Browsing Category "Poems"
27 Jul
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Go On….

Getting Closer
by Mark Nepo

Go on, the voices say, part the veil.
Not with your hands. Hands will only
tangle the hours like a net. Get closer.
So you can part the veil with your breath.
The world keeps moving in on itself. It’s
what it does. Cobwebs. Opinions. Moss.
Worries. Dirt. Leaves. History. Go on. Put
them down and get real close. Open your
mouth and inhale all the way to the begin-
ning, which lives within us, not behind us.
Then wait. When something ordinary starts
to glow, we are getting closer. When the light
off the river paints the roots of that old 
just as you pass, the world is telling you to
stop running. Forget what it means, just
stop running. When the moon makes you
finger the wet grass, the veil is parting.
When the knot you carry is loosened,
the veil is parting. When you can’t help
but say yes to all that is waiting, the
veil is parting.

25 Jul
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Silence Taunts

The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
by Tracy K. Smith

The first track still almost swings. High hat and
snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will singe-out
soon enough.

Synthesized strings. Then something like
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe. Crinkle and
drag. White noise,

Black noise. What must be voices bob up, then
drop, like metal shavings
In molasses. So much for us. So much for the
flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we
filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame.

The dark we’ve only ever imagined now audible,
Marbled with static like grisly meat. A chorus of 
engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disap-
Disappears as if returning somewhere. 

15 Jun
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All That We Live Blind To

In celebration of Tracy K. Smith, our new Poet Laureate!

The Largeness We Can’t See
by Tracy K. Smith

When our laughter skids across the floor
Like beads yanked from some girl’s throat
What waits where the 
laughter gathers?

And later, when our saw-toothed breaths
Lay us down on a bed of leaves, what feeds
With ceaseless focus on the leaves?

It’s solid, yet permeable, like a mood.
Like God, it has no face. Like lust,
It flickers on without a prick of guilt.

We move in and out of rooms, leaving
Our dust, our voices pooled on sills.
We hurry from door to door in a downpour

Of days. Old trees inch up, their trunks thick
With new rings. All that we see grows
Into the ground. And all we live blind to

Leans its deathless heft to our ears
and sings. 

7 Jun
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It Was Like This

Tonight, at 9:30 pm St. Louis time, Pauletta’s family, friends and fellow sangha members will gather to acknowledge and bless her passing by chanting together. I can’t be there in body, but I will certainly be there in voice.

In the mean time, I offer:

It Was Like This: You Were Happy
by Jane Hirshfield

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent–what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness–
between you, there is nothing to forgive–
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts,
sometimes persimmons.


(painting by Pauletta ChancoKnowing When to Stop)

2 Jun
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Always Ready to Burst Forth

Picnic, Lightning
by Billy Collins

My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lighting) when I was three.
— Lolita

It is possible to be struck by a meteor
or a single-engine plane
while reading a chair at home.
Safes drop from rooftops
and flatten the odd pedestrian
mostly within the panels of the comics,
but still, we know it is possible,
as well as the flash of summer lightning,
the thermos toppling over,
spilling out on the grass.

And we know the message
can be delivered from within.
The heart, no valentine,
decides to quite after lunch,
the power shut off like a switch,
or a tiny dark ship is unmoored
into the flow of the body’s rivers,
the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.

This is what I think about
when I shovel compost
into a wheelbarrow,
and when I fill the long flower boxes,
then press into rows

the limp roots of red impatiens–
the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth
from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.

Then the soil is full of marvels,
bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam.
Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue,
the clouds a brighter white,

and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.

30 May
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Understanding Leaves
by Mark Nepo

The leaves do what we can’t.
They wait their whole lives.

At first they dream of air
and wait to slip from wood.

Then they dream of openness
and wait to stretch in light.

Then they dream of thirst
and wait to soften in the rain.

At last they dream of nothing
and simply unfurl.

Photosynthesis is how this waiting
is described in the physical world.

The mystery of waiting is what
turns light into food.

To wait beyond what we think
we can bear is how things
within turn sweet.

25 May
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Soon Now

I got word last night that Pauletta Chanco, who just graduated from the CDL program (in which she was a vibrant presence, even with stage 4 breast cancer) has now entered into the final stage of her dying process.

So for today, I am posting one of Pauletta’s recent works-on-paper, titled Rebirth Pastel 3and this poem by Jane Hirshfield:

Not One Moment of This a Subtraction

all day the daylight coming over the sill
like a wagon
drawn by invisible big-hooved horses working hard

soon now your breathing will climb inside it, go with it away

all your mountains and rivers
your cities and memories
doing their silent handsprings inside it


May you come to the end of suffering, dear Pauletta.
May you be free.

22 May
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The Body Listens

The Night House
by Billy Collins

Every day the body works in the fields of the world
mending a stone wall
or swinging a sickle through the tall grass–
the grass of civics, the grass of money–
and every night the body curls around itself
and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises
from the body in the middle of the night,
leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
with its thick, pictureless walls
to sit by herself at the kitchen table
and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
and opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens
and roams from room to room in the dark,
darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof
in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
singing a song about the wildness of the sea
until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,
talking to each other or themselves
even through the heat of the long afternoons.

Which is why the body–that house of voices–
sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called
before bending again to its labor.

17 May
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Nowhere, nowhere!

When I Was Young and Poor
by Mary Oliver

When I was young and poor,
when little was much,
when I was nimble and never tired,
and the hours of the day were deep and
where was the end that was already
Where was the flesh that thinned and
Nowhere, nowhere!
Just the gift of forgetfulness gracious
and kind
while I ran up hills and drank the wind

time out of mind.

11 May
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The Ground of Being Waits

In the Spaces
by Mark Nepo

Even as a teenager, when left
by my buddies on a night beach,
the heavens opened their ancient
hollow and I wandered in the
safety of wordless spaces.

Though we have to return to
the world, the ground of being
waits in the glint of brick and
the steam rising through
an open window.

I’m thankful that life has
broken my impatience
beyond repair.