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What's Your Favorite Poem?

Bill Moyers concluded the JOURNAL this week by mentioning his favorite poem, "Yes To Blue" by Jim Haba long-time director of the Dodge Poetry Festival. It's reproduced below:

"Yes to blue after trying
to separate green from yellow
and hoping that everything
will get simpler each time
you bring an idea closer
to the light which is always
changing always being
born
day after day
year after year
again and again
now"

Explore more poetry from the Moyers Digital Archives.

Please share your favorite poem in the space below.



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When death descends upon thy body heavy,
And youthful passion's but a memory.
When freckled skies luster shows,
Sunbrite streets whence spring air blows.
To darkness unknown thy body feels to take,
Then open your eyes for death's true make.

Mr. Moyers - You will be deeply missed. Best wishes on your retirement.

It's hard to pick a favorite poem. I have many poets that I enjoy - Merwin, Dickinson, Whitman, just to name a few. But the recent death of my cousin at age 49 finds me deeply appreciating my time on the planet.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life.

Mary Oliver

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

I am trying to find a poem I read about 40 years ago in a magazine. I cut it out and kept it but time has lost the paper. The only lines I can remember from it are "my love for you is such a quiet thing, no soaring fires sway and sing, just childrens' faces looking up, holing wonder like a cup".

I believe it was only two or three stanzas but talked about the way that love just keeps growing for a couple together for a long time, raising a family and living together. I would very much like to find this poem again if anyone can help.
Thank you

This poem was posted in The New Yorker Magazine some 20 yrs+ ago.

A few weeks after it was first posted, there was a note apologizing for the "misprinting" of the title.

As it was first printed the title was:
"My Soul is a Light House Keeper"

It was then later corrected to:
"My Soul is a Lighthouse Keeper".

I love the fact that either title is "appropriate" for the place the woman who writes the poem finds herself to be in, and her thoughts about that place as it affects her life.

Here is the poem. It is too wonderful to just disappear into oblivion.

As I see it, the woman is becoming conscious...awakening as it were...
to her core essence,
and perhaps one day to whatever her soul's true passions and purposes are on this planet.

"My Soul is a Lighthouse Keeper" by an unknown female poet

Bored with the high drama of watching,
I see myself bound always to your absence,
sending out my pure circle of light so you will know where I am, and how close you might come to disaster.
Imagine, love, the tedium of this watch. On almost ever day nothing happens. And isn't it wrong to yearn for a great storm just to feel important?
I'll let you go, then. Why shouldn't my house be my own, and my soul its keeper?
This work I needn't take so seriously
since I've learned what pleases me, the light of late afternoon through that window,the intricate cobwebs I won't disturb.
I know you don't want to think of me not always thinking of you, brave and imperiled.
I'm sure you'll write to say: How can you change so completely? You're not the woman I thought I knew.
And I am not,
but understand, dear, it wasn't such a great change.
Imagine you could have seen that side of me at the beginning, when we walked
for hours along the shore, and you were so certain
I was yours just because you loved me.

The sense of family and community and closeness was being lost after succeding generations from their roots. Now-a-days it seems that anger and violence are the tools to solve individual problems.

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Mr. Moyers - Thank you for gracing us with your weekly Journal program. I gather that you are choosing to retire. Your regular presence on television will be greatly missed. I wrote a baseball poem some years ago that I hope you will enjoy. Please accept my best wishes for you and yours.


ON BASEBALL


Baseball is the pastime of the home and of the Braves

Of Ruthian proportions and of Maglie's closer shaves

The outings of the innings are of three and then by nine

Except for those with extra ones, the beautiful design

A sport they play without a clock on fields ever green

With seventh inning stretches in its parks oh so serene

And little boys they run around, their hearts before their feet

They tease the ever jealous fan whose glove lies by the seat

Good or evil, know not which, to sacrifice or steal

To argue with the umpire, the imminent appeal

We idolize our heroes who epitomize our dreams

Oh baseball is the glove where hearts break well before the seams


Ivan Smason

Did You Know
Did you know the Japanese Code had secretely been broken?
Months before Pearl Harbor sadly, and that is no joking.
And Kennedy's head went backwards, yes we were misled.
Dan Rather reported forward with violence, instead.
Did you know the Murrah building had been wired with 3 bombs?
Whoever blamed it on McVeigh absconded without qualms.
Did you know that nineteen highjackers were named by FBI?
On original manifests no Arab names are found by you and I.
Did you know flight ninety-three was shredded in the air?
Eight miles of pieces came floating down out there.
Did you know our rockets carry depleted uranium?
Like the hole in the Pentagon caused by a depleted cranium?
In operation Northwood's, fake attacks would be employed?
Shift the blame, support to gain, for future war enjoyed.
Did you know who occupied the tower seven bunkers?
FBI, CIA, DOD & Giuliani timing destruction of the lunkers?
Strange to find a 737 engine from the south tower falling.
When the plane accused would have a 767 cowling.
The root of all this evil, the love of money it is said.
Is there evidence to this effect residing in your head?

Exactly WHAT would that be
when man already has the kind of "mental health" that put out so much physical, mental and psychic labor in the quest to create a world that has that kind of button...?
Posted by: Anna D

Posted by David C
NOW we have to put the same amount of mental and physical labor into bringing our social skills and social systems equal to our technological skills and technological systems. ( :-) >

We also need more information on candidates as to their mental stability; especially when they can push a button that ends civilization as we know it.

Posted by: D. C. Eddy

Intereting musing about a candidate's "mental health"...

exactly WHAT would that be

when man already has the kind of "mental health" that put out so much physical, mental and psychic labor in the quest to create a world

that has that kind of button...?

So who is going to take the time to make a list of what is unattractive about all those "sociopathic liars" that MEN tolerate as candidates...?
Posted by: Anna D

Posted by David C
Good point Anna! We need better information about political candidates. I doubt Bush would have been elected if the fact that he was an alcoholic would have been addressed sooner.
We also need more information on candidates as to their mental stability; especially when they can push a button that ends civilization as we know it.

Perhaps,a New Dedication, accepting responsiblity.-- and Forgiveness is the Way.
Posted by: Elsa Bondar

Posted by David Eddy
I have a great deal of respect for women. I also feel bad that what should be a good thing for women turned out badly.
Instead of strengthening the family and enhancing the lives of women, women’s Lib became a divisive ego trip.
What needs to be done is to share the responsibility of family and work together to make society responsive to family needs. Families are the foundation of our society.
Splintering our nation into warring factions is undermining the quality of life and stressing everyone.
"United we stand and divided we fall" (fail) is still a human truism.
Civilization is based on cooperation not conflict.

"DCE listed, in part,

They vote for sociopathic liars."

So who is going to take the time to make a list of what is unattractive about all those "sociopathic liars" that MEN tolerate as candidates...?

THE PARTNERSHIP!
The 19th amendment was not achieved alone! Empathetic husbands, fathers, sons, and men had to vote for our liberation.
As in all collaborative ventures, it took a partnership; both men and women to achieve this precious Choice.
Continued slavery, and a battle for ego supremacy was the way to bitterness and loss.

Perhaps,a New Dedication, accepting responsiblity.-- and Forgiveness is the Way.

Elsa Bondar Member of League of Women Voters --LWVBN
Posted by: Elsa Bondar

Posted by David Eddy
The League of Lost Women...

They fight on the battle field.
They leave their children to raise themselves.
They divorce without cause just because.
They work two jobs to make ends meet.
They have to be careful what they eat.
They vote for sociopathic liars.
They have to have it all even what they do not need.
They are never satisfied with what they have.
They find happiness in men's failures.
They are experts at emotional manipulation.
They know all, never admit mistake, promises break.
Their world has gone astray.
Why does it have to be this way?

In the Albina Press Coffee Shop Sunday Morning

At a small table for two, he looks
over her left shoulder to the window where the rain,
with nowhere to go but down,
sheets the glass.

She slides her hand across the table, places her palm over his forearm.

He does not look down
or turn his face toward her,
rather stands, sheds her fingers

like on who refuses a raincoat as protection against the weather.

by Melissa Madenski

Celebrate Women's History--The right to Vote--1920--19th Amendment
There was a time----beyond 90 years ago---- Before there was a League of Women Voters.
Women had No official say in Governmental Affairs.
They were allowed to be mothers and housewives.
They were allowed to be, cooks, seamstresses, and laundresses, servants, factory and field workers.
They were allowed to be charming, hostesses, actresses, and perhaps even nurses, or teachers.
They were NOT allowed to VOTE for Federal Legislators, or for the US President or Vice President.
Few States allowed them to vote for State legislative or executive offices.
If they were married, their husband had first claim on the money they inherited, or earned.
If they divorced their husbands had first claim on the children.
If they were abused, or subject to a gambling, wandering, or drunken husband,
they could not reclaim their financial or other independence.
The only sure birth control was abstinence, or death of the wife during child birth.
LEST WE FORGET--Before the RIGHT TO VOTE!
Today, We celebrate the 19th Amendment -- this month,
We celebrate it:
Every time we go to the polls to vote,
Every time we deposit our paychecks,
Every time we can breathe that sweet fresh air of independent thought and feeling.

We still have a long way to go!
How many of us hold office, or even think of holding public office?
How many of us are in the board rooms of power and finance?
How many of us are paid the same as men for equal work?
What percentage of us have cracked the glass ceiling?
The responsibilities of sexual behavior and parent hood often weigh much more heavily on women.
We are often thought of as servants, primarily.
Many places are not open to women.
Try to join the Masters Golf Tournament or Club!
We are vilified with special terms in the language.
Try running for President of the US.
But a beginning is underway, thanks to the 19th Amendment and the Right to Vote!

Elsa Bondar Member of League of Women Voters --LWVBN

As she hugged me close to her in a deep comforting embrace I asked,

"How long with this last?"

"Forever" she whispered warmly back into my ear in a voice of sweet peace

"Live in grace."

I Really enjoyed the conversation with Dr. Sexton re: baseball and the level of discourse in our society. This is a poem I penned about baseball.

Baseball and Life

Life is a baseball game
This you may already know
Full of excitement drama possibilities
Wins and losses by products
Of how the game is played

Decisions to be made some fairly easy
Some hard calls to make
Clear vision strong instincts
Courage to act on things as they are
To do what must be done
Determines the course of the game

Pitch by pitch
Fastballs change ups
Nasty curves that set you back on your heels
High hard ones to knock you down
Hits misses free passes to walk
Great plays costly errors
You take it as it comes

Inning by inning the game is played
Incredible highs unbelievable lows
Opportunity hope abound
The seventh inning stretch
Time for a change of pace
Relax take stock repair yourself
Many innings remain to play
Play ball
Dale O McCoy (6-05-04)


A poem about communion and community which is kind of what your terrific program has always been about.


Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


DOES YOUR BELL RING TRUE?

High in the mountain

and low in the valley,

many bells ring out.

Do the bells ring out

in majestic harmony

or clatter like falling chain?

Is the sound loud and clear

reaching all both far and near

both valley and mountain top?

