Look In Thy Heart And Write

Sir Philip Sidney


Sonnet 1

By Sir Philip Sidney
Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention’s stay:
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows,
And others’ feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart and write.”

Thou Blind Man’s Mark

by Sir Philip Sidney

Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self chosen snare,
Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scatter’d thought,
Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care,
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought.

Desire, desire I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind thy worthless ware,
Too long, too long asleep thou hast me brought,
Who should my mind to higher things prepare.

But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought,
In vain thou madest me to vain things aspire,
In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire.

For virtue hath this better lesson taught,
Within myself to seek my only hire:
Desiring nought but how to kill desire

Kind Sleep Deceives



Sonnets Pour Helene Book II: XLII

by Pierre de Ronsard

Translated by A. S. Kline 2004

In these long winter nights when the idle Moon
Steers her chariot so slowly on its way,
When the cockerel so tardily calls the day,
When night to the troubled soul seems years through:
I would have died of misery if not for you,
In shadowy form, coming to ease my fate,
Utterly naked in my arms, to lie and wait,
Sweetly deceiving me with a specious view.
The real you is fierce, of pitiless cruelty:
The false you one enjoys, in true intimacy,
I sleep beside your ghost, rest by an illusion:
Nothing’s denied me. So kind sleep deceives
My loving sorrows with your false reality.
In love there is no harm in self-delusion.

Update on the Sonnet From An American Point of View

by Drew Eceu

Wise is the sonneteer who clothed in verse
will choose his cloth for what its swath will bear,
like Esther who addressed the Persian curse
or Joseph wearing bloody camo gear.
Wise is the sonneteer who no one sees
but high or low ‘ll cut an ernest ell.
Fain would he wave his weave with such as these,
no juster tailor found near shore nor dell.
Why at his back the words were thick and worn,
Ronsard, Camões, Pushkin, Rilke, Borges,
Keats, Hopkins, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, torn,
Petrarca, Tasso, and the two Dantes.
How arduous he works at fulling mill,
a Daniel still say I, and dyeing twill.

Now To Witness

Kitty Carpenter

I compare myself to a good barn. You can have a good barn, and if you paint it, it looks a little better. But if you take the paint off, it’s still a good barn.

Dolly Parton

A Landscape

by Carl Dennis

This painting of a barn and barnyard near sundown
May be enough to suggest we don’t have to turn
From the visible world to the invisible
In order to grasp the truth of things.
We don’t always have to distrust appearances.
Not if we’re patient. Not if we’re willing
To wait for the sun to reach the angle
When whatever it touches, however retiring,
Feels invited to step forward
Into a moment that might seem to us
Familiar if we gave ourselves more often
To the task of witnessing. Now to witness
A barn and barnyard on a day of rest
When the usual veil of dust and smoke
Is lifted a moment and things appear
To resemble closely what in fact they are.


The problem with barns, in my experience, is eventually the roof costs more than the barn is worth to the person responsible for paying for a new roof.  Or its too tall, too steep, too frightening to fix those missing shingles or sheet of loosened tin yourself that will eventually spell doom to the rotting timbers below, beyond the reach or means of someone who cares enough to care for them.  Barns require a steady regeneration of young people, with the strength to keep it straight and upright, to nail home the new board on the siding that’s just beyond the reach of your tallest ladder and still have the energy to clean out the old hay where the rats play.

Barns have their own lives, their own ecosystems, their own tender mercies.   I am amazed that no one has developed a cologne that smells like horse sweat, hay,  with a low note of earth and wood.  If an old cowboy wanted to attract a horsey kind of lover, that smell might do the trick to attract the kind of person that could inhale fondly their stink too.   

Barns and love require courage.  Have you ever been on the peak of an old barn that stands over fifty feet off the ground, repairing the lightning rod, with nails in your mouth and hammer in hand, while straddling the slippery tin at its tallest point?  Have you, when you finished fixing what needed fixing, with firm feet planted on either side of the pinnacle risen to your feet and know with every inch of your body that if you lose your balance you are going to wind up dead, or worse a broken back on the pile of the old rusting farrow eternally parked at the bottom of the fall line?  But you do it anyways, because you know you can, because you aren’t cheating death, you are embracing life and curious about the view that is just another three feet taller than where you were sitting.   That’s the human condition, curious what another couple of inches might unfold. 

