Tuesday, April 30, 2013

its own desire

Thinking of Madame Bovary 
by Jane Kenyon 
The first hot April day the granite step
was warm. Flies droned in the grass.
When a car went past they rose
in unison, then dropped back down. . . . 
I saw that a yellow crocus bud had pierced
a dead oak leaf, then opened wide. How strong
its appetite for the luxury of the sun! 
Everyone longs for love’s tense joy and red delights. 
And then I spied an ant
dragging a ragged, disembodied wing
up the warm brick walk. It must have been
the Methodist in me that leaned forward,
preceded by my shadow, to put a twig just where
the ant was struggling with its own desire.

Monday, April 29, 2013

be still in haste

Be Still in Haste
by Wendell Berry 
How quietly I
begin again  
from this moment
looking at the
clock, I start over 
so much time has
passed, and is equaled
by whatever
split-second is present  
from this
moment this moment
is the first

Sunday, April 28, 2013

another spring

Another Spring
by Denise Levertov

In the gold mouth of a flower
the black smell of spring earth.
No more skulls on our desks

but the pervasive
testing of death—as if we had need
of new ways of dying? No,

we have no need
of new ways of dying.
Death in us goes on

testing the wild
chance of living,
as Adam chanced it.

Golden-mouth, the tilted smile
of the moon westering
is at the black window,

Calavera of Spring.
Do you mistake me?
I am speaking of living

of moving from one moment into
the next, and into the
one after, breathing

death in the spring air, knowing
air also means
music to sing to.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


by C├ęsar Vallejo 
I feel that God is traveling
so much in me, with the dusk and the sea.
With him we go along together. It is getting dark.
With him we get dark. All orphans . . .  
But I feel God. And it even seems
that he sets aside some good color for me.
He is kind and sad, like those who care for the sick;
he whispers with sweet contempt like a lover's:
his heart must give him great pain. 
Oh, my God, I've only just come to you,
today I love so much in this twilight; today
that in the false balance of some breasts
I weigh and weep for a frail Creation. 
And you, what do you weep for . . . you, in love
with such an immense and whirling breast. . . .
I consecrate you, God, because you love so much;
because you never smile; because your heart
must all the time give you great pain.

— translated by Robert Bly

Friday, April 26, 2013

rain poem

Rain Poem
by Robert Wilkinson 
Rain again.
More rain. 
The rain
in Spain
falls mainly
on the insane. 
to take the train. 

— written while walking the Camino in Spain, from his collection "Raining Quinces" 

Thursday, April 25, 2013


by John Brehm

Do nothing and everything will be done,
that's what Mr. Lao Tzu said, who walked
around talking 2,500 years ago and

now his books practically grow on trees
they're so popular and if he were
alive today beautiful women would 
rush up to him like waves lapping
at the shores of his wisdom.
That's the way it is, I guess: humbling. 
But if I could just unclench my fists,
empty out my eyes, turn my mind into
a prayer flag for the wind to play with, 
we could be brothers, him the older one
who's seen and not done it all and me
still unlearning, both of us slung low 
in our hammocks, our hats tipped
forwards, hands folded neatly,
like bamboo huts, above our hearts.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

the silence

The Silence
by Rainer Maria Rilke 
Listen, love, I lift my hands—
listen: there's a rustling . . .
What gesture of those all alone
might not be eavesdropped on by many things?
Listen, love, I close my eyes,
and even that makes sounds to reach you.
Listen, love, I open them . . .
. . . but why are you not here? 
The imprint of my smallest motion
remains visible in the silken silence;
indestructibly the least excitement
is stamped into the distance's taut curtain.
On my breathing the stars
rise and set.
At my lips fragrances come to drink,
and I recognize the wrists
of distant angels.
Only her of whom I think: You
I cannot see. 
— from The Book of Images, translated by Edward Snow

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


by Yehuda Amichai 
Not the peace of a cease-fire,
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill,
that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
A peace
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds—
who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.) 
Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.

Monday, April 22, 2013



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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

'In times when nothing stood'

'In times when nothing stood'
In times when nothing stood
but worsened, or grew strange,
there was one constant good:
             she did not change. 
                    2 March 1978

— by Philip Larkin

Saturday, April 20, 2013

my life is the gardener of my body

My life is the gardener of my body. The brain—a hothouse closed tight
with its flowers and plants, alien and odd
in their sensitivity, their terror of becoming extinct. . . .