Does your bell ring clear

with the mellow tones

that sooth the wayward heart

and bring them to one accord.

David Eddy

My husband and I send out a valentines day poem to our friends.
This is the one from this year. Thanks.

Love Day 2010

Incendiary tirades,
Launched from both sides,
Echo across the chasm;
The crevice growing
Ever wider.

Our ancestors,
No strangers
To polemic and compromise,
Chagrined
At our stubbornness.

Encased in our individual shells,
Experiencing
Vastly different worlds
As we peer outward,
We mistake others for ourselves.

If only we recognized—
Looking at the ground at our feet—
That we each cast shadows
That are pretty much
Indistinguishable.

With the winter sun warming our faces
And the moon at our backs
We renew our search for the wellspring
That begets the rising river
Of reconciliation.


Love, Tess and Nick

Phyllis Harvey's 10th Anniversary in Heaven

When you yourself grow older and are grey.
When all your days are numbered and are done.
Will God's annointed bow and lead the way?
And will they say, "Your new life's just begun!"
And happilly will you join the throng?
And laughing, dance down Heaven's golden street?
To greet each brother, sister with a song.
And singing say, "I'd hoped some day we'd meet!"
It's there I know my Mom would rather be!
A better place than any in this land!
To find her place with loving family.
And hold forever Mommy's Mommy's hand!
Grant me one prayer, Oh God, I'll ask no other...
Please bless and keep with you my beloved Mother!

For me, the song of Bill Moyers is brief. I've only been listening for a few years. Who will be able to bring co much compassion and depth into our lives (not just news) than Bill Moyers?


My Songs

Because my songs are brief,
People think I hoarded words.
I have spared nothing in my songs,
There is nothing I can add.
Unlike a fish, my soul swims without gills.
I sing on one breath.

Yosano Akiko

Bill Don't Go!!!

my favorite:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-joshua, brooklyn

Thank you, Bill, for your wonderful interviews and thoughtful commentary. Who will light the way for us now? This is the poem that sees me through many a long night.

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

Bill, feels we have been in conversation a long, long, time...am missing you already.

..poem by Mary Oliver

Red Bird Explains Himself

“Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bringing 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 there, 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 why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

Is America at the brink of dictatorship?

Capital vs. Capitalism
Have we forgotten what capitalism is all about?Finding a solution to a problem in the market place via service and/or product and thus, be rewarded with money. Money is the by product, not the object of Capitalism. Let´s remember that. Capital function within capitalism: provide the capital for solutions. Capital, without capitalism, is to my humble opinion a dictatorship. Capital alone has not heart, mind, spirit or solution. It pains me to see how many Americans are calling their founder of this country "naive" because they saw clearly that capital cannot mingle with politics. Americans giving in to this position are jeperdizing their country. Why don´t we make every effort to go back to America´s foundation and focus our strength, our spirit, our minds, our hearts into reinforce this foundation by controlling capital, as the founder intended. Does that sound mere poetry? or Would it be the next thing to do?

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven
William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I feel this poem reflects (no pun intended) the reality, even after years of The Women's Movement, of womens' lives throughout history to the present day.

The Moon Is Furious

The Moon is furious.
It slithers across the estuary waters like a severed snake
writhing to free itself, but too late.
Again and again it flails itself over the same confined space,
ragging against these insignificant ripples in which it is laced
impeding its progress and its pace.

Decimated reptile, pure and white--
Distant crescent lighting night--
Eons sentenced to your secondary place.
Three-quarters turned your sea-changing face.
Assigned forever to reflect another's story,
never to recite your own full story,
but simply be reflected off some dark and ragged edge,
the deep and dirty waters of this place.

Is it any wonder you spend half your life in mourning,
turned away in sorrow from this earth
that uses you for madness and for mirth?

from The Unpublished Poems of Theodora DiPassional, copyright 2010

It's great browsing through these. So many poems I had not read before. Thanks especially for posting THE JOURNEY by Mary Oliver--Wonderful!

This has been my favorite for many years now:

The Waking by Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The Windhover: to Christ our Lord Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.
I caught this morning, morning's minion king dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple dawn-drawn falcon in his riding of the rolling level underneath-him steady air. And striding high there how he wrung on the reign of a wimpling wing in his ecstasy. Then off, off forth on swing, as a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow bend, the hurl and the gliding rebuffed the big wind.my heart in hiding stirred for a bird, the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Brute beauty and valor and act oh air pride plume here buckle AND the fire that breaks from Thee then, a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous, Oh my Chevalier. No wonder of it, sheer plod makes plow down sillion shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah mr dear, fall gall themselves and gash: gold. vermilion.

Dear Mr. Moyers,
My favorite poem.
With much gratitude
Asha
Under A Certain Little Star
Wislawa Szymborska
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I'm mistaken.
May happiness not be angry if I take it for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory's but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the multiplicity of the world overlooked
each second.
My apologies to an old love for treating the new one as the first.
Forgive me far-off wars for taking my flowers home.
Forgive me open wounds for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the
abyss.
My apologies to those in railway stations for sleeping comfortably
at five in the morning.
Pardon me hounded hope for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me deserts for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
forever still and staring at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happened to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous to me.
Endure, O mystery of being that I might pull threads from your
veil.
Soul, don't blame me that I've got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can't be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and
woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
because I myself am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.

Two Kinds of Intelligenc
(Rumi)
There are two kinds of intelligence. One acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid, and it doesn't move from outside to inside throught the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.

Listen to the Little Bird


The electric house wire lay in the tree branch.

My chain saw was close to the wire.

The sound of the chain saw rang out and chips flew.

A bird in the tree sang a song that he knew.

Risky! Risky! Risky! His voice rang out.

His head for emphases bobbed up and down.

I had ignored that voice before but not now.

It had new meaning as I moved away from the wire.

The bird and his song go on. Do we listen?

So much depends on hearing what voices are saying.

Here is what I posted last summer after watching W.S. Merwin on the Journal. I tweaked it a little. It could use 2 or 3 more verses, but this stuff is hard and I haven’t found the groove yet. I should practice more. A more appropriate title would probably be “When Nature Calls, You take a Leak, Shut the damn Window, and Then go back to Bed.”

She Calls

a cool morning breeze rolls in to gently shake me awake
it quietly calls
wake up
wake up and come outside
you are missing all the fun

I pull up my blanket and rollover
with my face half buried in my soft magnetic pillow
this pesky breeze rolls in again
but this time She is not alone
She is laced with a feathery music
it excitedly chirps
wake up
wake up and come outside
you are missing all the fun

I reluctantly sit up and sense
next She will probably want me to smell a rose or taste a nectar
but then again
this sounds like fun…I wonder if She will give me back my Frisbee

Bip

Bip has died;
Oh God.
So has his brother
Who lived in the mirror.

How can I go on,
Now?
My sails are slack,
The water is still.

He and I never
Exchanged a word
When we were
Together.

I loved him
Like a dear
Friend.
He always made me smile,

Though I rarely even
Thought of him,
All those times
We weren’t together.

But he was always perched
On that bench
Just around the bend
In my forest.

When I breathed him in,
My soul filled out,
My face glowed,
And I felt more whole.

I knew he’d leave,
Someday; I knew
I’d have that empty spot
To fill…

But what is that fragrance,
That sweetness,
In the pneuma
Of my being?

Is that new
Or did I never notice it,
In the density
Of my stumbling?

The bow of my small boat
Creaks and groans
And the ripples
Begin to appear.

The lumbering clouds…
The stirring of my pulse,
And I see once again
My sails begin to fill.

(Written in Paris, September 2007, on learning of the death of Marcel Marceau)


Mr. Moyers, this is for you. I want to say, don't leave us, there is no one to fill your shoes. Instead, I offer this recent favorite as a wish for you:

Blessing the Boats
by Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear

may you kiss
the wind then turn from it

certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

my candidate for the most sensual poem and a personal favorite.

Eve

EVE, with her basket, was
Deep in the bells and grass,
Wading in bells and grass
Up to her knees.
Picking a dish of sweet 5
Berries and plums to eat,
Down in the bells and grass
Under the trees.

Mute as a mouse in a
Corner the cobra lay, 10
Curled round a bough of the
Cinnamon tall....
Now to get even and
Humble proud heaven and
Now was the moment or 15
Never at all.

"Eva!" Each syllable
Light as a flower fell,
"Eva!" he whispered the
Wondering maid, 20
Soft as a bubble sung
Out of a linnet's lung,
Soft and most silverly
"Eva!" he said.

Picture that orchard sprite; 25
Eve, with her body white,
Supple and smooth to her
Slim finger tips;
Wondering, listening,
Listening, wondering, 30
Eve with a berry
Half-way to her lips.

Oh, had our simple Eve
Seen through the make-believe!
Had she but known the 35
Pretender he was!
Out of the boughs he came,
Whispering still her name,
Tumbling in twenty rings
Into the grass. 40

Here was the strangest pair
In the world anywhere,
Eve in the bells and grass
Kneeling, and he
Telling his story low.... 45
Singing birds saw them go
Down the dark path to
The Blasphemous Tree.

Oh, what a clatter when
Titmouse and Jenny Wren 50
Saw him successful and
Taking his leave!
How the birds rated him,
How they all hated him!
How they all pitied 55
Poor motherless Eve!

Picture her crying
Outside in the lane,
Eve, with no dish of sweet
Berries and plums to eat, 60
Haunting the gate of the
Orchard in vain....
Picture the lewd delight
Under the hill to-night—
"Eva!" the toast goes round, 65
"Eva!" again.

No favorite, but many I treasure.

After the Argument
by Stephen Dunn

Whoever spoke first would lose something,
that was the stupid
unspoken rule.

The stillness would be a clamor, a capo
on a nerve. He'd stare
out the window,

she'd put away dishes, anything
for some noise. They'd sleep
in different rooms.

The trick was to speak as if you hadn't
spoken, a comment
so incidental

it wouldn't be counted as speech.
Or to touch while passing,
an accident

of clothing, billowy sleeve against
rolled-up cuff. They couldn't
stand hating

each other for more than one day.
Each knew this, each knew
the other's body

would begin to lean, the voice yearn
for the familiar confluence
of breath and syllable.

When? Who first? It was Yalta, always
on some level the future,
the next time.

This time
there was a cardinal on the bird feeder;
one of them was shameless enough
to say so, the other pleased

to agree. And their sex was a knot
untying itself, a prolonged
coming loose.

Now I Become Myself by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before--"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

many, many words, all of which I wish were my own, simmer and stew, together with my observations to become the thoughts and views that make the basis of my being, combine with a voice so packed with reason and kindness that it is hard to know if the comfort i am feeling is from knowing i am being told truth or just from the chance that for one short hour to turn off the illogics of the world and pretend I lay my head in the lap of an elder, who strokes my hair, tells me frankly of the perils of the world but always reassures me that, if I remain true in my endevours, that there always will be hope - and a happiness.

