Silent Poetry

Poetry for a Friday

Like many of you, we are celebrating a very quiet 4th of July this year. It doesn't feel celebratory. It just feels . . . quiet. And more than a little sad. 

Yet . . . here we are.


I've been thinking about 4th of Julys in days-gone-by. Parades. Cookouts. Family picnics. Watermelon. Fireworks at the lake.

This year? It's me and Tom . . . and Hamilton on tv.
And JoJo in her ThunderVest, cowering under our feet.


Poor JoJo. 

Maybe you've seen the "We are all Fauci" t-shirts? Well. I think I should create a "We are all JoJo" t-shirt from this picture. Because here we are, feeling just like JoJo . . . bewildered, afraid, confused, and strapped into a ThunderShirt while living through "hell week." (If you're into fireworks, please think of all the petrified animals out there this weekend. And maybe re-consider the whole practice.)

Anyway. Here's a poem for you on this Friday. May it bring to mind happier celebrations in past days (certainly) -- and in the future (hopefully). And . . . may it serve as a reminder that we can still find and share joy.


In the Fourth of July Parade
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.) (Also Hamilton.)


Today's poem was published in American Life In Poetry: Column 797, edited by Ted Kooser.  Information about the poet can be found here


Fridays Are For Poetry

If you've been reading along this week, you know I've been in A Mood.

And whenever I'm in A Mood -- any kind of mood, really -- I can always find poetry that mirrors the way I feel; that gives me the words I need at the moment. I've been reading poetry for a long time . . . long enough to know which poets might best suit my current mood. This week? I grabbed Jane Hirshfield off my shelf. I opened the book at random (which is how I read poetry) and immediately found a few poems that were perfect for me for now.

I'm going to share one of my favorite Jane Hirshfield poems today. I know I've shared it before (it's been a long time, though), so forgive me for the repeat. It just seems particularly relevant.


Jane Hirshfield

Balance is noticed most when almost failed of --  

in an elephant's delicate wavering
on her circus stool, for instance,
or that moment
when a ladder starts to tip but steadies back.

There are, too, its mysterious departures.

Hours after the dishes are washed and stacked,
a metal bowl clangs to the floor,
the weight of drying water all that altered;
a painting vertical for years
one morning - why? - requires a restoring tap.

You have felt it disappearing
from your own capricious heart --
a restlessness enters, the smallest leaning begins.

Already then inevitable,
the full collision,
the life you will describe afterward always as 'after.'


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems, by Jane Hirshfield , 2016, Bloodaxe Books.  Information about the poet can be found here


Sharing a Poem . . . and Something More

A poem . . . on a beautiful day in a week that's been full of beautiful days!



When Life Seems a To-Do List
Marjorie Saiser

When the squares of the week fill
with musts and shoulds,

when I swim in the heaviness of it,
the headlines, the fear and hate,

then with luck, something like a slice of moon
will arrive clean as bone

and beside it on that dark slate
a star will lodge near the cusp

and with luck I will have you
to see it with, the two of us,

fools stepping out the backdoor
in our pajamas.

Is that Venus? -- I think so -- Let's
call it Venus, cuddling up to the moon

and there are stars further away
sending out rays that will not

reach us in our lifetimes
but we are choosing, before the chaos

starts up again,
to stand in this particular light.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in The Woman in the Moon, by Marjorie Saiser, 2018, The Backwaters Press.  Information about the poet can be found here


The Something More. If you're looking for a meaningful way to observe Juneteenth today, check out this special collection of historical photographs, poems, and articles from The New York Times. And if you're just looking for a good explanation of Juneteenth (how it came to be and why it's particularly relevant now), here's a good article from Vox.


It's Still Friday

. . . and I really need some poetry!

These last couple of days have been a bit, well . . . not quite what I'd expected. But here I am. Everything all working out and tied up with neat little bows and everything. (Y'know, when you lose internet these days . . . you lose so much.) (Just sayin.)


When I need comfort, I turn to my favorite poets. This morning? Billy Collins. And this is a perfect day (at least here in my corner of the world) for this particular poem. (And, yeah. I know it feels more like summer than spring . . . but it's technically still spring. For a couple more days, at least.)




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 sprouting tulips

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.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest - and things that bring you joy.

(And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, by Billy Collins, 2013, Random House.  Information about the poet can be found here. (If you haven't discovered the wonder of Billy Collins yet, oh do give his poetry a read!)


Fridays Are for Poetry

And we desperately need poetry right now.



