There are lines of yours I know by heart. There are scents of yours soaked in my skin.
praise poets and their pens
praise daily poems in my inbox how they make me laugh in one stanza, then break my heart the next praise how poets hold onto our first loves, and scent of mama, now gone praise how we nurture our child self, gently wrap her around stanzas, baby girl is resilient praise our spunk and our sadness, let our writing heal at home, at work, in cafés, even in the ICU praise how we hold our memories up to light, gentle and cupped in palm of hands praise our rough and sexy poems, sometimes that’s all we need fiyah in the sheets praise bebop and jazz how my foot taps when i speak your poems out loud praise power of music and mama who played Nancy Wilson all night long, crying behind a closed door. praise how i wrote a new poem this week, while my sick child laid on my lap, because everyone needs to heal, especially mamas.
by Marilyn Hacker
Epithalamion? Not too long back I was being ironic about “wives.” It’s very well to say, creation thrives on contradiction, but that’s a fast track shifted precipitately into. Tacky, some might say, and look mildly appalled. On the whole, it’s one I’m likely to be called on. Explain yourself or face the music, Hack. No law books frame terms of this covenant. It’s choice that’s asymptotic to a goal, which means that we must choose, and choose, and choose momently, daily. This moment my whole trajectory’s toward you, and it’s not losing momentum. Call it anything we want.
I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.
by Joyce Kilmer
When Dawn strides out to wake a dewy farm Across green fields and yellow hills of hay The little twittering birds laugh in his way And poise triumphant on his shining arm. He bears a sword of flame but not to harm The wakened life that feels his quickening sway And barnyard voices shrilling “It is day!” Take by his grace a new and alien charm.
But in the city, like a wounded thing That limps to cover from the angry chase, He steals down streets where sickly arc-lights sing, And wanly mock his young and shameful face; And tiny gongs with cruel fervor ring In many a high and dreary sleeping place.
(For Sara Teasdale)
by Joyce Kilmer
The lonely farm, the crowded street, The palace and the slum, Give welcome to my silent feet As, bearing gifts, I come.
Last night a beggar crouched alone, A ragged helpless thing; I set him on a moonbeam throne — Today he is a king.
Last night a king in orb and crown Held court with splendid cheer; Today he tears his purple gown And moans and shrieks in fear.
Not iron bars, nor flashing spears, Not land, nor sky, nor sea, Nor love’s artillery of tears Can keep mine own from me.
Serene, unchanging, ever fair, I smile with secret mirth And in a net of mine own hair I swing the captive earth.
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers, know there is richest juice in poison flowers.
On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
by John Keats
My spirit is too weak—mortality Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep, And each imagined pinnacle and steep Of godlike hardship tells me I must die Like a sick eagle looking at the sky. Yet ‘tis a gentle luxury to weep, That I have not the cloudy winds to keep, Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye. Such dim-conceived glories of the brain Bring round the heart an indescribable feud; So do these wonders a most dizzy pain, That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude Wasting of old Time—with a billowy main— A sun—a shadow of a magnitude.
“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limon
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
by John Clare
The spring is coming by a many signs; The trays are up, the hedges broken down, That fenced the haystack, and the remnant shines Like some old antique fragment weathered brown. And where suns peep, in every sheltered place, The little early buttercups unfold A glittering star or two–till many trace The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold. And then a little lamb bolts up behind The hill and wags his tail to meet the yoe, And then another, sheltered from the wind, Lies all his length as dead–and lets me go Close bye and never stirs but baking lies, With legs stretched out as though he could not rise.
“I am two fools, I know, For loving, and for saying so.”
The World’s Last Night
by John Donne
What if this present were the worlds last night?
Marke in my heart, O Soule, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright,
Teares in his eyes quench the amasing light,
Blood fills his frownes, which from his pierc’d head fell.
And can that tongue adjudge thee unto hell,
Which pray’d forgivenesse for his foes fierce spight?
No, no; but as in my idolatrie
I said to all my profane mistresses,
Beauty, of pitty, foulnesse onely is
A signe of rigour: so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assign’d,
This beauteous forme assures a pitious minde.
Holy Sonnet: XII
by John Donne
WHY are wee by all creatures waited on?
Why doe the prodigall elements supply
Life and food to mee, being more pure than I,
Simple, and further from corruption?
Why brook’st thou, ignorant horse, subjection?
Why dost thou bull, and bore so seelily
Dissemble weaknesses and by’one mans stroke die,
Whose whole kinde, you might swallow and feed upon?
Weaker I am, woe is mee, and worse than you,
You have not sinn’d, nor need be timorous.
But wonder at a greater wonder, for to us
Created nature doth these things subdue,
But their Creator, whom sin, nor nature tyed,
For us, his Creatures, and his foes, hath dyed.
The impulse to create is pure, self sufficient, its own reward or punishment.
Vernon Scannell, A Proper Gentleman.
by Vernon Scannell (1922 – 2007)
My son aged three fell in the nettle bed. ‘Bed’ seemed a curious name for those green spears, That regiment of spite behind the shed: It was no place for rest. With sobs and tears The boy came seeking comfort and I saw White blisters beaded on his tender skin. We soothed him till his pain was not so raw. At last he offered us a watery grin, And then I took my billhook, honed the blade And went outside and slashed in fury with it Till not a nettle in that fierce parade Stood upright any more. And then I lit A funeral pyre to burn the fallen dead, But in two weeks the busy sun and rain Had called up tall recruits behind the shed: My son would often feel sharp wounds again.