I surely ain't no poet - but I thought I would put into one sentence what your show has meant to me, Mr Moyers.

NEEDING YOU

By Ozzy Klate (2/25/77-12/15/94)

Needing you
I lay tortured by moments in coal stations
silhouettes cut like paper shapes against my private streets
not knowing if I missed you
I dared not leave the spot of your heralded arrival
Mecca of my dust wrought pilgrimage
into the sands of your tresses
where Aphrodite left memoirs of glory
and want of bodies on cold shores
the conversations the accusations and laughter of dementia
resound here
voices are timeless and words hang
lives gather like cobwebs
to be torn through and discarded
you my lady are well guarded by fortune and providence
feline Chance lays in your lap to be loved and abused by you
like any beggar I will pay for promises
and give myself each day for a shot at night to help me die
these are not threats and are not statements
these are not words or weary realizations
they are the broken stumble
of the apocalyptic gait I take now tumbling down avenues
down the Boulevard of Saints
they are the lament of silence
lament for the gifts you bring
solitude
a chance at beauty
one candle and one match in the ship’s hold
so I may look upon your body as I would gold images
in the constant museum of the unattainable
we all drink this eternal blood
and become manifest in it as
mountain woman light crab
our eye is the one eye that sees all except itself
in you is the mirror
needing you like sleep I found the slab of your doorway
your windows dark
and nothing but the sorrow of immobility outside
and nothing but the solace of
no need to be mobile
within.

Song of Ancaeus *
by Bob Masters

The oar lays motionless now
My labours are set aside
The ship rocks gently, how
Adrift upon the tide

There was the Siren's call
It was so long ago
On a bold morn to fal-
low, The order came - Row!

Lotus eater, thy baned lore
Forgets, as time slips, a week
A month, a year, half a score
What we each joined to seek

Has receded upon the waves
Yet on this worn bench I remain
With memories. so few to save
Of the cold, the heat, the rain

The fair wind, the foul, and mist
Through it the ghosts appear
Comrades, overboard, as the ship lists
Heroes disembarked, a lost seer

Wearied, silent, facing to the stern
The phantom helmsman I see and lo
Gestures at port to which we yearn
And the order comes again - Row!

I behold the Triple Goddess
She beckons, do I yield?
The Shining Company amongst us
Now fading to Elysian field

That I a mortal, unapart
Should try again, no more!
Hands trembling without heart
Slowly touch the oar

* A crew member aboard the Argonaut

Dear Bill, Thank you for this opportunity to share my favorite poem.

The Second
by Tessa Kale

A door closes somewhere. He wakes—
the moonlight has crept up
and lies on his bed, a weightless pearl.
The moonlight has become his bedclothes
and covers him with loneliness.

He wakes with a sense of loneliness:
that is the man in him waking.
And with a sense of wonder: that is the child.
This was the bedroom of his childhood.

The swamp breeze blows in at the window,
messenger of the lilacs in the neighbor’s yard.
A bird is singing in the night.
He gets up to look out the window
as boys will but men seldom do

and sees his father
who stands in the grass.
Though he is a wearer of bedroom slippers,
the moon shines on his bare white toes.

His father stands with his bare toes poking up from the grass.
His face is raised, to the moon, to the birdsong,
not sick and yellow now, but glad and silver.

The bird sings on.
It is a mockingbird, only a mockingbird can sing like that.
Its fitful song rises and falls.

The moon is bright and he can see the gladness
on his father’s face. Shyly glad, as if he recognized in the bird
an old friend whose long absence has made him bashful in the face
of their mutual joy.

He thinks, the old man’s got some life in him yet!
and he goes back to bed
ashamed to have glimpsed this something joyful in his father.
It is so private!

As private as death.
Death is hunched in the shadows, and about to leap;
it already has a claw on his father,
in his liver to be exact.

The nineteenth-century novels he’s been reading
give him courage, and a context—

His father must fight with death
and his own presence is required,
so he has returned to his boyhood home.
Perhaps the duel will be at dawn.

His presence is required because he is the second:
it is his duty to carry the challenge,
arrange the location,
and load the weapons.

But his father doesn’t have any weapons
other than his mysterious joy
and his friendship with the bird.

#6 (1 to 37)
By: E.L. Armstrong

You - living in this soft home
in these soft hills
your children all safe
from seeing the old man
with no legs
sitting on a wheelchair
waiting for nickels from passersby
in a shabby street
in the big city
over the other side
of these soft hills

Your children romp at a church party
you eat dinner at a full table
you stare past each other
not knowing why or where
You do not notice anymore
from your large picture window
the soft homes nestled
here and there in the soft hills
like you did those first few days
(remember you even got up early one morning - long ago - to see the sun rise?)

I write
even and especially when
I can find no word

following
scribblings of pen
into wells of being

some sense of self
beyond
the little space
that is me

writing is
touching the timeless
pondering the profound
the trivial
and the space
where the two meet
and giggle

writing is
a place that I visit
while dreaming
of taking up residence

can one live
within this dwelling?

or
must one constantly
bring everyday life
as
token price of admission?

by Mark C. Unbehagen

Bill Moyers Journal has on many occasions inspired me to continue developing my poetic voice. Many thanks for the rich weavings of politics, poetry, and life that you prepare for us each week! - mark

Thank you, Bill Moyers, for keeping my mind, soul, and sensibilities up to speed all these years.

This poem came as we sat with my dad during his final days:

MAGNETIC PULL

After sixty years, his northern passion still shows itself
In the roses he grows for his bride.
The pleasure of filling her vase
Draws him toward the garden.
He is with her as he beds roses for the spring,
Tending each bud without a stumbling word.
Only his rose catches her eye.
He tells her now with clear words,
"You'll have to go it alone.
I cannot take care of you any more."
To push her away, for her sake,
He mouths goodbye,
But his eyes still speak delight
When she enters his room.
So her heart is without ears.
He will not let go until first she loosens.
She promises she will not be far behind,
But her eyes disclose her plea:
Being together stands beyond choice.
So he waits one day more for her to come to his room,
Practicing it will be the last.
He holds on with nothing
But defiance toward another pull,
His strength trickling out as frustration,
That is how he is made.
He refuses a closing smile.
Peace will not come into his winter garden,
Where no roses grow to offer his bride.


TRUE LOVE
By James Russell Lowell

True Love is but a humble, low-born thing,
And hath its food served up in earthen ware;
It is a thing to walk with, hand in hand,
Through the everydayness of this workday world,
Baring its tender feet to every flint,
Yet letting not one heart-beat go astray
From Beauty's law of plainness and content;
A simple, fireside thing, whose quiet smile
Can warm earth's poorest hovel to a home;
Which, when our autumn cometh, as it must,
And life in the chill wind shivers bare and leafless,
Shall still be blest with Indian-summer youth
In bleak November, and, with thankful heart,
Smile on its ample stores of garnered fruit,
As full of sunshine to our aged eyes
As when it nursed the blossoms of our spring.
Such is true Love, which steals into the heart
With feet as silent as the lightsome dawn
That kisses smooth the rough brows of the dark,
And hath its will through blissful gentleness,
Not like a rocket, which, with passionate glare,
Whirs suddenly up, then bursts, and leaves the night
Painfully quivering on the dazed eyes;
A love that gives and takes, that seeth faults,
Not with flaw-seeking eyes like needle points,
But loving-kindly ever looks them down
With the o'ercoming faith that still forgives;
A love that shall be new and fresh each hour,
As is the sunset's golden mystery,
Or the sweet coming of the evening-star,
Alike, and yet most unlike, every day,
And seeming ever best and fairest _now_...

De Vermis by John M. Ford

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days -
Perhaps you will not miss them. That's the joke.
The universe winds down. That's how it's made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you'll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.


THE LOOK

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Haunts me night and day.

Sara Teasdale [1884-1933]


Gerard Manley Hopkins
Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Hi Bill. Don't give up. You are an American hero. I have kept this poem folded tight in my wallet for several years. It takes me to another place. Thank you for honoring truth.

XIII Dedications
by Adrienne Rich
from "An Atlas of the Difficult World"

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush hour.

I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.

I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet.

I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum
and before running up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.

I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.

I know you are reading this poem in a waiting room
of eyes met and unmeeting,
of identity with strangers.

I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age.

I know you are reading this poem through your failing sight,
the thick lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning
yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.

I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder,
a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.

I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something,
torn between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.

I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed
stripped as you are.


www.tusk.posterous.com

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

My favorite poem is The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:
so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

Precious Haiti
Written by Mel Brake

Haiti sounds like hate I
Rhymes with Baby doc
And Papa doc

Feels like
Made in USA
But Unlike the Mariel Boatlift
The people are excluded from
Entering

Black
Dark
White teeth
African
Looking
French and Creole speaking
People

Haitians
Unwanted

Haiti
Shook the world
Fought and won
A great war
Against the French
But this black
Revolution
This first black republic
Like a white’s man rabbit’s foot
Like a white’s voodoo
Back fired

On Haiti
Because they
Paid
Reversed Reparation
For 100 years

250 years ago
An earthquake
Rocked Haiti

The world yawned

100 years ago
An earthquake
Rocked Haiti

The world
Announced the seismic
Reading

Minutes ago
Haiti sat on a wall
Haiti had a great fall

And like Humpty Dumpty
All the King’s horses and All the King’s men
Couldn’t put aside their hate and indifference
To put Haiti back together again…..

August Sunday Morning, 1959
Ron Rash


Beside the open window
on the cemetery side,
I drowsed as Preacher Lusk gripped
his Bible like a bat snagged
from the pentecostal gloom.
In that room where heat clabbered
like churned butter, my eyes closed,
freed my mind into the light
on the window's other side,
followed the dreamy bell-ring
of Randy Ford's cows across
Licklog Creek to a spring pool
where orange salamanders swirled
and scuttled like flames. It was
not muttered words that urged me

back to that church, nor was it
the hard comfort of pews rowed
like the gravestones of my kin,
but the a cappelia hymn
sung by my great-aunt, this years
before the Smithsonian
taped her voice as if the song
of some vanishing species,
which it was, which all songs are
years before the stroke wrenched her
face into a gnarled silence,
this morning before all that
she led us across Jordan,
and the gravestones leaned
as if even the dead were listening

My husband David Madrid wrote this poem for me for Valentines Day in 1983. It will always be my favorite poem.

Ageless

This life is but a moment of the eternity we live,
And through the sands of time, my love to you I’ll give.
My love is like the sun, shining bright for all to see.
It radiates great warmth at the thought of you and me.

Fear not life nor death, for we shall never part,
For ours is the love that is born in the heart.
We have always been, and we shall always be,
One soul, two bodies, yet ever so free.

Few can understand the freedom we possess,
For who believes in loving forever and never loving less?
Nor can any imagine the happiness we’ve known.
But the proof is manifest through the seeds of love we’ve sown.

So it is that our love endures the test of time.
Together we traverse the ages; I am yours and you are mine.
So no matter wherever or whenever you will be,
I shall always find you and hug your soul to me.