If you don’t have a barn,  someday, while you are still young enough and sure footed enough, climb to the top of your roof and find out what’s up there.  Find out what you can see on your farthest horizon.  Then decide if your mind is still made up on where your future path lies.


Farm Sonnet

By Kitty Carpenter
The barn roof sags like an ancient mare’s back.
The field, overgrown, parts of it a marsh
where the pond spills over. No hay or sacks
of grain are stacked for the cold. In the harsh
winters of my youth, Mama, with an axe,
trudged tirelessly each day through deep snow,
balanced on the steep bank, swung down to crack
the ice so horses could drink. With each blow
I feared she would fall, but she never slipped.
Now Mama’s bent and withered, vacant gray
eyes fixed on something I can’t see. I dip
my head when she calls me Mom. What’s to say?
The time we have’s still too short to master
love, and then, the hollow that comes after.

The Life You’ve Chosen

Carl Dennis

I made a list of things I have
to remember and a list
of things I want to forget,
but I see they are the same list

Linda Pastan


by Linda Pastan
For Ira

With the seal of science
on your forehead,
like the old Good Housekeeping
Seal of Approval,
I believe what you tell me
about cells and molecules,
though I can’t see them.
And though the language you speak
is full of numbers and symbols
I’ll never understand;
though your tie is askew
and your hair unruly, still I believe
what you say about the size of the universe,
which is either expanding or contracting,
I’ve forgotten which already.
So if tomorrow you tell me
you made a small miscalculation,
that God indeed created the world
in 6 short days, then rested on the 7th,
that it was Eve who landed us
in all this trouble, I would believe you.
I would believe you
as I’ve always done before.

The God Who Loves You

By Carl Dennis
It must be troubling for the god who loves you   
To ponder how much happier you’d be today   
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings   
Driving home from the office, content with your week—
Three fine houses sold to deserving families—
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened   
Had you gone to your second choice for college,   
Knowing the roommate you’d have been allotted   
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music   
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.   
A life thirty points above the life you’re living   
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point   
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.   
You don’t want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day’s disappointments   
So she can save her empathy for the children.   
And would you want this god to compare your wife   
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?   
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation   
You’d have enjoyed over there higher in insight   
Than the conversation you’re used to.
And think how this loving god would feel   
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife   
Would have pleased her more than you ever will   
Even on your best days, when you really try.   
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives   
You’re spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him   
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill   
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you   
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene   
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him   
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend   
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven’t written in months. Sit down tonight   
And write him about the life you can talk about   
With a claim to authority, the life you’ve witnessed,   
Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.

It Might Have Been Otherwise

Jane Kenyon

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

Donald Hall


by Jane Kenyon (1947 – 1995)

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.”


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 basket maker,
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.”

Crimsoned With Joy

The Red Carpet Treatment at The Farm

And a bird overhead sang Follow,

And a bird to the right sang Here;

And the arch of the leaves was hollow,

And the meaning of May was clear.

Algernon Charles Swinburne


by Amy Lowell

Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
The end lost in dream,
They float past our view,
We only watch their glad, early start.

Freighted with hope,
Crimsoned with joy,
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
Their widening scope,
Their distant employ,
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one is gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.


After a long winter, there is something magical with the speed with which Minnesota transforms from brown to green.   Two weeks ago I would have bet that the crab apple trees would not be blooming by Mother’s Day and then, viola, magic happens.   All the fruit trees burst out in blossom, the linden’s perfume places you would never expect and in general I pinch myself every morning in how beautiful it is in May in Minnesota.   All of the fruit trees I planted this year came through the drought and then the record snowfall.  They are ready to grow this year.  May in Minnesota is darn near perfect, perfect temperatures, first half virtually no mosquitoes and every day a new flower blooming in the yard.   The lilacs will be up next, then the iris, then on and on.    


