Browsing Category "Poems"
18 Jan
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And This Was Called History

(Note: I wasn’t able to post yesterday because I was overcome by a particularly noxious bout of food poisoning. Ah, but now that has passed. Sometimes impermanence is your friend!)

For today, I offer:

The Future
by Billy Collins

When I finally arrive there–
and it will take many days and nights–
I would like to believe others will be waiting
and might even want to know how it was.

So I will reminisce about a particular sky
or a woman in a white bathrobe
or the time I visited a narrow strait
where a famous naval battle had taken place.

Then I will spread out on a table
a large map of my world
and explain to the people of the future
in their pale garments what it was like–

how mountains rose between the valleys
and this was called geography,
how boats loaded with cargo plied the rivers
and this was known as commerce,

how the people from this pink area
crossed over into this light-green area
and set fires and killed whoever they found
and this was called history–

and they will listen, mild-eyed and silent,
as  more of them arrive to join the circle,
like ripples moving toward,
not away from, a stone tossed into a pond.

16 Jan
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Seek an End to Bondage

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — the man and the day — I offer this poem from Appalachian Elegy, by bell hooks:


stained black
Kentucky oak
plank fences
mark boundaries
ghost riders
where the dead live
on the edge of time
slaves worked here
long ago
caressing horse flesh

breathing shared dreams
cared for them
when witnessing
the breaking of yet
another animal spirit
born to be wild and free
a bond forged
whisper to forgotten souls
run run
go as fast as you can
run run
seek an end to bondage


(image: casket of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during funeral procession in King’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia)

6 Jan
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Put Out A Sign

An Open Hand
by Mark Nepo

The mind is not a storeroom
with mirrors where we retreat
to convince ourselves
that we exist.

The mind is a livingroom with
windows and more than one chair,
so friends can come and look out
and discuss what they see.

Not a fortress where we frisk and
strip others of what they believe
in order to share our secrets.

More a porch with birdfeeders
and coffee or tea where before
hello, you have to share a story.

Pull the curtains! Open the
windows! Brew the coffee!
Put out a sign: Other Views

4 Jan
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Carry Nothing on Your Back

from Appalachian Elegy
by bell hooks


bring Buddha
to rest home
in Kentucky hills
that outside each window
a light may shine
not a guilt teaching tradition

be balanced
know loving kindness
end suffering
rejoice in the oneness of life
then let go
carry nothing on your back
travel empty
as you climb steep mountain paths

29 Dec
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When the Plain World Comes

Tomorrow is my birthday. In anticipation of which, my attention turns to:

The Other Earth
by Jane Hirshfield

At first we embrace trees.
Lie with the swan, the bull, become stars.

Blackbirds form bridges across the sky:
we pass, lightly placing our feet.
The god enters our rooms in a shower of gold.
Into the intricate maze a white thread,
a woman, a fish come to guide our way out.

Docile as horses, we go.

When the plain world comes,
with its explanations
smooth and cool as a marble statue’s skin,
we go, rising out of the dark.
Being careless and proud, we look back
towards the other earth:
how it wavers and goes out,
like a girl with an errand to do in another room.

22 Dec
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In This World of Nature

The news. I want to stay informed. But sometimes it’s just too much. Still, things are as they are. It does not help to look away.

from Appalachian Elegy
by bell hooks


winds of fate
take the air
push it past the known
in this world of nature
no one can undo
mystery abounds
harsh cold burns skin

fire waits
raging tempests
sweep us
carry us toward
destiny recorded
written down
past present future
change comes

14 Dec
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For Whose Sake We Practice

With Singing and Banners
by Jane Hirshfield

Demonsthenes, a wise man, filled his mouth
with pebbles before speaking;
and a stream which has run ten feet over rocks
is clear, they say, and 
safe to drink.
Yet still we forget what is owed our failures–
blessings, to praise the stumbled on stone.
And forget what we once knew, how to properly greet
old enemies, for whose sake we practice and parry,
become strong:
with singing and banners, with gladness.

9 Dec
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Everyday the Blessing of Weather


From Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks:


returning to sacred places
where all is one
embraced belonging
an intense field of possibility
wondrous goodness
fills the air
grant us great spirits

another chance
to reclaim and nurture earth
glorious sky
divine water
in everyday the blessing of weather
offering change
a constant passing
of life into death
and back again

7 Dec
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You Near It In Circles

wgtiphone3Toward the Infinite
by Jane Hirshfield

You might take it for a given:
how numbers climb
first quickly,
then more slowly toward the infinite,
the way an aging man climbs stairs
first with a hand to the banister,
then pausing between landings,
then not at all.

Or the desert fathers
hunting their God from the beehived caves–
how hunger brought him closer,
lessened the distance between eye and star,
as light became only an absence
of the long familiar dark.

You near it in circles, the way
a dog circles his sleep before lying down:
the ascetics die with their gnosis
concealed among them, sifted, particular sand.
The man moves to a ground-floor flat and brews his tea,
the numbers continue in lengthy approach.
And your eye for a moment settles
on the breast of a strange girl;
you know her then entirely
before she passes out of view.

2 Dec
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And What Does He Do?


The Duck
by Donald Babcock

Now we’re ready to look at something pretty special. It’s a duck, riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf. No it isn’t a gull. A gull always has a raucous touch about him. This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.

He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over. There is a big heaving in the Atlantic, and he is a part of it.

He looks a bit like the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree.

But he hardly has enough above the eyes to be a philosopher. He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.

He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.

Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is. And neither do you. But he realizes it.

And what does he do, I ask you? He sits down in it! He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity — which it is. He has made himself a part of the boundless by easing himself into it just where it touches him.

I like the duck. He doesn’t know much, but he’s got religion.