-- David Madrid --
Copyright 1983

A Plan

How does a
meat and potatoes
man

Communicate in
poem too
the wine and caviar
clan?

If you hear
me say
I have a
plan

I lied.

Threnody

Following after something, though I know not why.
Hoping on something, though I know not what.
Chasing after meaning and finding absurdity.

WHERE ARE YOU!

I NEED YOU!

…or do I?

PLEASE HELP ME!

Hurt and pain are pervasive.

…or are you too busy?

I want so desperately the joy you speak of.
But my life is only desolation; epic ruins on fire.
All is ashes blowing the burning winds.

I want so desperately a strong foundation.
Strong pillars on which to build my life.
But everything is sand and sinkholes.

I have read of your goodness.
And even believe in your goodness.
My desire is to experience that elusive goodness.

Please show me that you care.
Please show me that you are here.
Please show me even that you hate me.

…for at least then I would know you exist.

Yes

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation-belonging.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out---no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford, "The Way It Is"

First, let me say the conversation with John Sexton was one of the most brilliant I have ever heard. I am saving it to hear over and over again.

My concerns are with the future of the world and so these words from Maitreya, the World Teacher are heartening to me:

My energies of Love and Will create a reservoir of Truth from which all men may drink.

The problems of mankind are real but solvable.
The solution lies within your grasp. Take your brother’s need as the measure for your action and solve the problems of the world.

Love your brother; heed his need; give of your plenty and restore joy to the world.

May the Divine Light and Love and Power of the One Most Holy God be now manifest within your hearts and minds.
May this manifestation lead you to be ever mindful of your identity with your brothers and God.

If these words have the ring of truth and bring you hope, you can learn more at www.shareintl.org


For the 25th Anniversary of Elvis Presley’s Death


El’, did you really go to Nixon
for a DEA badge? Did Dick
give you an honorary office,
just as the cameras flashed
and we had the two of you forever
locked in a conspiring clutch?
What bravery we’ve been through
since those heady days, El’
and how we miss your mindless dominion.
You had us where you wanted us
and we squeezed your image
with all our might. Wildness
onstage, the caped crusader,
bulging with talent and energy,
though you never wrote a song.
Your gift was inciting desire,
and, like a beautiful racehorse,
your stretch runs were legendary:
Take but this wondrous song
Wise men say only fools rush in
oh how we fell for you, old darlin’
and you gave us back our fervent hopes
for a hip animal on a brilliant stage,
stallion-stomping a hand-held cymbal,
generating songs brash & true,
advancing us full tilt toward
the burnt offering of your magical form.


A Wayward Drop, by Jaden Waters

I cannot offer you a cup
filled with the sound of angels
or fingers of sun to hold up
the sky in the distance.
Like you I am a wayward drop
in the ocean,
becoming and unbecoming
the stuff of clouds,
a splash against stone,
an eclipse from a cloud in passing
between moments of sun.

There is a fading—a momentary pause
to reflect against the stencil of shadows:
Who or what am I?
Where do I go from here?

And yet my home becomes a heart alive.
I am the beginning, the middle, and end;
a singular purpose wrapped inside a riddle—
there is but one offering I can truly give,
as the mystery unfolds and lightning
blossoms into thunder.

from Allpoetry.com (an interactive poetry site) Permission granted by J.W. to write it here.


THE COMMERCIALISM OF MAN

By Carmen Bruce:

Please come and hear about the people of the planet Earth.
Come and hear about its people’s hopes, come and hear about its people’s dreams,
Which were all tied up in their belief that money and status,
Could fill them with the joy and happiness they seeked.
For everyone believed that money purchased dignity and that status could equal respect.

Yet no one understood that dignity and respect was not a product to be bought or sold,
But that respect and dignity was apart of every man and woman’s soul.
So until these people of the planet Earth realized this fact,
Their lives were a constant struggle and their society was a screwed up mess.

For the people of the planet Earth believed this idea.
They believed that as long as there were new products to buy,
That this would somehow keep their society alive.
So, that is why these people spent all their time manufacturing new products,
While many other people spent all there time just trying to stay alive.

not there
by Kathy Engel

i am not there i ask permission for the way to grieve forgiveness for my distance my comfort i am not there i look for meaning even blame as i go about my life eating laughing bathing filling my car with gas going to work i am not there this is not metaphor i want to be useful i am secretly relieved and guilty it is not me my family but any day it could be it is someone i know today yesterday i can’t name the feeling of not being there in the horror i count who i know is there i count each day and insist i will not stop counting but the distance like a drawbridge will open out over time and memory will blur another thing will happen near or far i am not there i want to be loyal to the pain i want to be responsible i want the best of what is human in me to bloom like a parachute and make me powerful i still want to sleep and laugh and live i am not there i want to roll back time and wake up from a nightmare i can’t explain but i can i want to be useful i want to be good i want to define natural disaster and imperial power I am not there i want to know who’s right i want to write it so beautifully so poignantly as if never said before i want to conjure simile to construct diction and syntax shake the world into healing with the form of my lyric i want to invent empathy and rebuild homes i am not there i want to bring life back honor color joy and resistance in the respectful way I don’t want to be morose i am not there i want to do the right thing i want to go there i don’t know if that will be useful or just make me feel like it is i can’t say i don’t know how to measure perspective i don’t know i’m not there i walk around in my town with replaceable equipment i don’t know what to do i don’t know how to think i don’t know what language to pray which deity would allow such relentless assault i don’t know how to act or what to make i am pathetic i itch inside the smallness of my abilities i scratch at the failure in my throat i’m not there and don’t trust myself to tell the truth this is not a poem


copyright @ Kathy Engel February 2010

Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

~Maya Angelou~

Bill,I am so saddened to hear that you will no longer be my Friday night fix! You will be greatly missed. I have many favorite poems, but this one is special because my brother wrote it a little over a year ago in honor of my 27 year old son who was killed in a work accident. My love of poetry changed at that time and I now have a deeper understanding of their power to heal and comfort.

Wakan Song: For Nathan Vandewege

Listen,
and you will hear him speak.
He's always fastened in your heart,
always near as a thought in you.
And now a ranging spirit, he's a part
of the native world he loved and knew.
Listen,
He will speak to you.
Listen,
When you are sorrowful and weak,
when anguish grinds you raw,
then listen, listen to him speak.
You'll hear him in a springtime thaw
as rivulets of melting snow
race down a hill and chuckle into streams.
Listen.
You'll hear him in the laughing wind,
the cawing of a shaman crow,
the warble of a purple finch.
Listen,
and he will talk.
He'll speak to you
in the silhouette of a red-tailed hawk
that floats and circles through a summer sky.
And from those wings against that vaulted blue,
those lifting wings that lead your eye
beyond the tragedies of earth,
in such a moment, he will speak to you.
Listen,
He will speak to you.

Richard Meyer
29 December 2008

The World Teacher
by Ann M. Sullivan

His name is Maitreya
He is our Brother and Friend
He is the World Teacher
He now walks among men
He is the Master of Masters
The Teacher of Light
He gives gifts of plenty
He guides our insight
He sends legions of helpers
Through the rainbow
He now calls upon us
To stand in our glow
To gather together
And reach out to our fellow man
Because we are all brothers
And our earth is one land
He inspires and guides us
The Teacher of Love
He is the Christ Who stands beside us
Not up above

Copyright ©1998 Ann M. Sullivan
(written in celebration of the coming into the everyday world of Maitreya, the Teacher for the Aquarian Age.)

The Send-off
By Wilfred Owen

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.

This is one of my favorite poems about poems.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

- Naomi Shihab Nye


Playing the Didgridoo

I wrap myself with a loin cloth at the river.

I mix the red clay with water and smear my body.

an Aborigines artist adds the white chalk.

I join the others at the fire where the men dance.

The women clap and sing the songs of ancient times.

I join the players as they play their Didgridoos.

I start with the classic long low vibrating drone.

This Didgeridoo note is bellow the bass cleft.

I add bird calls and barking sounds for effect.

The sounds of the dingo, the emu and the kookaburra.

The rhythm of the kangaroo is hoping over the key note.

I add some trumpet and horn sounds with short and long blasts.

We danced to the strange sounds as long as the fire lasts.

David Eddy

March l4, 2010 Portland, OR

Like another commentator, I failed to find "the space below" for Robinson Jeffers' "Shine, Perishing Republic" (l938) to copy it correctly. If I say Jeffers' poem is amazingly prophetic, perhaps readers will google the version found on the Poetry Foundation's site. Hoping it will not seem like a railroad box car containing an ego, I offer a poem I wrote March 14, l994. If there are a couple of words demanding definition, check them out. I send this poem in honor of Mr. Moyers and his generous, genuine love of poetry as seen often on PBS, to include last Friday, and in honor of my late mother, Dorothy Ann Eichenwald-Rodgers (l909-1999), whose love of poetry ignited mine!

* * * * *

ARIA FOR AN EARLY SPRING NIGHT


The scalpel-sharp crescent moon has
split the mid-March night and, overhead,
migrating Canada geese abruptly call --
hollow yet ready, like several saxophones
hurled toward Polaris by the hands of instinct.

And my pulse burgeons like their wings,
burnished with starlight, and beats lightly.
Their necks jut. Eyes scrutinize the North
Star's effulgence to guide them to northern fields
and nests. There, already, lilies propose a symphony.

Collectively, our human breaths are cacophanous,
acrid. I detach mine for this nightime moment,insist
it memorize those arias of geese that it may soon
sing solo before the white chorus of the stars
when the saxophones are gone.

-- Frederick George Rodgers

I was going to write you a poem Bill, but think I'll retire too.

=
MJA

PS: Sincerely, thanks for everything and,
wanna play checkers?

Here is one of my favorites -- by my father, Irving Levine, the title poem from his book: Of Continuum.

Of Continuum

Having had and having lost
parents aged through nature;
Having had and having lost
loves, parted through living;
Having had and having lost
children, torn through confusion;
Having had and having lost
friends, passing through maturing

Having had and having lost
through nature, living,
confusion and maturing,
yet I find anew and have always
my parents, love,
my children, friends,
all and ever, all refreshing
all the springs
of all my being;

For I am what I have had
and lost
and done

and I am content with being
what I have
this way become.


Eyesight

It was May before my
attention came
to spring and

my word I said
to the southern slopes
I've

missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see:

don't worry, said the mountain,
try the later northern slopes
or if

you can climb, climb
into spring: but
said the mountain

it's not that way
with all things, some
that go are gone

A.R. Ammons


Postscript

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into Country 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.

Seamus Heaney

A poem of hope:

Little by Little
by word of mouth in Ireland

"Little by little" the acorn said
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
"I am improving every day, hidden deep in the earth away."

Little by little each day it grew,
Drop by drop it drank the dew.
Down in the ground sank a tiny root,
Up in the air sprang a tiny shoot.

Day by day, year by year,
One by one the leaves appeared
"Till its spreading branches grown far and wide,
A might Oak, the Forests pride.

