Browsing Category "Poems"
18 Oct
2017
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And Yet It Is

It & Co.
by Tracy K. Smith

We are a part of It. Not guests.

Is It us, or what contains us?

How can It be anything but an idea,

Something teetering on the spine

Of the number i? It is elegant

But coy. It avoids the blunt ends

Of our fingers as we point. We

Have gone looking for It everywhere:

In Bibles and bandwidth, blooming

Like a wound from the ocean floor.

Still, It resists the matter of false vs. real.

Unconvinced by our zeal, It is un-

Appeasable. It is like some novels:

Vast and unreadable.

***

(I would add: And yet, It is experienceable.)

9 Oct
2017
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Standing Under

The Buddha taught that suffering is to be understood. We understand suffering by allowing ourselves to feel the truth of it — that is, we “stand under” it — and in doing so, we see its nature, its cause, and perhaps come to a new relationship with the unavoidable fact of it in our lives, one that does not add to that suffering, but instead, leads to its end.

***

At Cafe Sangha on Saturday, Lingli shared with me these two poems written by her professor Rock Cottone, about his son Torre, who was born with muscular dystrophy 17 years ago and who passed away suddenly last week.

Madonna
by Rock Cottone

She held him in her arms.
Thin, frail, weak,
But alive,
Like a sheet draped gently across her arms,
Her Duchenne child,
Dystrophic,
Transformed,
Transfigured,
As the body of Christ
Of Michelangelo’s Pieta,
Yet different,
Because he smiled up at her,
Loved her,
And showed her life.

***

Angle’s Song to Mother
by Rock Cottone

Place your cheek by mine
And look up to the stars that shine,
For you are the mother of an angle child.

Take comfort here.
Relinquish all your fear.
The promise of a healthy child I cannot give.

But know that I have been restyled
To rise up to the brightest start
Against the darkest night.

And as my body fails,
My wings will sprout
To take me on a journey
To a place where spirits soar,
And earthly limits are no more.

I feel your warmth nearby.
Rejoice in knowing I will fly
Unfettered by a corporal cast,
As time relieves me of its grasp.

And though you may feel little solace,
It’s important that you know this:
An eyelash wisp, and angle feather,
We are one, now and forever. 

***

(poems published in “High Romance”, 2012)

5 Oct
2017
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Sound and Silence

Music
by Jane Hirshfield

Why should they please us so,
those impossible runs,

or the knowledge
that the pianist’s hand
has spanned an inhuman distance?

That someone years ago conceived
this might be true
and once again it’s proved?

Light bends in water,
breaks inside cut glass;
I watched this endlessly as a child.

And now do not know which one
I want more
when sometimes I hear the sound,

sometimes the silence,
and they are equally beautiful
and bare.

4 Oct
2017
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Immerse Yourself

Rethinking Time
by Mark Nepo

You can’t hoard moments like coins.
You can only enter them.

You can’t trim hours like wood or glass.
You can only bathe in them.

You can’t add days like a drop of God
to every godless drink.

You can only immerse yourself
in the river that won’t stop carrying us.

Begrudge time and it will skip over you.
But enter, bathe, kiss, and bow. Immerse
yourself in the time you have and time
will carry you through the eye
of its needle into all that is.

2 Oct
2017
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All Your Days

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Aaron and his long-time companion Bryan were married. In celebration of which I offer: 

A Blessing for Wedding
by Jane Hirshfield

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love had been born or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let day and dark bless you
With binding of seed and rind bless you
With snow-chill and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

20 Sep
2017
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If This Is It

The Universe as Primal Scream
by Tracy K. Smith

5pm on the nose. They open their mouths
And it rolls out: high, shrill and metallic.
First the boy, then his sister. Occasionally,
They both let loose at once, and I think
Of putting on my shoes to go up and see
Whether it is merely an experiment
Their parents have been conducting
Upon the good crystal, which must surely
Lie shattered to dust on the floor.

Maybe the mother is still proud
Of the four pink lungs she nursed
To such might. Perhaps, if they hit
The magic decibel, the whole building
Will lift-off, and we’ll ride to glory
Like Elijah. If this is it–if this is what
Their cries are cocked toward–let the sky
Pass from blue, to red, to molten gold,
To black. Let the heaven we inherit approach.

Whether it is our dead in Old Testament robes,
Or a door opening onto the roiling infinity of space.
Whether it will bend down to greet us like a father,
Or swallow us like a furnace. I’m ready
To meet what refuses to let us keep anything
For long. What teases us with blessings,
Bends us with grief. Wizard, thief, the great
Wind rushing to knock our mirrors to the floor,
To sweep our short lives clean. How mean

Our racket seems beside it. My stereo on shuffle.
The neighbor chopping onions through the wall.
All of it just a hiccough against what may never
Come for us. And the kids upstairs still at it,
Screaming like the Dawn of Man, as if something
They have no name for has begun to insist
Upon being born.