Read the rest of the tremendous poem "I Wasn’t One of the Six Million: And What Is My Life Span? Open Closed Open" by Yehuda Amichai here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

the world is full of loss

Song ("The world is full of loss . . . ") 
by Muriel Rukeyser 
The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
       my home is where we make our meeting-place,
       and love whatever I shall touch and read
       within that face. 
Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
       peace to look, life to listen and confess,
       freedom to find to find to find
       that nakedness.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

in the green morning

In the Green Morning, Now, Once More 
by Delmore Schwartz

In the green morning, before
Love was destiny,
The sun was king,
And God was famous. 
The merry, the musical,
The jolly, the magical,
The feast, the feast of feasts, the festival
Suddenly ended
As the sky descended
But there was only the feeling,
In all the dark falling,
Of fragrance and of freshness, of birth and beginning.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


by Caroline Caddy

It’s something they carry with them
                     – explorers night shifts seamen –
like a good pair of binoculars
or a camera case
               perfectly and deeply compartmented.
It has a quiet patina
that both absorbs and reflects
                  like a valuable instrument
                                    you have to sign for
– contract with alone –
                 and at the end of the voyage
                                                  you get to keep.
Sometimes it’s very far away.
Sometimes so close
              at first you think the person next to you
is picking up putting down
                         a personal cup
                           a book in another language
before you realise what
– when talk has moved off
                           leaning its arms
                                  on someone else’s table –
is being
handed to you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I dwell in possibility

I dwell in Possibility – (466)
by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Monday, April 15, 2013

these particles

Face that lights my face,
you spin intelligence into these particles
I am. Your wind shivers my tree. 
You make my dance daring enough to finish.
No more timidity. Let fruit fall,
and wind turn my roots up in the air,
done with patient waiting. 
— Rumi

[snowfall with flakes the size of golf balls yesterday, April 14; photo inspired by Erin

Sunday, April 14, 2013

the beauty of things

The Beauty of Things 
by Robinson Jeffers 
To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I sat in the sun

I sat in the sun 
by Jane Hirshfield 
I moved my chair into sun
I sat in the sun
the way hunger is moved when called fasting. 

— from Poetry, April 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

the one song

The One Song
by Mark Strand

I prefer to sit all day
like a sack in a chair
and to lie all night
like a stone in my bed.

When food comes
I open my mouth.
When sleep comes
I close my eyes.

My body sings
only one song;
the wind turns
gray in my arms.

Flowers bloom.
Flowers die.
More is less.
I long for more.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

the heart of a woman

The Heart of a Woman 
by Georgia Douglas Johnson 
The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home. 
The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


by Rita Dove

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

backward miracle

Backward Miracle 
by Kay Ryan 
Every once in a while
we need
a backward miracle
that will strip language,
make it hold for
a minute: just the
vessel with the
wine in it—
a sacramental
refusal to multiply,
reclaiming the
single loaf
and the single
fish thereby.

Monday, April 8, 2013

one whole voice

Eagle Poem 
by Joy Harjo

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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I can trust

Earth, isn't this what you want? To arise in us, invisible?
Is it not your dream, to enter us so wholly
there's nothing left outside us to see?
What, if not transformation,
is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love,
I want it too. Believe me,
no more of your springtimes are needed
to win me over—even one flower
is more than enough. Before I was named
I belonged to you. I see no other law
but yours, and know I can trust
the death you will bring.

See, I live. On what?
Childhood and future are equally present.
Sheer abundance of being
floods my heart.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, From the Ninth Duino Elegy

[photo: pansy seedlings.]

Saturday, April 6, 2013

the stones

The Stones
by Wendell Berry 
I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground,
shards of old sea-ledges, stumbling blocks
where the earth caught and kept them
dark, an old music mute in them
that my head keeps now I have dug them out.
I broke them where they slugged in the dark
cells, and lifted them up in pieces.
As I piled them in the light
I began their music. I heard their old lime
rouse in breath of song that had not left me.
I gave pain and weariness to their bearing out.
What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.

Friday, April 5, 2013

flamed with light

Evening Concert, Sainte-Chapelle 
by John Updike  
The celebrated windows flamed with light
directly pouring north across the Seine;
we rustled into place. Then violins
vaunting Vivaldi's strident strength, then Brahms,
seemed to suck with their passionate sweetness,
 bit by bit, the vigor from the red,
the blazing blue, so that the listening eye
saw suddenly the thick black lines, in shapes
of shield and cross and strut and brace, that held
the holy glowing fantasy together.
The music surged; the glow became a milk,
a whisper to the eye, a glimmer ebbed
until our beating hearts, our violins
were cased in thin but solid sheets of lead.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


by Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

To what purpose, April

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


by William Carlos Williams  
So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing
In a field.

Monday, April 1, 2013


by Miroslav Holub

We have
a microscopic anatomy
of the whale

William Carlos Williams

We have
a map of the universe
for microbes,
we have
a map of a microbe
for the universe.

we have
a Grand Master of chess
made of electronic circuits.

But above all
we have
the ability
to sort peas,
to cup water in our hands,
to seek
the right screw
under the sofa
for hours

gives us