Changes, Nikki Giovanni

if i can't do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don't want
to do

it's not the same thing
but it's the best i can
do

if i can't have
what I want then
my job is to want
what i've got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more
to want

since i can't go
where i need
to go then i must go
where the signs point
though always understanding
parallel movement
isn't lateral

when i can't express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
i know
but that's why mankind
alone among the mammals
learns to cry

The Guest House
(by Rumi)

This being human is a guest house, Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression,a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

next favorite:

Introduction to Poetry
(by Billy Collins)

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water ski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

Bill,
Don't know what we will do without you. Thank you for all that you have given over the years, kindred spirit.

Spring Night
by Su Tung Po (1037-1101)
Spring night--one hour worth a thousand gold coins;
clear secnt of flowers, shadowy moon.
Songs and flutes upstairs--threads of sound;
in the garden, a swing, where night is deep and still.

To Bill, because you asked. A poem by Marge Piercy

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,
at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There's a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can't stop him.
The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There's a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.
The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
sob very loudly—yet the dignity of his weeping
holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize him
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for tears as children for a rainbow.
Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
or force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst us
trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
judgements of peace. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves happy. Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.
Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit—
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of weeping;
as many as follow her also receive it
and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who weeps ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body
not words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,
hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea—
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has wept, and now has finished weeping.
Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street.
Les Murray

I was touched by the music and poetry of the young man playing the cora. To see his eyes roll when playing the instrument made such an authentic statement. This will be the way I wish to remember Bill Moyers. He has always made a powerful statement with his art. For the well being of our Country, he needs to continue.

TO EAT
A table is set
Guests have gathered
to bring to life the rhythm of words
Words from poets we hope sublime.

Grace comes forth from those at table
to carry all here to a realm of witness
for the banquet’s produce.

Witness to sustenance
Sustenance of earth’s sweet bounty
Sustenance of the flow of ink upon a page

Grace and sustenance – grace replenished
to carry meaning
of small things remembered
from sips and tastes

To read and write – to finish the rhyme
To eat and drink – how brief the time

So be it. It’s time. To eat.

Donna Dinan 3/24/09

withered world
died so slowly
substantially unnoticed
and left no niche
for its fondest lover

Dear Bill,
For many years, we have deeply appreciated your thoughtful, intelligent and insightful programming.
Your fascinating interviews were more like conversations that never failed to educate your viewers.
As a poet, I especially loved your regular segments which highlighted the joy Of Poetry.

We will miss you very much
and hope that you have many happy and healthy years ahead!

Love, your friends,,
Debra and Dave DeKoff


With malice toward none,
with charity for all,
with firmness in the right
as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on
to finish the work we are in,
to bind up the nation's wounds,
to care for him
who shall have borne the battle
and for his widow
and his orphan,
to do all which may
achieve and cherish
a just and lasting peace
among ourselves
and with all nations.

This last paragraph of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is among the most meaningful and poetic language ever penned in the English language. It is an Ode to Reconciliation.

Leonard R. Powers

This poem is among my favorites:

BARTER
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And childrens faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has lovliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirits still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for lovliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace,
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale - 1916

Bill: I can't imagine Friday
nights without you. You are a
real hero, giving us honest
journalism and a wide birth of
opinions. Oh, why must you leave?

(untitled)
It is
1910
1946
1972
2009
And in the pre-dawn chill
My
Great-grandfather
Grandfather
Father
Self
Put our feet on the floor,
Breathe in the morning air,
Gather work clothes in our arms,
Dress,
Make our lunch,
Leave the comforting warmth of home,
Head out into the cold
And to our jobs as
Carpenter
Heavy Equipment Operator
Factory worker
Customer service rep
And face whatever the new day brings
Together.

People


No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them is not particular, and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private and in that world one excellent minute.

And in that world one tragic minute
These are private.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight
it goes with him.

There are left books and bridges and painted canvas and machinery
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures
Of whom, essentially, what did we know?

Brother of a brother? Friend of friends?
Lover of lover?

We who knew our fathers
in everything, in nothing.

They perish. They cannot be brought back.
The secret worlds are not regenerated.

And every time again and again
I make my lament against destruction.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

The Negro Speaks Of Rivers


I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes

First off the news about the final weeks of the Journal saddens me and I thank Bill for so much consistent and insightful perspective . Best wishes to your future!

I am new to the appreciation of poetry thanks to Moyer's guest.

W.S.Merwin No Shadow

Dog grief and the love of coffee lengthen like a shadow of mine

and now that my eyes no longer swear to anything I look out

through the cloud light of this autum and see the valley where I came

first more than half my life ago oh more than half with its river

a sky in the palm of a hand never unknown and never known

never mine and never not mine beyond it into the distance

the ridges reflect the clouds now through a morning without shadows

the river still seems not to move as though it were the same river

WARNING

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along public railings
And make up for the snobbery of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends for dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph


the reason is, that art does not surpass nature,
but only brings it to perfection;
and thus, nature combined with art,
and art with nature, will produce a perfect poet.

don quixote


A perfect poet

Send not to know for whom these bells toll?
My soul is paying a toll… a fee to set me free…
I love and I am loved… I am a perfect poet…
I am a perfect poet, for I love and I am loved.

I am a perfect poet, because I’ve learned
Beyond the words and worlds of many others,
A perfect poet has just two tasks to meet perfection,
With ease, one of these twins is won, simply achieved,
Compared to the immeasurable challenging nature, stricture,
Stature, scripture, structure, complicity, complexity of the other…
First, with simple words works scrambled, blindly maligned
Aligned occasionally rhymed to her/his satisfaction,
Rich or poor, in sickness or in health, for better or worse,
Ignoring all curse, taking whatever is in store, finding the score,
A perfect poet translates from the prosaic mosaic,
Refutes, computes, disputes, dilutes, imputes, minutes
All the life of process, to a sharp, poetic pitch,
A high degree of poignancy, being significant,
Her/his bas-relief regales, towering over all other scales,
On bails of joy and grief….

Bound in a second round, without a second,
Minute, hour, day, week, month, year,
Decade, century, millennium to spare,
The rare second chore to score is,
To become integral, to be a poetic soul…
The feat depends not on fame, recognition,
threats of perdition, any sedition, petition,
Cognition, nor being seen as a celebrity…
The stasis may be a purely singular, peculiar
Secret to a perfect poet, alone…

Send not to know for whom these bells toll?
My soul is paying a toll… a fee to set me free …

david inkey, the UN poet, UNpowr@aol.com 41505

Love by George Herbert 1593–1632

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning 5
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.' 10
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?' 15
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

Laurie Corzett's Gospel reminded me of
Hans Ostrom's poem on Emily Dickinson and Elvis
I hope she likes this one as much as I liked hers:

Emily Dickinson and Elvis Presley in Heaven
By Hans Ostrom


They call each other “E”. Elvis picks
wildflowers near the river and brings
them to Emily. She explains half-rhymes to him.

In heaven Emily wears her hair long, sports
Levis and western blouses with rhinestones.
Elvis is lean again, wears baggy trousers

and T-shirts, a letterman’s jacket from Tupelo High.
They take long walks and often hold hands.
She prefers they remain just friends. Forever.

Emily’s poems now contain naugahyde, Cadillacs,
Electricity, jets, TV, Little Richard and Richard
Nixon. The rock-a-billy rhythm makes her smile.

Elvis likes himself with style. This afternoon
he will play guitar and sing “I Taste a Liquor
Never Brewed” to the tune of “Love Me Tender.”

Emily will clap and harmonize. Alone
in their cabins later, they’ll listen to the river
and nap. They will not think of Amherst

or Las Vegas. They know why God made them
roommates. It’s because America
was their hometown. It’s because

God is a thing without
feathers. It’s because
God wears blue suede shoes.

For Those Who Pray for Me
by Robert Wrigley

I do not wish to hurt those who love me
and ask for me only every blossom and more,

but in fact, when I say God I mean the wind and the clouds that are its angels;
I mean the sea and its enormous restraint,
all its fish and krill just the luster of a heavenly gown.

And while it is true there are days when I think
something more must be in the wind than air, still I believe
the afterlife is dirt, but sweet, and heaven is coming back
in the lewd, bewhiskered tongue of an iris.

To what shall
I liken the world.
Moonlight, reflected
in dewdrops
Shaken from a crane's bill.
Dogen

This world of dew
Is only a world of dew.
And yet, and yet.
Issa

Wallace Stevens

(the greatest six words ever put together..Let be..)

The Emperor of Ice-Cream


Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp afix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

i enjoy quincy troupe's 41 seconds on a sunday in june, in salt lake city utah

Poetic Quandary

I'm a poet
'cause I know it

but only if I show it

if you don't know it
am I still a poet?

Billy Bob Florida

This is not my favorite poem, but I am sharing it with you because I think that you may find it interesting.

Thank you for your work.

Ode to Jon Stewart: a Shakespearean Fool

"Jesters do oft prove prophets" Shakespeare

Critics have posited that in his play King Lear Shakespeare conducts a deep exploration of the world as indifferent to the plight of man within which human lives are meaningless and (sometimes) brutal, albeit with funny moments.

For those of us who are trying to make sense of these times, King Lear remains relevant. Lear notes that life is a “great state of fools”. In this, the 21st Century – who are the fools and who are the wise women and men? I suggest that Jon Stewart is a wise man acting a fool.

In King Lear, the themes of deception, betrayal and bad judgment, as well as the punishment of the innocent, are not new in and of themselves, but their often painful repetition in the actions of the characters - as in our current moment - underline the partial absurdity of lived experiences, and our inability and sometimes unwillingness to change them.

However, Shakespeare offers us the fool who speaks the truth that others dare not speak and are sometimes unable to see.

Jon Stewart, in The Daily Show, consistently does the same: he keeps us honest, or to express what he does in the post-Avatar and post-post Shakespeare contexts, he helps us to see. In the words of Shakespeare, Stewart encourages us to “speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”.

by Savi B

The Pillow -- Mourid Barghouti

The pillow said:

at the end of the long day only I know
the confident man's confusion,
the nun's desire,
the slight quiver in the tyrant's eyelash,
the preacher's obscenity,
the soul's longing for a warm body where flying sparks become a glowing coal.

Only I know the grandeur of unnoticed little things;
only I know the loser's dignity,
the winner's loneliness
and the stupid coldness one feels when a wish has been granted.

Across the line

All the way. Cross the line.
Something scary wrought on your mind.
Who would have known you get used to it,
that you'd choose to do it anyway?
never mind what your mind says.

No, we're never taught the peace
of taking ground silently.
Whatever happens all the time,
and whatever happens to happen is fine.

Oh, the land ought to leave thee
groundless, in flames, frightened to soar.
Never before taken excuses
are used then to turn out the light,
all day cast into night.

Never mind you fell in the flowers
marking the places of those there before.
They planted the ground,
and they spread it around.
It's hard to know some things for sure.

Know the morning comes to greet thee.
Know that you've got some things wrought on your mind.
You can't really know how these things come and go;
it's too hard to notice all of the time.