A Small Needful Fact
Ross Gay

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest - and things that bring you joy.

(And maybe some poetry, too.)


Today's poem was published in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness & Connection, edited by James Crews, 2019, Green Writers Press.  Information about the poet can be found here


PS - If you're looking for a unique and lovely gift for Father's Day - or any occasion - check out the latest offerings by my son, the Green Hat guy!


On a Friday

When only poetry will do.

Today, a poem from (probably) my favorite poet, Wisława Szymborska, who wrote about ordinary life . . . and all its pain and all its joy . . . like no other.

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Reality Demands
Wisława Szymborska

Reality demands
that we also mention this:
Life goes on.
It continues at Cannae and Borodino,
at Kosovo Plje and Guernica.

There's a gas station
on a little square in Jericho,
and wet paint
on park benches in Bila Hora.
Letters fly back and forth
between Pearl Harbor and Hastings,
a moving van passes
beneath the eye of the lion at Cheronea,
and the blooming orchards near Verdun
cannot escape
the approaching atmospheric front.

There is so much Everthing
that Nothing is hidden quite nicely.
Music pours
from the yachts moored at Actium
and couples dance on their sunlit decks.

So much is always going on,
that it must be going on all over.

Where not a stone still stands
you see the Ice Cream Man
besieged by children.
Where Hiroshima had been
Hiroshima is again,
producing many products
for everyday use.

This terrifying world is not devoid of charms,
of the mornings
that make waking up worthwhile.
The grass is green
on Maciejowice's fields,
and it is studded with dew,
as is normal with grass.

Perhaps all fields are battlefields,
all grounds are battlegrounds,
those we remember
and those that are forgotten:
the birch, cedar, and fir forests, the white snow,
the yellow sands, gray gravel, the iridescent swamps,
the canyons of black defeat,
where, in times of crisis,
you can cower under a bush.

What moral flows from this? Probably none.
Only the blood flows, drying quickly,
and, as always, a few rivers, a few clouds.

On tragic mountain passes
the wind rips hats from unwitting heads
and we can't help
laughing at that.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest - and things that bring you joy.

(And maybe some poetry.)


Today's poem was published in View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems, written by Wisława Szymborska and translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, 1995, Harcourt, Inc.  Information about the poet can be found here

And - if you have 5 minutes today - you might enjoy reading Szymborska's Nobel Lecture given in 1996 when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  It is a treat! (You need to scroll down the page a bit to the heading "Nobel Lecture.")


Turning Inward

It's been . . . a weird week for me.  

Nothing "bad" or upsetting or out-of-the ordinary happened (y'know. . . given the times). Life is just trudging along and all. But I'm definitely becoming more . . . introspective . . . about things, the all of it. I'm thinking more and processing. I guess I'm moving along to the "finding meaning" part of the grief spectrum, maybe? 

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Anyway. When I turn inward and get more think-y, I turn to poetry even more than I usually do. So today, I'm sharing a poem that found particular traction for me this week. It's a little longer than poems I usually share here - and I may have shared it before in the past (although not terribly recently), because it's one of my favorites.  I hope you'll like it, too.


You Can't Have It All
Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like.  You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another toward joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd,
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.

And maybe some poetry.


Today's poem was published in Bite Every Sorrow, 1998, Louisiana State University Press.  Information about the poet can be found here.


Fridays Remain for Poetry

Earlier this week, I stumbled across this quote from Mary Oliver . . . 

"Poetry is a life-cherishing force.  For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."
            -- Mary Oliver

As always, she captures the essence of the thing, y'know?


Yesterday, after a day of rain, I was out with the dogs . . . just out around our cabin . . . and I found this little violet, working it's way up through the detritus of dead leaves and old grass to bloom.  Just for me.


It's just a common blue violet, something I get a little annoyed about in my garden beds at home (because they are invasive where you don't want them to be). But they're always charming. Especially in early spring when not much else is blooming.  

And, well.  Especially this year.

Anyway.  Seeing that little blue violet reminded me of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems -- about fleeting beauty and blooming despite inevitable oblivion.  Here it is.  A little Mary Oliver for your Friday!


