Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Notes from the Delivery Room 4/19

Happy Labor-Day, Mom!! I'm glad for your sake that babies DON'T grow in fields....I don't think they would take to well to being stacked behind the garage like firewood..... :-)

Notes from the Delivery Room

Strapped down,
victim in an old comic book,
I have been here before,
this place where pain winces
off the walls
like too bright light.
Bear down a doctor says,
foreman to sweating laborer,
but this work, this forcing
of one life from another
is something that I signed for
in a moment when I would have signed anything.
Babies should grow in fields;
common as beets or turnips
they should be picked and held
root end up, soil spilling
from between their toes -
and how much easier it would be later,
returning them to earth.
Bear up...bear down...the audience
grows restive, and I'm a new magician
who can't produce the rabbit
from my swollen hat.
She's crowning, someone says,
but there is no one royal here,
just me, quite barefoot,
greeting my barefoot child.

-Linda Pastan

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Doubly Relieved 4/13

Doubly Relieved

My patient Comforter, my God,
My Life, my Breath, my holy Zeal,
My soul is doubly sorrowful:
That I still sin against your Seal,

And sinning cause my Sovereign grief.
I know it is your holy way
To make your grief serve perfect joy,
But I still pray, O bring the day

When, in the twinkling of an eye,
My soul will doubly be relieved:
I will not ever sin again,
And you will nevermore be grieved.

-John Piper

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Thing Is 4/12

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

-Ellen Bass

Monday, April 11, 2011

Forgetfulness 4/11

More Billy Collins. Can't get enough of this guy!


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

-Billy Collins

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Burned Man 4/10

Burned Man

When I was twelve, a man was burned
not quite to death at my father's
factory. Recovered enough
to walk the town, he didn't know
what to do with himself - a ghost
whose scarred, fire bubbled face made you
look away, though not my father
who felt responsible and so wouldn't
refuse the man's eyes when they fell
upon him. The burned man held no
grudge, thought the accident his
own fault, and sought my father out
as the one whose eyes told him yes,
he was still alive.
So they held long
conversations on the post office
stoop, which I observed from the car
where I waited, where I could read
my father's stiff shoulders, the way
he clutched the mail, how he tilted
his head, even his smile that was
in truth a grimace. I knew just
what my mother knew - my father
had to let himself be tortured
once or twice a week, whenever
Bernard Sawyers saw him in town,
lifted his claw of a hand, rasped
out his greeting that sounded like
a raven that'd been taught to say
Hello, Mr. Huddle, how are you?
They'd stand there talking in the town's
blazing sunlight, the one whom fire
had taken to the edge of death
and the other invisibly
burning while they passed the time of day.

-David Huddle.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Lagos Road 4/9

A beautiful and convicting poem by my talented friend Warren.

The Lagos Road

Four oyibos and one dudu
Driving the Lagos road.
Laughing. Chatting. Dancing.

A "go-slow."
Traffic backed up.
Miles and miles of cars.
Impatient. Frustrated. Hot.

Finally. Some movement.
Some action.
Let's get this show on the road.

A semi. A danfo taxibus.
A man's purple-clothed arm.
A woman's head, wig askew.
No more laughing. No more chatting. No more dancing.


Four oyibos and one dudu
Driving back the Lagos road.
Proud of their purchases. Showing off their buys.
Forgetful. Callous.


-Warren MacLeod

Friday, April 8, 2011

Love (III) 4/8

Happy birthday, Jill!! In honor of my dear friend's birthday, I am posting her favorite poem. It's a good one. Enjoy!

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick'ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here":
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
"My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
So I did sit and eat.

-George Herbert

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hymn to the Comb-Over 4/7

Since yesterday's poem was a bit of a Debbie Downer, I decided to lighten things up today with a tribute to comb-overs. It's like my entire junior year of trigonometry, wrapped up in a pretty little poem....

Hymn to the Comb-Over

How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, other four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time's passing
day after day, bringing out the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.

-Wesley McNair

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sins of the Father 4/6

Sins of the Father

Today my child came home from school in tears.
A classmate taunted her about her clothes,
and the other kids joined in, enough of them
to make her feel as if the fault was hers,
as if she can't fit in no matter what.
A decent child, lovely, bright, considerate.
It breaks my heart. It makes me want someone
to pay. It makes me think - O Christ, it makes
me think of things I haven't thought about
in years. How we nicknamed Barbara Hoffman
"Barn," walked behind her through the halls and mooed
like cows. We kept this up for years, and not
for any reason I could tell you now
or even then except that it was fun.
Or seemed like fun. The nights that Barbara
must have cried herself to sleep, the days
she must have dreaded getting up for school.
Or Suzanne Heider. We called her "Spider."
And we were certain Gareth Schultz was queer
and let him know it. Now there's nothing I
can do but stand outside my daughter's door
listening to her cry herself to sleep.

-W.D. Ehrhart

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Punctuation 4/5

Just for fun.

