Browsing Category "Poems"
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.

1 Dec
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Always There Is Desire


(And why this poem, today? I don’t know. Best then to stay with the question.)

by Jane Hirshfield

n.: 1. a song to quiet children or to lull them to sleep; a cradlesong. 2. music for this. 3. good night or good-by; a farewell

Always there is desire,
only the shape
of what is desired shifts,
each love giving way to another,
from the first sound
of heartbeat inconceivably there,
and on

into the face that rises like a moon
beyond the world’s edge;
into the milk that teaches

earliest meaning, hunger;
into the tumbling of breast, of belly heat,
of hands, that encourage the body
to meaning of its own;
into the close-tucked blankets, nascent trust
that existence will hold through the night;
into the dangled colors, first temptation,
that come and go;
into that song that wanders beyond knowing
out of lips;
into the climbing bafflement of change;
into the first power,
to call forth;
into the second power,
to move;
into the third power,
into the loneliness of self.

And now, desire fully mounted,
the branch full-laden with flower,
white hands of strangers start to summon
an awkward, ground-risen heat,
knowledge takes root in the body daily more sure,
it cries out and cries out again in startled awe–

Until, when the whole music is breaking
full-throated into the ears,
the next desire begins to whisper
into the stateliness of bones, a pull,
into the steadiness of blood, a weight,

and flavors of early apples appear on the tongue,
feet come to travel the ground more slowly again,
the map of the face grows detailed, a country known,

and the new love comes,
if the heart
will open enough, will let enough go to make room:

love of the structure of things,
bare branches of trees;
love of the overly large, the poorly made,
the somehow wrong;
love of the golden net,
the promises and guile of words;
love of the strength
that is passing from the legs;
love of the colors
daily leaving the eyes;
love of the delicacy
that abandons the wrists;
love of all powers
that diminish out of the body,
calling farewell
to the ears that forget to listen,
to the nerve-ends fraying with use,
to the breathing that retrenches into itself,
to the beautiful skin grown tired of dividing the earth
into ours, not ours,
as we tire too, of holding separate,

and love of self that was once so clear
grows suddenly simple, widens,
as a mother’s hand smoothing a sheet,
as water that broadens and flattens,
taking the shape of the darkened, still-reflecting

29 Nov
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Without Which You Have No Reason To

ff1e975020e7f89b84e86b3a8a71d623I’m not sure why today, of all days, I feel like posting this poem.

Maybe it’s because my cats got into another fight this morning. (Nothing serious. But a definite setback in the peace-making process.)

Or because I was at the hospital with my sister most of the day yesterday. (A routine preventative procedure. But still.)

Or maybe it’s the accumulative effect of reading the newspaper again and again.

The News
by Tony Hoagland

The big country beat the little country up
like a schoolyard bully,
so an even bigger country stepped in
and knocked it on its ass to make it nice,
which reminds me of my Uncle Bob’s
philosophy of parenting.

It’s August, I’m sitting on the porch swing,
touching the sores inside my mouth
with the tip of my tongue, watching the sun
go down in the west like a sinking ship,
from which a flood of sticky orange bleeds out.

It’s the hour of meatloaf perfume emanating from the houses.
It’s the season of Little League practice
and atonal high-school band rehearsals.
You can’t buy a beach umbrella in the stores till next year.
The summer beauty pageants are all over,
and no one I know won the swimsuit competition.

This year illness just flirted with me,
picking me up and putting me down
like a cat with a ball of yarn,
so I walked among the living like a tourist,
and I wore my health
like a borrowed shirt,
knowing I would probably have to give it back.

There are the terrible things that happen to you
and the terrible things that you yourself make happen,
like George, who bought a little red sportscar
for his favorite niece
to smash her life to pieces in.

And the girl on the radio sings,
You know what I’m talking about, Bawhoop, awhoop.

This year it seems like everyone is getting tattoos–
sharks and Chinese characters,
hummingbirds and musical notes–
but the tattoo I would like to get
is of a fist and a rose.

But I can’t tell how they will fit together on my shoulder:
if the rose is inside the fist, it will be crushed or hidden;
if the fist is closed,–as a fist by definition is,–
it cannot reach out and touch the rose.

Yet the only tattoo I want
is of a fist and rose, together.
Fist, that helps you survive.
Rose, without which
you have no reason to.

22 Nov
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Let Me Keep Company Always


Mysteries, Yes
by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.