most shimmering death-traps.

The mouse and the vole, the raccoon and the fox walk lightly
through the grass below. They scarcely glance up to see her
running on her dark and cunning legs along the first bridges,
or racing back and forth along the silver girders, or waiting,
or wrapping the white moth whose night was full of bad luck,
who already can't move, and will soon be dead.

What is the spider good for? A few things surely. Birds eat
spiders, thus feeding the song. And spiders eat insects, some
of which, as we know, carry diseases - though not pride -
not that one.

But, speaking of that. At dawn, the early walker, to the spider
a giant, wanders through the garden and the fields in the
meditative, and thus inattentive, frame of mind of first things.
This is, of course, myself. And more than once I have just
noticed the dew-glittering web in time, and the spider stamp-
ing her tiny feet and screeching: I live here, duck your head.

-Mary Oliver

Sunday, April 11, 2010

After Psalm 137 4/11

After Psalm 137

We're still in Babylon but
We do not weep
Why should we weep?
We have forgotten
How to weep

We've sold our harps
And bought ourselves machines
That do our singing for us
And who remembers now
The songs we sang in Zion?

We have got used to exile
We hardly notice
Our captivity
For some of us
There are such comforts here
Such luxuries

Even a guard
To keep the beggars
From annoying us

We have forgotten you.

-Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tourists 4/10



Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel's Tomb and Herzl's Tomb
And on the top of Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust over our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David's Tower. I placed my two heavy blankets by my side. A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. "You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there's an arch from 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 has bought fruit and vegetables for his family."

-Yehuda Amichai

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Loneliest Job in the World 4/9

The Loneliest Job in the World

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

-Tony Hoagland, from Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Portmanterrorism 4/8

One of the most creative poems for the month. And one of my favorites. I had to look up 8 words (including portmanterrorism, which I couldn't find a definition for...but I DID discover that a "portmanteau" is "a blend of two or more words or morphemes and their meanings into one new word" and then the title made more sense. Just FYI. Also, I was slightly amused that one of my searches led me to the word's entry in the "Wiktionary."). How 'bout you?


Would it make a difference to say we suffered
from affluenza in those days? Could we blame
Reaganomics, advertainment, the turducken
and televangelism we swallowed by the sporkful,
all that brunch and Jazzercise, Frappuccinos
we guzzled on the Seatac tarmac, sexcellent
celebutantes we ogled with camcorders while
our imagineers simulcast the administrivia
of our alarmaggedon across the glocal village?
Would it help to say that we misunderestimated
the effects of Frankenfood and mutagenic smog
to speculate that amid all our infornography
and anticipointment, some crisitunity slumbered
unnoticed in a roadside motel? Does it count
for nothing that we are now willing to admit
that the animatronic monster slouching across
the soundstage of our tragicomic docusoap
was only a distraction? Because now, for all our
gerrymandering, the anecdata won't line up for us.
When we saw those contrails cleaving the sky
above us, we couldn't make out their beginning
or their end. What, in those long hours of ash,
could our appletinis tell us of good or of evil?

-Nick Lantz, from The Lightning that Strikes the Neighbors' House

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In a Time of Economic Downturn, I Gaze Up at the Sky 4/7

In a Time of Economic Downturn, I Gaze Up at the Sky

The sun came up this morning, just
as I knew it would. My morning coffee
tasted exactly like yesterday's: a tad bitter,
but nonetheless revivifying. The faces
of our dead Presidents on Mount Rushmore,
are still there, speaking of their trials
and tribulations from their scenic outlook
of granite. Tonight, when I get home from work,
my lover will make her way downstairs,
wearing my favorite underwear. We'll lie
in bed, pretending to watch a movie, both
knowing what we really want. The Dow,
no doubt, will continue its slide, just as the moon,
that lozenge of indifference, will continue
its path downward among the clouds. All of us -
sun, moon, coffee, clouds - might feel a twinge
of guilt: such indifference to profit and loss!
Yet, all over the world, tiny birds with broken wings
and injuries of all sorts are making their way
back to their nests, even the waterlogged anhinga
is drying its wings in the sun. It's good to know
so much keeps going on, despite everything.
Come closer, sweetheart, let's put the film on pause,
let's profit from whatever we've got - before
the closing bell, before the riffraff of recovery
finds us and brings us down again.

-Michael Blumenthal

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grapefruit 4/6

I like this poem because it reminds me of the "special" grapefruit tree at my grandparents' place in Yuma that comes with the grapefruit pre-cut. At least that's how we assume they come because every morning in Yuma there are bowls full of already-sectioned grapefruit waiting for us when we roll out of bed. I am a little sad to think that I will not share any more time with my grandparents in Yuma, but I am so thankful that I recognized the significance of the time when I was there.

I promise, I do have some funny and/or uplifting poems on deck, it just so happens that I had these poems on my queue that have fit the atmosphere surrounding my grandma's passing. There are some light-hearted poems to come, probably starting tomorrow.


My grandfather got up early to section grapefruit.
I know because I got up quietly to watch.
He was tall. His hairless shins stuck out
below his bathrobe, down to leather slippers.
The house was quiet, sun just up, ticking of
the grandfather clock tall in the corner.