Moccasin Flower
Mary Oliver

All my life,
  so far,
      I have loved
          more than one thing, 
including the mossy hooves
   of dreams, including
      the spongy litter
         under the tall trees.
In spring
   the moccasin flowers
      reach for the crackling
         lick of the sun
and burn down.  Sometimes
   in the shadows,
      I see the hazy eyes,
         the lamb-lips
of oblivion,
   its deep drowse,
      and I can imagine a new nothing
         in the universe,
the matted leaves splitting,
   open, revealing
      the black planks
         of the stairs.
But all my life -- so far --
   I have loved best
      how the flowers rise
         and open, how
the pink lungs of their bodies
   enter the fire of the world
      and stand there shining
         and willing -- the one
thing they can do before
   they shuffle forward
      into the floor of darkness, they
         become the trees.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.
And maybe some poetry.


Information about the poet can be found here.

Fridays Are For Poetry

. . . and poetry is for times of crisis.

Last month, as I posted poems during National Poetry Month, I got a lot of comments about how relevant and meaningful the poems were.  How timely they were.  How the messages were so important right now.  And I got a lot of comments suggesting that maybe I should keep sharing poems.

Poetry was definitely resonating!

So I did a little research about poetry and times of crisis, and it turns out that . . . yes, indeed, people often turn to poetry when they are troubled.  Poetry gives voice to people and inspires the human spirit.  It enhances our communities while provoking and challenging us all to think bigger, to see things differently.  Poetry gives us both language . . . and space . . . to fill in our own words and experiences.

The Amerian Academy of Poets first launched National Poetry Month in 1996, with the simple goal of helping people discover the power of poetry to "find comfort, resilience, and connection."  Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, has stated that more and more people are turning to poetry “because amid fear and uncertainty, poetry can help bring needed strength.” It can render “tranquility” and bears the “power to bring us together.” She compares poetry to hope -- a salve in a time of anxiety, fear, and social isolation.

In a recent Guardian article, poetry critic Mary Jean Chan has this to say about poetry in the time of pandemic:

"Something about the specificity of poetry allows it to crystalise experience, as if one were pausing time. The brevity of a poem and its precision help us tune out the world and its excesses, so we might return, if only momentarily, to ourselves. As more and more people practise social distancing, what we don’t do becomes just as important as what we accomplish, the way the silences and empty spaces in a poem are crucial to allowing the words that appear on the page to reverberate and sing."

And in a blog post, Anna Delamerced, a physician who uses poetry with hospitalized children, adds these words about the power of beauty in these challenging times:

"One final thing I’ve learned about poetry that is particularly relevant in these times, is that poetry accepts ambiguity. Poems have multiple meanings. There is no one, right way to interpret a poet’s words. Whether haiku or sonnet, free-form, or rhyme, there are as many ways to write a poem as there are to read one. I’ve read too many where I still don’t know the meaning, but was able to extract one of my own. Perhaps that’s the beauty of poetry – sitting in the gray, and still making meaning out of it. Still finding beauty amidst mystery and understanding amidst the confusion. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do amidst this crisis."

So, yeah.  There really is something to the power of poetry . . . and especially in times of crisis. I'll keep sharing poetry for now.  Because I'm "sitting in the gray, and still making meaning out of it."  
And I have a feeling you might be, too.


The Way It Is
William Stafford

There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.
And maybe some poetry


Today's poem was published in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection, 2019, Green Writers Press, and edited by James Crews.  Information about the poet can be found here.



Fridays Are (Still) For Poetry

It's May!  Which means National Poetry Month has wrapped up for another year.  But.  I'm still feeling the need for more poetry in my life, so I'm going to continue sharing some of my favorite poems on Fridays.

I hope you won't mind.


(Grape hyacinths are my favorite spring bulb, and they are popping up all over my garden right now.)


The Cure for It All
Julia Fehrenbacher

Go gently today, don't hurry
or think about the next thing. Walk
with the quiet trees. Can you believe
how brave they are -- how kind? Model your life
after theirs. Blow kisses
at yourself in the mirror

especially when
you think you've messed up. Forgive
yourself for not meeting your unreasonable
expectations. You are human, not
God -- don't be so arrogant.

Praise fresh air,
clean water, good dogs. Spin
something from joy. Open
a window, even if
it's cold outside. Sit. Close
your eyes. Breathe. Allow

the river
of it all to pulse
through eyelashes,
fingertips, bare toes. Breathe in,
breath out. Breathe until

you feel
your bigness, until the sun
rises in your veins. Breathe
until you stop needing
to be different.


My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace and things that bring you joy.
And maybe some poetry


Today's poem was published in Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, 2017, Grayson Books, and edited by Phyllis Cole-Dar and Ruby R. Wilson.  Information about the author can be found here.