And so, in the end, you just spat on the ground.
You sat and you watched a merry-go-round.
It's too hard to notice all of the time,
and whatever happens to happen seems fine.
All the way. Cross the line.

--Sidney Engle, 2002

Poetry
by Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived

in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where

it came from, from winter or a river.

I don't know how or when,

no, they were not voices, they were not

words, nor silence,

but from a street I was summoned,

from the branches of night,

abruptly from the others,

among violent fires

or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth

had no way

with names

my eyes were blind,

and something started in my soul,

fever or forgotten wings,

and I made my own way,

deciphering

that fire

and I wrote the first faint line,

faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,

pure wisdom

of someone who knows nothing,

and suddenly I saw

the heavens

unfastened

and open,

planets,

palpitating planations,

shadow perforated,

riddled

with arrows, fire and flowers,

the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,

drunk with the great starry

void,

likeness, image of

mystery,

I felt myself a pure part

of the abyss,

I wheeled with the stars,

my heart broke free on the open sky.


This poem has haunted me for years.

The Gift Outright by Robert Frost

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

A HOMELESS NURSE

He slipped –
He slipped through the cracks
Masters Degree in Nursing + Ph.D. in Chemistry
For 40 years he cared for others
Today I cared for him.

“I need to leave the hospital –
to collect bottles and cans –
I never throught my life would be like this.”
He cries – “I got beat up last week.”
He shows me his lost teeth.

I am sad I cry I am mad
The state is broke
The system is broken
No safety net for us.
Lose health – lose job – lose health insurance
Lose house – lose friends.

Hemoglobin is up to 8
“No more blood transfusions for you –
Sign the AMA papers” the young resident says to him.

He leaves – weak and sick
Another L.A. Recycler – we see them on the streets every day as we drive to work. Schizophrenics, alcoholics, drug addicts, veterans,
All have a story to tell,
He told me his.
He was a nurse who cared for others –
Now there is no one to care for him.

The system is broken
My heart is breaking
I am sad I cry I am mad
He was one of us.

Anonymous RN 3/10/10
Written while sitting in L.A. traffic on the way home from work.

Like The Wildflowers
by Dorothy T. Kiljan

Consider life mysterious.
Let love grow like the wildflowers,
the native grasses, like forest trees.

Let there be every kind of flowering
plant in your heart.
Not one kind of love.

Not love for one alone only.
But a wild
and abundant flowering.

COINTELPRO today.

What life is mine when not free?
What color am I if invisible?
What voice heard in silent echoes?
What race am I if not human?
What torture left untouched when sanctioned?
What but the worst death without hope?

Gospel

Sally, won't you go
downtown
Pick up some teabag party
clowns
We'll teach 'em tricks of trade
from streets walled in by
degradation
Ain't this nation grand
for glad hands raised in celebration
of shames we dare not name.

Hallelujah Hallelucinations
Hallowed ground baptized
in blood
Saved from the cleansing Flood
by sticking to our kind
however we're defining us today
If we were meant to live
a different way
wouldn't He have told us?

October 28, 2009

"Please share your favorite poem in the space below." Where is "the space below."? We can't find it.

A Piece of Good News
(author unknown)

Everyone has inside himself,
What shall I call it?
A Piece of Good News!
Everyone is a very great, a very important character.
Yes, that's what we have to tell them up there!
Every man must be persuaded - even if he is in rags,
That he is immensely, immensely
important;
Everyone must respect him
And make him respect himself, too.
Don't stand on top of him!
Don't stand in his light!
Give him great, great hopes;
He needs them, especially if he is young!
Spoil him!
Make him grow proud!

TOWARD A NEW RENAISSANCE

Dear friend with the crescent moon above your door,
I have heard that you are overcome by poetry,

that you are afloat somewhere inside the world’s great
sorrow, with the language of love as your compass.

You have been gone a long time, a white sail
full of the clear sky, and no land in sight.

One such as you will become an ocean unto itself
because you learn and live your craft well.

Don’t forget to report back to us – I have a feeling
the universal winds are sensitive to words.

by Rachael Boast, from The Heart as Origami, 2005

Bill, I am submitting a poem by Goethe with my translation of it:

Lea Frey

Über allen Gipfeln ist ruh,
In allen Wipfeln spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch,
Die Vögellein schweigen im Walde,
Aber warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch!

Lea Frey's translation:
Over all the rooftops is peace,
In all the treetops you sense
Hardly a breath,
The little birds fall silent in the forests,
But wait a moment, soon
You, too, will be at rest.

"What profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul"?

We need more non-profit organizations that work for mankind and can do what is good instead of what is profitable.

We need people that can see the profit of being a human that makes life a meaningful experience instead of a world of dread.

We need houses that are homes where children are bred, fed and nurtured to be the best they can be not what people can turn to profit.

We need the prophet who reads the mind and knows the heart and plays the part that makes all things in sight beautiful to the eye.

We needful people need not what is gross and vial, bent on self-destruct but that which is earned by trust and fidelity with justice and equity to all of God's children.

We are born people to bare the things that life offers not stare at foreboding walls of mind castles high upon the hill where sinister people lurk.

We are more than the sum of our parts we are the expression of music and art.

I wrote this poem about someone I admired, William Grizzle, who touched my life briefly before passing away.


"Grizz" -- by Sarah Leigh Graham


A moment is all it takes.

You were there,
You smiled through the haze,
You shared yourself with us
And then the world felt softer,
More tangible.

You talked of ivory towers and sharp saws
And showed us our reflections.

You gave us back our eyes and hands.

And then you were gone

I am here,
Now,
Still.

A moment is all it takes.

The Invention of the Saxophone, by Billy Collins

It was Adolph Sax, remember,
not Saxo Grammaticus, who gets the ovation.
And by the time he had brought all the components
together-- the serpentine shape, the single reed,
the fit of the fingers,
the upward tilt of the golden bell--
it was already 1842, and one gets the feeling
it was also very late at night.

There is something nocturnal about the sound,
something literally horny,
as some may have noticed on that historic date
when the first odd notes wobbled out of his studio
into the small, darkened town,

summoning the insomniacs (who were up
waiting for the invention of jazz) to their windows,
but leaving the sleepers undisturbed,
even deepening and warming the waters of their dreams.

For this is not the valved instrument of waking,
more the smoky voice of longing and loss,
the porpoise cry of the subconscious.
No one would ever think of blowing reveille
on a tenor without irony.
The men would only lie in their metal bunks,
fingers twined behind their heads,
afloat on pools of memory and desire.

And when the time has come to rouse the dead,
you will not see Gabriel clipping an alto
around his numinous neck.
An angel playing the world's last song
on a glistening saxophone might be enough
to lift them back into the light of earth,
but really no farther.

Once resurrected, they would only lie down
in the long cemetery grass
or lean alone against a lugubrious yew
and let the music do the ascending--
curling snakes charmed from their baskets--
while they wait for the shrill trempet solo,
that will blow them all to kingdom come.

The Evening Tear
by Dave Stover

Her eyes open to the evening rain
Lips bidding the night on,
She, the silver pearl, lacy bodice
Unbuttoned by ivory smooth fingers
Twisting, the furtive glances, a half-sung
Tune fading into swirling movements
Before the hot embers.

I followed her into an evening’s reverie
Every vibration pulsing as beats on an eternal clock
Pausing to wish its continuance.

Connected with another glance,
A surprise tear caught and salty.
Mesquite and pine aromas mixing, smoothing.

A burdened beginning, masking a fear
Of repeat rejections, unable to avoid
Going on, keeping all joy of the moment
From drowning out cries to end . . .

But no . . . I find myself pleading.
Go away from my life, beaten, broken
Bitterly despairing the failures.

Needing but denying pleasures, ashamed.

Don’t come near, but you don’t listen.
Your finger to my lips, silence;
A body rising, curling around;
The rapture refills,
A shroud enveloping and eternity
Returns.
Another tear, my own, drops
Eyes closing in the evening rain.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

you do not have to be good.
you do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
tell me about despair, yours, and i will tell you mine.
meanwhile the world goes on.
meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
whoever you are,no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The Heartless Indifference
By Dave Stover
I
Cells buried but accumulating
masses, wrapping around
absorbed into undistilled parts,
calling to their healthy neighbors;
the completed, coupled
unrestricted, and unafflicted.

II
The cells, taking sides,
steal life, happiness. Dispassionately
…“slumped in her wheelchair, a portable
oxygen tank at her side,” the cells
stand watch, active gate keepers, oblivious
to tears, sobbing, dreams vanishing, scars
occurring, returning, tumors expanding.

III
The heartless indifference, a cold hairless
scalp as if shorn to display another icon
to the human’s transient nothingness.
The grandchildren look at the “strawberry
blonde wig,”
fixed stares processing the scene of life,
maybe death. Not responding.

IV
The cells indiscriminant but taking sides
don’t care. They steal life. They are happy
at destroying happiness.
“Cancer,” she said, “and needles.
I hate needles. Hate’em.”

Quotes from The Denver Post, Feb 1, 2009
Grandmother, teen share cancer – and love

Keep fighting it, my friend.

Bill,
I've always had a problem with poetry in that I tend to come from an analytical perspective and am not very patient. Poetry for me often was not very clear.
In listening to you tonight, I finally understood that one
needs to FEEL the message...
and yes I got more out of it.
Thank you.

This poem is a favorite poem of mine, in line with John Sexton's edict (quoting Charlie) "play a different octave"...

SURVIVAL AND DISEMBODIED EXISTENCE

Fifteen black flowers
in the vase,
no water
to speak of. An electrical storm:

Sparks jump from the coil on the stove,
tiny flame. Made things
are safest untouched.
Try

saying "Come back" and watch
people reel without
turning.
coats petaled in wind.

Unbodied the ghost crosses space
so much like itself
its shape becomes fish, slicing water,

feeling it flame in back
and then heal.
Shifting air with air
until only the wind

notes its passing.What is untouched
unfurls, surprising as breath.
There is, there must be, warmth from this
beginning.

Malinda Markham

Dear Bill, this is a favorite poem of mine, written by Sri Chinmoy, at the age of 15 as a boy in Bengal. He has written thousands of poems. If you like this one, more of his writings are online at Srichinmoy.org.
You mentioned "our last few shows", are you leaving us? Yours is the only show that I schedule into my life--we'll miss you lots!


THE ABSOLUTE

No mind, no form, I only exist;
Now ceased all will and thought.
The final end of Nature's dance,
I am It whom I have sought.

A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate,
Beyond both knower and known.
A rest immense I enjoy at last;
I face the One alone.

I have crossed the secret ways of life,
I have become the Goal.
The Truth immutable is revealed;
I am the way, the God-Soul.

My spirit aware of all the heights,
I am mute in the core of the Sun.
I barter nothing with time and deeds;
My cosmic play is done.

-Sri Chinmoy
from My Flute

First Night


After the parade of nurses, graphs,
and the last attending comfort,
the night beyond lay untouched and unaware
and the clouds in their currents said nothing,
muted and unaware.