Smell is the Last Memory To Go

by Fatimah Asghar 
on my block, a gate
on my block, a tree smelling
of citrus & jasmine that knocks
me back into the arms of my dead
mother. i ask Ross how can a tree
be both jasmine & orange, on my block
my neighbors put up gates & stare
don’t like to share, on my block
a tree I can’t see, but can smell
a tree that can’t be both but is
on my block, my mother’s skirt twirls
& all i smell is her ghost, perfume
on my block, a fallen orange
smashed into sidewalk
its blood pulped on asphalt on my
block, Jordan hands me a jasmine
by the time i get home
all its petals are gone


Were It Not For The Way You Taught Me To Look At The World

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

Mark Twain

Song for Nobody

by Thomas Merton

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no colour
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)

A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

Mother (An Excerpt)

by Ted Kooser

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.

Write A Poem About This

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

“Let’s feed out tears to the dragons of misery, but let’s never crawl in their mouths.”

Cristin O-Keefe Aptowicz

My Mother Wants To Know If I’m Dead

by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

RE YOU DEAD? is the subject line of her email.
The text outlines the numerous ways she thinks
I could have died: slain by an axe-murderer, lifeless
on the side of a highway, choked to death by smoke
since I’m a city girl and likely didn’t realize you needed
to open the chimney flue before making a fire (and,
if I do happen to be alive, here’s a link to a YouTube
video on fireplace safety that I should watch). Mom
muses about the point of writing this email. If I am
already dead, which is what she suspects, I wouldn’t
be able to read it. And if I’m alive, what kind of daughter
am I not to write her own mother to let her know
that I’ve arrived at my fancy residency, safe and sound,
and then to immediately send pictures of everything,
like I promised her! If this was a crime show, she posits,
the detective might accuse her of sending this email
as a cover up for murder. How could she be the murderer,
if she wrote an email to her daughter asking if she was murdered?
her defense lawyers would argue at the trial. In fact,
now that she thinks of it, this email is the perfect alibi
for murdering me. And that is something I should
definitely keep in mind, if I don’t write her back
as soon as I have a free goddamn second to spare.

Sleeping in Late with My Mother

by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

She apologizes. It’s not like her. She’s usually up by six.
But it’s the weekend, you tell her, there is no need to rush!

The plan for the day is breakfast somewhere and walking
somewhere else. I’m happy, but Mom can’t believe that

she forgot to bring conditioner, or that she slept so late.
The housekeeper at the discount hotel knocks. We’re still here,

we’re still here!
she shouts back. Girls’ weekend, just us two,
and still we have to remind each other it’s okay to take our time.

No rush, we say to each other, firmly. I’m writing two poems
a day all summer: one every morning and again every night.

It is morning and my mom tells me, Write a poem about this,
but don’t mention I slept in so late! Just put down that your mother

is taking it easy, that your mother is taking her time for once!
So I do
what she says, sort of. And the housekeeper knocks again.

But this time, my mother doesn’t jump. Instead, she leans back,
comfortable, and shouts: Still here, Still here! We are still here!

To My Mother

Edgar Allan Poe

“I was never really insane except upon occasions when my heart was touched.”

Edgar Allan Poe

To My Mother

By Edgar Allan Poe
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

Sonnets Are Full of Love

By Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come

And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Joy’s Perfect Wholeness

e. e. cummings

“Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.”

e. e. cummings

if there are any heavens

by e. e. cummings

if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be(deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my
(swaying over her
with eyes which are really petals and see

nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
which whisper
This is my beloved my
(suddenly in sunlight

he will bow,

& the whole garden will bow)

your homecoming will be my homecoming

by e. e. cummings

your homecoming will be my homecoming-

my selves go with you, only i remain;
a shadow phantom effigy or seeming
(an almost someone always who’s noone)

a noone who, till their and your returning,
spends the forever of his loneliness
dreaming their eyes have opened to your mourning

feeling their stars have risen through your skies:

so, in how merciful love’s own name, linger
no more than selfless i can quite endure
the absence of that moment when a stranger
takes in his arms my very lifes who’s you

-when all fears hopes beliefs doubts disappear.
Everywhere and joy’s perfect wholeness we’re