Two Who Are Mostly Good

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I love potatoes and my potatoes love me.

Potato

by Jane Kenyon

In haste one evening while making dinner
I threw away a potato that was spoiled
on one end. The rest would have been

redeemable. In the yellow garbage pail
it became the consort of coffee grounds,
banana skins, carrot peelings.
I pitched it onto the compost
where steaming scraps and leaves
return, like bodies over time, to earth.

When I flipped the fetid layers with a hay
fork to air the pile, the potato turned up
unfailingly, as if to revile me—

looking plumper, firmer, resurrected
instead of disassembling. It seemed to grow
until I might have made shepherd’s pie
for a whole hamlet, people who pass the day
dropping trees, pumping gas, pinning
hand-me-down clothes on the line.

 


Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope this Thanksgiving finds you surrounded by friends and family bound together by gratitude, sharing food and fellowship.  Will you say a prayer of thanksgiving as you sit down together to eat? Aloud or silently?  What are you grateful for and to whom do you want to bestow a prayer gratitude? Gratefulness and thankfulness are founded on awareness. Without being aware of how we are connected to our communities, our families, our co-workers our friends, we can’t be thankful.

Is not prayer also a study of truth,–a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily, without learning something. But when a faithful thinker, resolute to detach every object from personal relations, and see it in the light of thought, shall, at the same time, kindle science with the fire of the holiest affections, then will god go forth anew into creation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In an increasingly secular world, where talk of God and gratitude make some at our tables uncomfortable, invite everyone to speak their truth on what they are thankful for, regardless if the only divinity is desert and your personal prayer of thanksgiving is said in silence with eyes wide open smiling at  each of the people present at your table.

Take the time this holiday weekend to give thanks.  Pick up the phone and call an old friend.  Touch base with the elderly family member that might be feeling isolated.  Commune with nature and talk a walk of thanksgiving – thinking about all you have to be grateful for in  your life.

Happy Thanksgiving.


The Bean Eaters

by Gwendolyn Brooks

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
          is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
          tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

She Envies You Your Fury

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Gwendolyn Brooks

 

To A Winter Squirrel

By Gwendolyn Brooks

That is the way God made you.
And what is wrong with it? Why, Nothing.
Except that you are cold and cannot cook.
Merdice can cook. Merdice
Of Murdered heart and docked sarcastic soul.
Merdice
The bolted Nomad, on a winter noon
Cook guts; and sits in gas. (She has no shawl, her landlord has no coal.)
You out beyond the shellac of her look
And of her sill!
She envies you your fury
Buffoonery
That enfolds your silver skill
She thinks you are a mountain and a star, unbaffleable;
With sentient twitch and scurry.


 

SONNET 34

Ted Berrigan

Time flies by like a great whale
And I find my hand grows stale at the throttle
Of my many faceted and fake appearance
Who bucks and spouts by detour under the sheets
Hollow portals of solid appearance
Movies are poems, a holy bible, the great mother to us
People go by in the fragrant day
Accelerate softly my blood
But blood is still blood and tall as a mountain blood
Behind me green rubber grows, feet walk
In wet water, and dusty heads grow wide
Padré, Father, or fat old man, as you will,
I am afraid to succeed, afraid to fail,
Tell me now, again, who I am?

No Velvet and No Velvety Velour

Gwendolyn Brooks.jpg
Gwendolyn Brooks

What Shall I Give My Children

by Gwendolyn Brooks

What shall I give my children? who are poor,
Who are adjudged the leastwise of the land,
Who are my sweetest lepers, who demand
No velvet and no velvety velour;
But who have begged me for a brisk contour,
Crying that they are quasi, contraband
Because unfinished, graven by a hand
Less than angelic, admirable or sure.

My hand is stuffed with mode, design, device.
But I lack access to my proper stone
And plenitude of plan shall not suffice
Nor grief nor love shall be enough alone
To ratify my little halves who bear
Across an autumn freezing everywhere .


It’s Ground Hog Day.   A perfectly silly tradition with no less than pomp and circumstance surrounding the formal process of observing Punxsutawney Phil either see or not see his shadow.  I think the Pennsylvania Dutch who came up with this quaint tradition were suffering from vitamin D deficiency at this point in the winter and couldn’t think straight, because I have always thought they got it mixed up.  If the ground-hog sees his shadow and retreats to his burrow, (is it because he is afraid of his shadow?), then its six more weeks of winter, but if it’s cloudy and he ventures out then spring will arrive early. Doesn’t it make more sense if the sun is out that spring is coming early? In Minnesota, only six more weeks of winter, means spring has arrived way early. So I guess according to this tradition we’re a winner winner, chicken dinner no matter which way things go down with Mr P. Phil Ground Hog today.

It is a pleasure to revisit Gwendolyn Brooks at the start of Black History month. I love the playfulness in the word selection of Brooks’ poetry, even in the most serious of subject matters. It creates an odd tension, a contradiction that conveys a complexity. In the sonnet this playfulness says to me that being poor is not one thing, and not all bad, but that her “little halves”  are whole people who still know the feel of velvet. As a friend of mine reminds me it’s not a crime to be poor. Although we treat it as such sometimes with ways we penalize those without adequate means.

I was tempted to share Brooks’ poem “The Boy Died In My Alley” as it fits the Ground Hog Day theme of repetition, from the Bill Murray film by the same name. Brooks’ captures in that poem the senselessness of gun violence in our communities that is no different today than when she wrote the poem. Gun violence is a scourge in our country in all our communities, not just communities of color. But I decided against it. We’re all a little short of vitamin D after being cooped up for several weeks of cold weather, we may not be thinking straight, so let’s think about love instead. Better to be confused by love than anything else. Valentines Day is right around the corner and it’s not too late to make a date and ask that someone out who already has your heart or maybe has just caught your eye.


To Be In Love

by Gwendolyn Brooks

To be in love
Is to touch with a lighter hand.
In yourself you stretch, you are well.
You look at things
Through his eyes.
A cardinal is red.
A sky is blue.
Suddenly you know he knows too.
He is not there but
You know you are tasting together
The winter, or a light spring weather.
His hand to take your hand is overmuch.
Too much to bear.
You cannot look in his eyes
Because your pulse must not say
What must not be said.
When he
Shuts a door-
Is not there_
Your arms are water.
And you are free
With a ghastly freedom.
You are the beautiful half
Of a golden hurt.
You remember and covet his mouth
To touch, to whisper on.
Oh when to declare
Is certain Death!
Oh when to apprize
Is to mesmerize,
To see fall down, the Column of Gold,
Into the commonest ash.

 

Strange Possessive Arms

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Gwendolyn Brooks

 

Sonnet – Ballad

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?
They took my lover’s tallness off to war,
Left me lamenting. Now I cannot guess
What I can use an empty heart-cup for.
He won’t be coming back here any more.
Some day the war will end, but, oh, I knew
When he went walking grandly out that door
That my sweet love would have to be untrue.
Would have to be untrue. Would have to court
Coquettish death, whose impudent and strange
Possessive arms and beauty (of a sort)
Can make a hard man hesitate—and change.
And he will be the one to stammer, “Yes.”
Oh mother, mother, where is happiness?

 

 

We Real Cool

by Gwendolyn Brooks

The Pool Players.
. .Seven at the Golden Shovel.

. .We real cool. We
. .Left school. We

. .Lurk late. We
. .Strike straight. We

. .Sing sin. We
. .Thin gin. We

. .Jazz June. We
. .Die soon.

Copyright 1963 Gwendolyn Brooks