Only mother and child,
together against the solitary darkness
held their sanctuary.
A rendering of that glue from generations past,
those who stood before an empire of dust
and cast their protest over the unending loss.

Two against the long night…
not knowing their courage,
beyond exhaustion,
each other their only imperitive.

In the phantom depth
writen on water
where the soul sees itself
and listens…

you are not alone.


Patterns

Amy Lowell

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down,
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

From Men, Women and Ghosts By Amy Lowell

Ethan Coen's poem is my current favorite.

'The Drunken Driver Has the Right Of Way'
by Ethan Coen

The loudest have the final say,
The wanton win, the rash hold sway,
The realist's rules of order say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The Kubla Khan can butt in line;
The biggest brute can take what's mine;
When heavyweights break wind, that's fine;
No matter what a judge might say,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The guiltiest feel free of guilt;
Who care not, bloom; who worry, wilt;
Plans better laid are rarely built
For forethought seldom wins the day;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The most attentive and unfailing
Carefulness is unavailing
Wheresoever fools are flailing;
Wisdom there is held at bay;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

De jure is de facto's slave;
The most foolhardy beat the brave;
Brass routs restraint; low lies high's grave;
When conscience leads you, it's astray;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

It's only the naivest who'll
Deny this, that the reckless rule;
When facing an oncoming fool
The practiced and sagacious say
Watch out — one side — look sharp — gang way.

However much you plan and pray,
Alas, alack, tant pis, oy vey,
Now — heretofore — til Judgment Day,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

In imagination an old woman
And I sit together in tears
Admiring the moon


- Basho

Here's a poem of my own composition. I wrote it using a magnetic poetry set.
*********

his deep unconscious desire for death
which eats from the belly of childhood memory
poisons away the man’s sanity
with blue blazing broken peace

he is a prisoner of a delicious self hate
which pierces his subconscious dream web heart
and haunts his decaying joy
with the morning magic ritual of dancing delusions


he will not listen
or speak
or forgive
or do well with positive thinking
for he desires to destroy all feeling
and shame
and pain
and life

the emotions of a
mother father sister brother picture
that he embraces yet will never know
bleed from him a last secret fear to die

personal passive velvet praises
wet like liquid caramel
on a moist cake
surround his sacred fever
of pathological balance & dark comfort

yesterday
young kisses from a brilliant Angel
almost blinded his universe
and repressed an underlying green fire

but he is still more resolved
to avoid life
than he is to explore it

he trusts the impulse is good
the red sky laughs

the end is here

My 8th grade english teacher turned me on to this poem and I credit him with inspiring my love for poetry and literature.

Not Waving but Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.


Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.


Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

My favorite poem was discovered when I was working on the Navajo Reservation. It was written by Jon Daunt and can be found in Coyote's Journal By Wingbow Press.

He Is Born

I never trusted Coyote.
I try to steer clear of him, but this time
he tricked me good,
He stole my asshole.

It was during an attack of the
farts. I couldn't do anything.
I tried to keep perfectly still,
but even that didn't work.
I couldn't stop.

So I sat down to shit and think,
and who do you suppose
came out? Coyote!
He reached up and stole the hole that brought him into the world, and
he got away clean.

That's gratitude. It was
the only asshole I had.

Darfur (a pantoum)


Being born human,
compassion should come easy
as my kin sit in the waste of war,
sisters and brothers of one flesh.

Compassion should come easy,
but I live in isolation of
sisters and brothers of one flesh,
voices calling in need.

But I live in isolation of
soft music that covers their cry,
voices calling in need
I, who have ears to hear.

Soft music covers their cry
as my kin sit in the waste of war
I, who have ears to hear,
being born human.

-Rob Smith
256 Zones of Gray

This World is not Conclusion


501

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—

It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don’t know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—

To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—

Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—


Online text © 1998-2007 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson | Written c. 186

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

WITHOUT NAME by Pauli Murray

Call it neither love nor spring madness,
Nor chance encounter nor quest ended.
Observe it casually as pussy willows
Or pushcart pansies on a city street.
Let this seed growing in us
Granite-strong with persistent root
Be without name, or call it the first
Warm wind that caressed your cheek
And traded unshared kisses between us.
Call it the elemental earth
Bursting the clasp of too-long winter
And trembling for the plough-blade.

Let out blood chant it
And our flesh sing anthems to its arrival,
But our lips shall be silent, uncommitted....

For all

Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Gary Snyder

"I'm Tired, I'm Whipped"
by Nevin Compton Trammell

I'm tired
I'm whipped
too dumb to quit
too smart
to let life go by

I'm working hard
to find truth
in my own backyard
I've done everything
but die

Took the long way around
on a short ride to town
found a pass
where few have been

Gained a love
lost a friend
scraped my knees
learning to please

started out
with no choice

somewhere

somehow

found my
voice

Bill, Please forward this poem to your friend and recent guest, John Sexton!!

A Dead House
George MacDonald

When the clock hath ceased to tick
Soul-like in the gloomy hall;
When the latch no more doth click
Tongue-like in the red peach-wall;
When no more come sounds of play,
Mice nor children romping roam,
Then looks down the eye of day
On a dead house, not a home!

But when, like an old sun’s ghost,
Haunts her vault the spectral moon;
When earth’s margins all are lost,
Melting shapes nigh merged in swoon,
Then a sound—hark! there again!—
No, ’tis not a nibbling mouse!
’Tis a ghost, unseen of men,
Walking through the bare-floored house!

And with lightning on the stair
To that silent upper room,
With the thunder-shaken air
Sudden gleaming into gloom,
With a frost-wind whistling round,
From the raging northern coasts,
Then, mid sieging light and sound,
All the house is live with ghosts!

Brother, is thy soul a cell
Empty save of glittering motes,
Where no live loves live and dwell,
Only notions, things, and thoughts?
Then thou wilt, when comes a Breath
Tempest-shaking ridge and post,
Find thyself alone with Death
In a house where walks no ghost.

When Dawn First Drains Into My Eyes

by Michael A. Paris

When dawn first drains into my eyes
She makes me blink. And thinks of rolling drowsily in dark, minutes before. With nothing but a thousand dreams in store.
I know I love those graying moments,
But, above it,
Day's bright patchwork of opinion
Makes my heart unable to recall
Its distant night-world,
As though I'd never been to sleep at all.

I have no favorite poem but here are three that speak to my experience or have moved me in the foundations.

Blake's poem What E'er is born of Mortal Birth
Must be consumed with the Earth.

I quoted it in my father's eulogy in August 2009 and invoked the name of our friend Carlyle Marney.

A Baptist preacher in Burke Virginia worked Mary Oliver's Maybe into a sermon a few days before My Uncle Fremont was buried in Arlington Cemetery and it sticks in my memory especially

You know how it is when
Something different crosses the Threshold...
The Older Brother begins to Sharpen His Knife.

And lastly in recent years I have gotten to know the 2009 Pen/Faulkner nominee for fiction, Ron Rash.
He is a jewel of a character, chocked full of virtue and like us shaped in the Baptist faith.
He is a poet as well and his Sunday Morning 1959 is one you will embrace.
I had the great honor to have a 90 minute conversation and interview with him three weeks ago; and have a good chance of getting it published.
I strongly recommend him to you or whomever follows you with some effort by PBS that follows the Journal
There is a wealth of info about him online; googling The Shelton Laurel Massacre in World Made Straight, and the Columbia SC STate feature linked there to you.
Janet Maslin of the NY Times had stellar review of RAsh's latest collection of short stories in March 7 2010 book pages.

I hear on TV now you are retiring.
I cherish a short note you sent me in 88 on heels of the showing of God and Politics and the Baptist Bible where you said People like me make a difference.
I remember far back as late 70's watching your interview of James Dickey and his story about Ball Ground, Ga. My Dad was raised in Rome, Ga. We shared a great moment there with you and Dickey.
Just recently good friend of mine has gottento know Ronnie Cox, the first fellow out of the boat in Deliverance.
It helped my standing as a substitute teacher with 6th graders on occasion in NE Alabama.
All the best.

Stephen Fox
Collinsville,Al

Pubic Option
Hickory, trickery, schlock,
Pelosi sold out her flock.
But to be fair,
Mr. Change was still there.
So, why were they crying in shock?

The Layers - Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

DOVER BEACH
By Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I'll never forget an older cousin's recitation from memory of this poem during a family reunion. Many beloved family members have since died, and I feel what my cousin then felt as he shared these words. While warm memories comfort, I still miss the presence of loved ones.

The Light of Other Days by Thomas Moore

Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears
Of boyhood years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm’d and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

When I remember all
The friends so link’d together
I’ve seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thunder Perfect Mind

I am the first and the last
I am the honoured one and the scorned one
I am the whore and the holy one
I am the wife and the virgin
I am the mother and the daughter
I am the members of my mother
I am the barren one
and many are her sons
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband
and he is my offspring

I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent
and the word whose appearance is multiple
I am the utterance of my name

I am knowledge I am ignorance
I am shame I am boldness
I am shameless I am ashamed
I am strength I am fear
Give heed to me
I am the one who is disgraced and the great one

I am she who does not keep festival
and I am she whose festivals are many

I am the vision of the greeks
and the knowledge of the barbarians
I am the one whose image is great in Egypt
and the one who has no image among the barbarians
I am the one who has been hated everywhere
and who has been loved everywhere

I am the one whom they call life
and you have called death

-Portion of the Nag Hammadi document describing two aspects of the female divine - Fourth Century C.E.

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life -

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

~ William Stafford

"Live" -- by Anne Sexton

"Live or die, but don't poison everything..."

Well, death's been here
for a long time --
it has a hell of a lot
to do with hell
and suspicion of the eye
and the religious objects
and how I mourned them
when they were made obscene
by my dwarf-heart's doodle.
The chief ingredient
is mutilation.
And mud, day after day,
mud like a ritual,
and the baby on the platter,
cooked but still human,
cooked also with little maggots,
sewn onto it maybe by somebody's mother,
the damn bitch!

Even so,
I kept right on going on,
a sort of human statement,
lugging myself as if
I were a sawed-off body
in the trunk, the steamer trunk.
This became perjury of the soul.
It became an outright lie
and even though I dressed the body
it was still naked, still killed.
It was caught
in the first place at birth,
like a fish.
But I play it, dressed it up,
dressed it up like somebody's doll.

Is life something you play?
And all the time wanting to get rid of it?
And further, everyone yelling at you
to shut up. And no wonder!
People don't like to be told
that you're sick
and then be forced
to watch
you
come
down with the hammer.

Today life opened inside me like an egg
and there inside
after considerable digging
I found the answer.
What a bargain!
There was the sun,
her yolk moving feverishly,
tumbling her prize --
and you realize she does this daily!
I'd known she was a purifier
but I hadn't thought
she was solid,
hadn't known she was an answer.
God! It's a dream,
lovers sprouting in the yard
like celery stalks
and better,
a husband straight as a redwood,
two daughters, two sea urchings,
picking roses off my hackles.
If I'm on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I'm ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.

