Naming These Things Is The Love-Act

Patrick Kavanaugh (1904 – 1967)

“I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,

And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

Patrick Kavanaugh


The Hospital

by Patrick Kavanaugh

A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins – an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.

This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these things is the love-act and its pledge;
For we must record love’s mystery without claptrap,
Snatch out of time the passionate transitory.


The Visiting Hour

By Toi Derricotte
he came in his seedy brown jacket smelling of paint.   all
thumbs, a man stumbling over his own muscles, unable to
hold some part of himself and rock it, gently.   she gave
up, seeing him come in the door, wanting to show him her
flat belly just an hour before, looking at her own corpse
in the mirror.   she lay there reduced, neither virgin nor mother.
it had been decided.   the winter was too cold in the garage.
they would live with her mother.   the old bedroom was
already prepared, cleaned, the door opened.   the solitary
twin bed remained; he would sleep on the porch.
she looked at him and tried to feel her way into the body
of a woman, a thing which has to be taken care of, held
safely in his arms.
she lay there, trying to hold on to what she had, knowing
she had to let it go.

Oh Cherry, Why Can’t My Poems Be As Beautiful

Cherries in my Dad’s Garden

Why I Don’t Write About George Floyd

by Toi Derricotte – 1941-

Because there is too much to say
Because I have nothing to say
Because I don’t know what to say
Because everything has been said
Because it hurts too much to say
What can I say what can I say
Something is stuck in my throat
Something is stuck like an apple
Something is stuck like a knife
Something is stuffed like a foot
Something is stuffed like a body

It’s cherry picking time!  It is a short season in my Dad’s backyard coming on the heels of the 4th of the July every year.   No one associates cherries with Minnesota winters as they are too cold for sweet cherries.  But a pie cherry tree situated in the right spot where it gains a little protection from the side of a house can live around 20 years and produce an abundance of tart, wonderfully cherry, pie cherries, despite our harsh winters.   Pie cherries are smaller, little jewels hanging on the tree.  My sister and I love the tradition of coming over and picking with my father.  My father’s zeal to try and harvest every one isn’t like it used to be, but its a lovely July tradition to climb a short ladder and pick and pick and pick in the same spot and hardly seem to make a dent in the bounty of fruit hanging before your eyes.  It is particularly satisfying this year, picking cherries is a reminder of the importance of the simple traditions in our lives that give them context and enjoyment. My father is on the 3rd cherry tree in his current yard.  A reminder that life is short.  It is a reminder to honor beauty and the circle of life that sustains us.   It is a reminder of how fortunate I am.

In the past six weeks I have thought a lot about my good fortune and the word privilege. I have written before about how I realize I won the genetic lottery ticket of all time by growing up white, middle class, in the 1960’s suburban America.  I also agree with Derricotte’s poem above,  I am not sure I am the right person nor do I have the words to add to the discussion.  So what should be my participation in change?  I can add to the discussion by listening, learning, absorbing, reflecting. I can let the discussion lead me to ways that I can be better. And maybe if I commit to change and others do too, we can do better as a society and as a community. Despite the omnipresent reminders in the burned buildings of our failure in my community, cherry picking is a reminder that there is hope.  There is still an ancient beauty that is beyond me, that surrounds me,  that came before me and will last after I am gone.  I can appreciate it, I can savor it, I can honor it and taste its goodness with a grateful and regenerative tongue.  Time to make cherry jam this evening!

Cherry Blossoms

by Toi Derricotte

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
 .                    .          All around us
the blossoms
flurry down

.        .       Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

 .                                     .      Be patient,
.                                .  you have an ancient beauty.