On Punctuation

not for me the dogma of the period
preaching order and a sure conclusion
and no not for me the prissy
formality or tight-lipped fence
of the colon and as for the semi-
colon call it what it is
a period slumming
with the commas
a poser at the bar
feigning liberation with one hand
tightening the leash with the other
oh give me the headlong run-on
fragment dangling its feet
over the edge give me the sly
comma with its come-hither
wave teasing all the characters
on either side give me ellipses
not just a gang of periods
a trail of possibilities
or give me the sweet interrupting dash
the running leaping joining dash all the voices
gleeing out over one another
oh if I must
give me the YIPEE
of the exclamation point
give me give me the curling
cupping curve mounting the period
with voluptuous uncertainty

-Elizabeth Austen

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dharma 4/4

I'm thinking about getting a dog. Billy Collins is my favorite. poet. ever. Hence, a Billy Collins poem about a dog is a fitting entry for the day.


The way the dog trots out the front door
every morning
without a hat or an umbrella,
without any money
or the keys to her dog house
never fails to fill the saucer of my heart
with milky admiration.

Who provides a finer example
of a life without encumbrance -
Thoreau in his curtainless hut
with a single plate, a single spoon?
Ghandi with his staff and his holy diapers?

Off she goes into the material world
with nothing but her brown coat
and her modest blue collar,
following only her wet nose,
the twin portals of her steady breathing,
followed only by the plume of her tail.

If only she did not shove the cat aside
every morning
and eat all his food
what a model of self-containment she would be,
what a paragon of earthly detachment.
If only she were not so eager
for a rub behind the ears,
so acrobatic in her welcomes,
if only I were not her god.

-Billy Collins

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Woodcutter Changes His Mind 4/3

Probably one of my favorites for the month.

The Woodcutter Changes His Mind

When I was young, I cut the bigger, older trees for firewood, the ones
with heart rot, dead and broken branches, the crippled and deformed

ones, because, I reasoned, they were going to fall soon anyway, and
therefore, I should give the younger trees more light and room to grow.

Now I'm older and I cut the younger, strong and sturdy, solid
and beautiful trees, and I let the older ones have a few more years

of light and water and leaf in the forest they have known so long.
Soon enough they will be prostrate on the ground.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Obituary 4/2

Might as well get all of the death-themed poems out of the way early on..... :-)


Just once, you say,
you'd like to see
an obituary in which
the deceased didn't succumb
after "a heroic struggle" with cancer,
or heart disease, or Alzheimer's, or
whatever it was
that finally took him down.
Just once, you say,
couldn't the obit read:
He got sick and quit.
He gave up the ghost.
He put up no fight at all.
Rolled over. Bailed out.
Got out while the getting was good.
Excused himself from life's feast.
You're making a joke and
I laugh, though you can't know
I'm considering exactly that:
no radical prostatectomy for me,
no matter what General Practitioner
and Major Oncologist may say.
I think, let that walnut-sized
pipsqueak have its way with me,
that pebble in cancer's slingshot
that brings dim Goliath down.
So, old friend, before I go
and take all the wide world with me,
I want you to know
I picked up the tip.
I skipped the main course,
I'm here in the punch line.
Old friend, the joke's on me.

-Ronald Wallace

All in a day's...

One of my patients yesterday begged me to request to be her nurse again today because, according to her, I was the nicest person she has ever met.

My other patient told me he had requested to be assigned to the pretty nurses and figured that someone had taken him seriously. He told me I was the prettiest nurse he has ever had.*

My patient today told me I was beautiful and asked if he could get a picture with me.**

All three have extensive psych histories.

Ah well, I'll take what I can get.

#missedmycalling #shouldabeenapsychnurse

*He also told me that we f***ing better figure out what was f***ing wrong with him so he could go the f*** home or he was going to go f***ing nuts. Ah, f***!!! ...... My job is definitely rated R.

**This patient also had sudden-onset testicular pain and was hoping I could take a look to see if something was wrong. Some compliments get really creepy really fast....

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Red Coat 4/1

YAY!!!! National Poetry Month is here!! I am SO excited.

I am kicking off the month with a poem in remembrance of my grandma who passed away one year ago today. I have missed her dearly this year, most recently when I was in Yuma and she wasn't sitting in her chair watching Mary Beth and calling me "honey." :-)

I chose this poem because of the last line....because even more than missing Grandma, it has been difficult watching Grandpa not have something he loved, yet he weathers his grief with such grace and dignity. I love that dear man with all of my heart and I would give him a million "red coats" if they could in any way ease his loss.

Miss you, Grandma.

Love you, Grandpa.

The Red Coat

It's sleeting when we walk from the white church,
the ground frozen, the brown grass brittle.
I am somewhat back in the long black line of mourners,

behind my sisters, their husbands and children. I see it
all as it's happening as though it's not happening.
The roses on the polished oak of my father's coffin

are sheeting with ice and I know the red coat
is too thin to keep my mother warm. She's not shivering.
She walks across the breaking grass behind the coffin

slowly and with great dignity—without her oxygen tank,
her mouth open, a rose filled with snow.
She's walking toward something silver and mechanical,

like a fence around the grave. There's a canopy imprinted
with the logo of the funeral home,
Herndon and Sons,
and four rows of white plastic chairs and the artificial grass.

A blue tarp covers a red clay pile of earth. We aren't supposed
to notice these things. Bits of color in wool hats and scarves
and the red coat. My mother was determined to wear the red coat

which I'd bought for myself but gave to her because she loved it,
because it is the color that he loved on her,
because I could not bear her not having anything she loved.


Idris Anderson