***

I read the newspapers and I feel just like those kids.

12 Sep
2017
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I Wish You…

Be a Circle
by Mark Nepo

I wish you the ability to breathe
after pain, to begin again, though
nothing else seems possible.

I wish you resilience: to part like
the ocean and accept like the sky.

I wish you survival: to take in life
like a trapped miner finding an
airhole and praising it as God.

I wish you courage: to ask of
everything you meet, “What
bridge are we?”

I wish that the kindness-that-you-
are can brighten your way,
like orange leaves falling
about the face of a doe.

I wish you endless journey
that seldom appears
as we imagine.

I wish you curiosity: to make
a boat of wonder and an
oar of gratitude.

8 Sep
2017
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The Trouble with Tribes

The Change
by Tony Hoagland

The season turned like the page of a glossy fashion magazine.
In the park the daffodils came up
and in the parking lot, the new car models were on parade.

Sometimes I think that nothing really changes–

The young girls show the latest crop of tummies,
and the new president proves that he’s a dummy.

But remember the tennis match we watched that year?
Right before our eyes

some tough little European blonde
pitted against that big black girl from Alabama,
cornrowed hair and Zulu bangles on her arms,
some outrageous name like Vondella Aphrodite–

We were just walking past the lounge
and got sucked in by the screen above the bar,
and pretty soon
we started to care about who won,

putting ourselves into each whacked return
as the volleys went back and forth and back
like some contest between
the old world and the new,

and you loved her complicated hair
and her to-hell-with-everybody stare,
and I,
I couldn’t help wanting
the white girl to come out on top,

because she was one of my kind, my tribe,
with her pale eyes and thin lips

and because the black girl was so big
and so black,
so unintimidated,

hitting the ball like she was driving the Emancipation Proclamation
down Abraham Lincoln’s throat,
like she wasn’t asking anyone’s permission.

There are moments when history
passes you so close
you can smell its breath,
you can reach your hand out
and touch it on its flank,

and I don’t watch all that much Masterpiece Theatre,
but I could feel the end of an era there

in front of those bleachers full of people
in their Sunday tennis-watching clothes

as that black girl wore down her opponent
then kicked her ass good
then thumped her once more for good measure

and stood up on the red clay court
holding her racket over her head like a guitar.

And the little pink judge
had to climb up on a box
to put the ribbon on her neck,

still managing to smile into the camera flash,
even though everything was changing

and in fact, everything had already changed–

Poof, remember? It was the twentieth century almost gone,
we were there,

and when we went to put it back where it belonged,
it was past us
and we were changed.

***

That’s right, Tony. Change happened — IS happening. And it’s GOOD. May you and your tribe be able to see that at last.

31 Aug
2017
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Let Things Through

Endless Pools
by Mark Nepo

I am awake. It wasn’t always so.
It may not last for long. So let me
say this while my heart is beating like
a river. This life is more than we can
bear. It’s taken years to learn this, to
feel this, to know this in my bones. I’m
not talking about giving up or enduring.
I mean we’re not designed to bear it all.
Anymore than the sun bears the sky or
the wind bears the thousands of leaves
it moves through. We’re only meant to
let things through. I am awake. This time

I fell to it. I was productive. Some said on
fire. Then I tripped on something small.
Like a pebble in your shoe. And fell out
of the dance I had created. The one by
which I knew my worth. I couldn’t get
it back. It depressed me for months. But
like a whale I kept diving down and com-
ing up. Despite the parting of my dream.
Now I’m awake as I never imagined. This
doesn’t preclude pain or weather or dis-
appointment. These as well as joy land
in the lake-like depth that has held us since
birth. Come. Look. Like an endless pool
that clears after a violent rain, you can
see through me. I am awake. 

29 Aug
2017
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Without Clinging

Impossible Dream
by Tony Hoagland

In Delaware a congressman
accused of sexual misconduct
says clearly at the press conference,
speaking
right into the microphone,
that he would like very much
to do it again.

It was on the radio
and Carla laughed
as she painted, Die, You Pig
in red nail polish
on the back of a turtle
she plans to turn loose tomorrow
in Jerry’s backyard.

We lived near the high school that year
and in the afternoons, in autumn,
you could hear the marching-band rehearsals
from the stadium:
off-key trumpets carried by the wind,
drums and weirdly smeared trombones:

a ragged “Louie Louie”
or sometimes, “The Impossible Dream.”

I was reading a book about pleasure,
how you have to glide through it
without clinging,
like an arrow
passing through a target,
coming out the other side and going on.

Sitting at the picnic table
carved with the initials of the previous tenants;
thin October sunlight
blessing the pale grass–
you would have said we had it all–

But the turtle in Carla’s hand
churned its odd, stiff legs like oars,
as if it wasn’t made for holding still,

and the high-school band played
worse than ever for a moment
–as if getting the song right
was the impossible dream.

***

Not impossible, Tony. Not easy, but not impossible.