Happy Easter. It is a late spring after a cold winter in Minnesota. In my part of the world, regardless the date Easter falls, the minute a farmer puts down his fork after eating ham on Easter Sunday, they think its time to start planting. Patience will be required this year, as the soils are still too wet, the frost is still in the ground, and fields are not fit for spring planting activities to commence. Fresh snow fell across much of the state in the past week. A patient April reigns supreme.
I am personally in need of a James Wright kind of spring; one where in a flourish I suddenly blossom, a spring where the world is in a hurry to become a kaleidoscope of color. We don’t always get what we want. We don’t even get what we need sometimes. In the words of my Mother, a wise, long time kindergarten teacher, “you get what you get, so don’t get upset.” It works for what’s left on the cookie plate and for dealing with mother nature.
In contemplation of Easter’s story of sacrifice, I ponder if human kind is capable of evolving from a state of conflict to a process of resolution or is all peace a solitary and temporary detente? I spent time reviewing religious sonnets with Easter themes and came away from all of them feeling grim. Not the kind of emotion I wanted to share today. Instead I decided to think of Easter as a prayer for our collective sons. What do we wish for our children? Happiness, prosperity, a life well lived. When are we going to stop sending sons (and daughters) into contrived battles of our own making and set them free to live their own lives? Conflict is a generational curse, passed down as an obligation, an inheritance, unless people have the courage to change course. Who will change the course of the war in Ukraine? If it left to the battle field, the conflict will only be seeded deeper in the fertile Ukrainian soil. Easter can also be a story of transformation, rejuvenation, re-birth, the best of what Spring has to offer. What re-birth awaits for you in the coming month? What transformation do you summon the courage to awaken?
by Mihaela Moscaliuc
for my son, enwombed
May you harvest your language from the alphabet of butterflies, may their wings brushstroke your name on translucent scrolls, filter air for your breath, teach you flight the way I can’t.
May you preserve the wisdom with which you arrive, the metaphors through which you’ll first parse the world, the moon always a ripe banana, always within reach.
May your fingers tease and probe all truths. It’s not the grain of sand, as we hold dear, but organisms wayward in their drift that, trapped, abrade the oyster’s flesh.
Errant breather smothered into loveliness, the pearl has its own song. If you drag it ashore
language loses meaning, so bring your ear to the ocean floor. There, neither fish nor son, eavesdrop.
Neither fish nor son yet, call sister sister and lie awhile by the echo. While there, bless the echo and learn
When I was a little boy, mine was the kind of toy box that contained a gyroscope, tops of various sorts, a microscope, magnifying glasses, bottles and bug collectors and other assortments of things that were not strictly toys, they were ways to investigate the world. If I reflect on it, I spent the vast majority of my play time engaged in a study of physics. Isn’t that what a frisbee is ultimately, a tool for the study of physics? Also a hot wheel car set upon a track with no power other than the size of the height of the encyclopedias I would concoct, to get the best run and series of undulations, right down to the last book, so that the car could make it to the end of the track that I had created through the living room and down the long hall way. Climbing trees, is a study in physics, so is riding a bike, ping pong, baseball. The problem with electronics is a video game is not a study in physics, it is a study in communication. I preferred the world when it was dominated by the former.
I have had a hard time of late finding anything relevant to add to the poems I have been sharing. It is hard to watch the world be ill, seriously ill. I feel like we are watching our planet spin like a gyroscope, on its axis, like it always has and we have assumed it always will. Suddenly it has begun to wobble and without our collective imaginations to get it spinning at the proper speed again, its at risk of falling over, motionless and emotionless. Is emotion an extension of motion? Does that mean it is an extension of physics, our physical selves?
I spent some time this week in unbridled play, sheer silliness, like children chasing after a ball. There was no point to the 2 hours other than to have fun. There was nothing profound about it, yet the time was utterly transforming for the emotions of the group. Everyone came away energized, excited, closer. Why don’t we play with our friends more? The great tragedy of the COVID pandemic is not just the millions of lives lost, but also the life lost of the living. We started seeing our friends as something to avoid, something we had to protect ourselves from, rather than the cure to what ails us all. Netflix and books and social media can not replace playing with your friends. Electronics can not replace physics. Physics is what makes the world go round. I think we have to re-imagine our futures, like Stevenson. But this time, let’s imagine a future without toy soldiers, without any soldiers. Let’s get the planet spinning again at its proper speed, sustainably, enthusiastically.
FYI – a counterpane is a quilt or bedspread.
The Land of Counterpane
Robert Louis Stevenson – 1850-1894
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head, And all my toys beside me lay To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so I watched my leaden soldiers go, With different uniforms and drills, Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets All up and down among the sheets; Or brought my trees and houses out, And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still That sits upon the pillow-hill, And sees before him, dale and plain, The pleasant land of counterpane.
Give me my rein, my syce! Give me my rein!
I have a need of it, an absolute need,
To climb upon the bounding back again
And curb the bad, mad gambols of my steed.
‘Tis strange we are thus parted—by no lust
Of mine, but rather blind, unwearied force
That worked upon the sinews of my horse,
And drove me from him, howling in the dust.
Now he is neither gentle, kind nor quiet,
And he strives (though vainly) to outleap his girth,
While right and left the armed hooves are hurled.
Oh Destrier! bethink thee that this riot
Shall, in the end, bring neither rest nor mirth….
Only the heaviest bit in all the world.
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son