The grapefruit were always sectioned just so,
nestled in clear nubbled bowls used
for nothing else, with half a maraschino
centered bleeding slowly into
soft pale triangles of fruit.
It was special grapefruit, Indian River,
not to be had back home.

Doves cooed outside and the last night-breeze
rustled the palms against the eaves.
He turned to see me, pale light flashing
off his glasses
and smiled.

I remember as I work my knife along the
membrane separating sections.
It's dawn. The doves and palms are far away.
I don't use cherries anymore.
The clock is digital
and no one is watching.

-Ted McMahon, from The Uses of Imperfection

Monday, April 5, 2010

Autopsy in the Form of an Elegy 4/5

Autopsy in the Form of an Elegy

In the chest
in the heart
was a vessel

was the pulse
was the art
was the love

was the clot
small and slow
and the scar
that could not know

the rest of you
was very nearly perfect.

-John Stone, from Music from Apartment 8

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Small Town 4/4

My grandma's visitation was this afternoon. I spent most of the day yesterday thanking God for the blessing of family and knowing that family was meant to grieve together in this way. I spent most of today thanking God for a whole community that feels like family and feeling deeply blessed by the many ways our family is being cared for. I loved knowing that when I got home I would find Darla's chocolate walnut pie, Sally's cinnamon rolls, and numerous jello salads because...well... that is how Long Prairie grieves. I was brought to tears several times just talking about how anxious I was to see all four of my "moms" (finally got to see them all today....can't even begin to describe how much those women mean to me and how much my heart delights in them) and I wasn't even prepared for how blessed I would feel to see several family friends walk through the doors who had driven from hours away to come and share hugs and see how everyone was doing. I love that grandpa asked some special, unrelated friends to sit with the family at the funeral tomorrow because "those lines (between 'family' and 'friends') disappeared a long time ago." I love how much people loved my grandma. I love how my parents have invested in friendships in such a way that people are drawn from hours away to come and care for them. And I love having grown up in a small town where our family knows and is known and hugs are found in abundance.

Small Town

You know.
The light on upstairs
before four every morning. The man
asleep every night before eight.
What programs they watch. Who
traded cars, what keeps the town
The town knows. You
know. You've known for years over
drugstore coffee. Who hurts, who
Why, today, in the house
two down from the church, people
you know cannot stop weeping.

-Philip Booth, from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Travel Directions 4/3

I drove home today, turning down some of the most familiar streets of my life and arriving at a home overflowing with tears and laughter. This is one of my favorite poems that I had chosen for the month and it seems fitting for the day.

Travel Directions

There ought to be a word
for the way you know how to get some place
but don't remember the names of streets
the number of turns and blinking yellow lights
so that if someone asked
you really couldn't say
except you know the road starts out straight
and when it's sunny the branches blink across
the windshield making you want to rub your eyes
then the road turns sharply uphill past a red barn
where a black dog jumps out to race you for a quarter mile
and finally recedes in the mirror like a disappointment
and you remember the road dips downhill
into the shadows of the morning
where you hear Bach's unaccompanied 'cello
and understand what a good fit the 'cello makes
in the hollow of the body
where grief begins and for an indeterminate time
the road winds vaguely past
houses people road signs
where time hums in your ear and you remember
the dream you left behind that morning
which had nothing
to do with where
you are going

-Joan I. Siegle, from Hyacinth for the Soul

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quarantine 4/2

Grandma Lois passed away yesterday afternoon. I have no poem that seems appropriate for the moment, so I give you Quarantine - a stunning testimony of marital commitment. It seems the most fitting as I grieve mostly for my grandpa who has just lost his bride of 67 years. Their love and commitment to each other is not one that can be easily diminished to "the inexact praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body." The life they have weathered and celebrated together is not to be taken for granted by those of us blessed enough to have been a part of it.


In the worst hour of the worst season
of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking - they were both walking - north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and a woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

-Eavan Boland, from Against Love Poetry

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Talking to Ourselves 4/1

I think it is obvious why I love this one....just look at the title!! :-)

Talking to Ourselves

A woman in my doctor's office last week
couldn't stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer's. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he'd come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father's vending business was failing,
he'd talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn't care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

"Too important," I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, "What's that you said?"

-Philip Schultz, from Failure

One More Reason that I Love April

Happy National Poetry Month!

Once again this year, I will be posting a poem a day throughout the month of April in honor of National Poetry Month. I have been sorting through poems and organizing my archives in preparation for the celebration and I can honestly say I am very, very excited about the queue that has been prepared. I still have not narrowed the selections down to a mere thirty, so there may be a few days with double posts. Or I may still try to whittle down the list as the month progresses. We'll see. However many poems end up on this blog, you can rest assured that each and every one of these poems evokes a response within me. Some make me laugh. Some make me want to cry. And some simply make my heart sing in response to their beauty. I hope they do the same for you. There are no runner-ups. No fillers. I love every. single. one of them. Some of them may come with explanations as to why I love them so. Others must stand alone or they run the risk of having additional, cumbersome words detract from their beauty. And those that didn't make the cut (and there were many of them that I also love) will get another shot next year.


April Fools

Dear Weather,

Best. April Fool's Joke. Ever.

Let's be friends again.

Eva Joy