Here,
all along,
thinking I was a killer,
anointing myself daily
with my little poisons.
But no.
I'm an empress.
I wear an apron.
My typewriter writes.
It didn't break the way it warned.
Even crazy, I'm as nice
as a chocolate bar.
Even with the witches' gymnastics
they trust my incalculable city,
my corruptible bed.

O dearest three,
I make a soft reply.
The witch comes on
and you paint her pink.
I come with kisses in my hood
and the sun, the smart one,
rolling in my arms.
So I say Live
and turn my shadow three times round
to feed our puppies as they come,
the eight Dalmatians we didn't drown,
despite the warnings: The abort! The destroy!
Despite the pails of water that waited,
to drown them, to pull them down like stones,
they came, each one headfirst, blowing bubbles the color of cataract-blue
and fumbling for the tiny tits.
Just last week, eight Dalmatians,
3/4 of a lb., lined up like cord wood
each
like a
birch tree.
I promise to love more if they come,
because in spite of cruelty
and the stuffed railroad cars for the ovens,
I am not what I expected. Not an Eichmann.
The poison just didn't take.
So I won't hang around in my hospital shift,
repeating The Black Mass and all of it.
I say Live, Live because of the sun,
the dream, the excitable gift.

Sympathy
by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

Dream Deferred
by
Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

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

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

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


by Alice Walker

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver

Since these do not take up much space, I will name two:

the drip

echoes
unknown
before

the cave

William J. Higginson


Holding the water,
held by it—
the dark mud.

William J. Higginson

“Burnt Norton” from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot

I.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which I did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time present
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

II.

Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.


III.

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plentitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.
Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Into darkness, deprivation
And destruction of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.


IV.

Time and the bell have buried the day,
The black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?

Chill
Fingers of yew be curled
Down to us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.


V.

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.


The Day’s Announcement


The family’s hope? That he was too far gone
to notice she was gone. But when he asked for her
for four weeks running, it didn’t seem quite fair
to reassure him with—She’ll be back soon.
So when, pale blue eyes jumping in his head, he said
again, Nurse, where’s my Meg?, as if she were a stranger
(her, his own Bridget, sixth child and sole daughter!),
she told him—Poppa, listen: Momma’s dead.

The news plunged deep into that drowned brain.
He bowed his weighty head. She took his hand—
Had she made a mistake? Could he understand?
. . . Maybe, for when he raised his face again,
he wore a look of rationality triumphant:

I knew it. Otherwise, she would have come.


by Brad Leithauser

Art
from Essays: First Series (1841)
by
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Give to barrows, trays, and pans
Grace and glimmer of romance;
Bring the moonlight into noon
Hid in gleaming piles of stone;
On the city's paved street
Plant gardens lined with lilac sweet;
Let spouting fountains cool the air,
Singing in the sun-baked square;
Let statue, picture, park, and hall,
Ballad, flag, and festival,
The past restore, the day adorn,
And make each morrow a new morn.
So shall the drudge in dusty frock
Spy behind the city clock
Retinues of airy kings,
Skirts of angels, starry wings,
His fathers shining in bright fables,
His children fed at heavenly tables.
'T is the privilege of Art
Thus to play its cheerful part,
Man in Earth to acclimate,
And bend the exile to his fate,
And, moulded of one element
With the days and firmament,
Teach him on these as stairs to climb,
And live on even terms with Time;
Whilst upper life the slender rill
Of human sense doth overfill.

When You Are Old

>> William Butler Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

stand with your lover on the ending earth -

and while a(huge which by huger than
huge)whoing sea leaps to greenly hurl snow

suppose we could not love,dear;imagine

ourselves like living neither nor dead these
(or many thousand hearts which don't and dream
or many million minds which sleep and move)
blind sands,at pitiless the mercy of

time time time time

- how fortunate are you and i,whose home
is timelessness:we who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries of birth
and death a day(or maybe even less)

St. Kevin and the Blackbird
By Seamus Heaney

And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

And since the whole thing's imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love's deep river,
'To labour and not to seek reward,' he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river's name.

TORTURE
When they torture your mother
plant a tree
When they torture your father
plant a tree
When they torture your brother and your sister
plant a tree
When they assassinate
your leaders
and lovers
plant a tree
When they torture you
too bad
to talk
plant a tree.

When they begin to torture
the trees
and cut down the forest
they have made
start another.

from Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful
Poems by Alice Walker

My favorite poem is "Ode on a Grecian Urn". I find most meaningful he idea of how art takes up where life leaves off, and vice-versa. The imagery is lovely, and the phrasing is memorable. The poem is so powerful it seems to move ahead with a life of its own.

Still, I'd have to take issue with the most famous quote from this poem: "Beauty is truth, and truth, beauty." Obviously John Keats never watched reality TV!

If each day falls
inside each night,
there exists a well
where clarity is imprisoned.

We need to sit on the rim
of the well of darkness
and fish for fallen light
with patience.


---Pablo Neruda, from, The Sea and the Bells

Emily Dickinson. The one on the subject of hope is my favorite:
HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
Ans sings the tune without words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetness in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
~Emily Dickinson

Psalm 183

Pardon me if I seem to cop an attitude
But the attitude is one of worship
And is, I think, sincere.
My heart swells
against the prison of my ribs
And grows to keep my lungs from seeking air.
Still the breath is not pushed out
By such a simple force as pride
But by the glory of my dreaming
That I might, perhaps, be loved
By you.

Pardon me if I'm moved to endless chatter
But I fear that the beauty of the silence,
As I watch your distant eyes
Caress the words I have arranged
As atonement, on the page, as sacrifice,
Might cause my soul to rise
Above this flesh
And leave inert these hands
With which I spell these prayers
Against your thighs.

Pardon me;
I burden you with too much honour.
I know you are no goddess,
Simply human,
Still alive.
The others who I prayed would love me
Ran,
Or else I was the one to run.
And yet their cracked reflections
Howl to me from pools of molten glass
Within my hidden pantheon.
I know you've missed perfection,
But your quirks and flaws
Are not personal betrayals,
But are the marks left
By the kiss of angels,
Allowing you to live within
This far too real world.

Pardon me if these songs of praise defile you
But I'll try to keep my hosannahs
To a quiet whisper,
And try, as I stroke your face,
Not to inscribe the Holy Name upon your brow,
Not to believe that you are both
Creator and Creation
And that you, therefore,
Must obey my will.
For as I rest
My head upon your shoulder
My lips against your throat,
I read your pulse as the rhythm
Of the rushing of the waves,
Your breaths as the passage
Of clouds against a bright and empty sky,
The gentle motion of your breasts
As the soft processional of continents,
As, within this dark and silent world,
We define
A temporary world of our own.

-- Joseph Zitt

America by Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand
.

Claude McKay

too sweet by Charles Bukowski

I have been going to the track for so
long that
all the employees know
me,
and now with winter here
it's dark before the last
race.
as I walk to the parking lot
the valet recognizes my
slouching gait
and before I reach him
my car is waiting for me,
lights on, engine warm.
the other patrons
(still waiting)
ask,
"who the hell is that
guy?"

I slip the valet a
tip, the size depending upon the
luck of the
day (and my luck has been amazingly
good lately)
and I then am in the machine and out on
the street
as the horses break
from the gate.

I drive east down Century Blvd.
turning on the radio to get the result of that
last race.

at first the announcer is concerned only with
bad weather and poor freeway
conditions.
we are old friends: I have listened to his
voice for decades but,
of course, the time will finally come
when neither one of us will need to
clip our toenails or
heed the complaints of our
women any longer.

meanwhile, there is a certain rhythm
to the essentials that now need
attending to.
I light my cigarette
check the dashboard
adjust the seat and
weave between a Volks and a Fiat.
as flecks of rain spatter the
windshield
I decide not to die just
yet:
this good life just smells too
sweet.

i thank you God for most this amazing by E. E. Cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The Cinnamon Peeler, by Michael Ondaatje


If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
-- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume.

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.


You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

I Sing of Olaf Glad and Big
ee cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but-though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments-
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat-
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you

Fog, by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

excerpt from Testimonial by Claudia Rankine


As if I craved error, as if love were ahistorical,
I came to live in a country not at first my own
and here came to love a man not stopped by reticence.

And because it seemed right
love of this man would look like freedom,

the lone expanse of his back
would be found land, I turned,

as a brown field turns, suddenly grown green,
for this was the marriage waited for: the man
desiring as I, movement toward mindful and yet.

It was June, brilliant. The sun higher than God.

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

By Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower

by Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.
The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Is There For Honest Poverty, or,
A Man's A Man for A' That

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, an' a' that
The coward slave, we pass him by
We dare be poor for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
Our toil's obscure and a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp
The man's the gowd for a' that

What though on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine
A man's a man, for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
Their tinsel show an' a' that
The honest man, though e'er sae poor
Is king o' men for a' that

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord
Wha struts an' stares an' a' that
Tho' hundreds worship at his word
He's but a coof for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
His ribband, star and a' that
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that

A prince can mak' a belted knight
A marquise, duke, an' a' that
But an honest man's aboon his might
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that
For a' that an' a' that
Their dignities an' a' that
The pith o' sense an' pride o' worth
Are higher rank that a' that

Then let us pray that come it may
(as come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree an' a' that
For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

Robert Burns

Famous
by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)

By William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
1794

The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland

The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.

"I'm nobody! Who are you?" by Emily Dickinson

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

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

Renascence
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The poem itself is far too long for a comment, but it is by far my favorite poem. Here is the last verse:

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky, -
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That cannot keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat - the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity
by: John Tobias

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Watermelons ruled.

Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias

"Cast all your votes for Dancing!"
by Hafiz

I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

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

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

You can stay that way
And even bloom!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(I don't know which poem is my favorite, but I like this one.)

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It's purely personal. My father, who had an eighth-grade education and was a metalsmith and was as far from a "man of letters" as possible, could recite it from memory. And he would not just recite the words. His voice embraced each phrase forcing me to see what he saw. Poetry needs to be spoken, not just read.

Happiness
by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,

or the way it turns up like a prodigal

who comes back to the dust at your feet

having squandered a fortune far away.


And how can you not forgive?

You make a feast in honor of what

was lost, and take from its place the finest

garment, which you saved for an occasion

you could not imagine, and you weep night and day

to know that you were not abandoned,

that happiness saved its most extreme form

for you alone.


No, happiness is the uncle you never

knew about, who flies a single-engine plane

onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes

into town, and inquires at every door

until he finds you asleep midafternoon

as you so often are during the unmerciful

hours of your despair.


It comes to the monk in his cell.

It comes to the woman sweeping the street

with a birch broom, to the child

whose mother has passed out from drink.

It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing

a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,

and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots

in the night.

It even comes to the boulder

in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,

to rain falling on the open sea,

to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

From The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices From the Robert Frost Place. Used with permission of CavanKerry Press.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

My mother Beth Gatlin's favorite poem!

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

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