Browsing Category "Poems"
1 Dec
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Always There Is Desire

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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By    Comments Off on Without Which You Have No Reason To

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
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Let Me Keep Company Always

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. 

9 Nov
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By    Comments Off on I Would Skip This Part

I Would Skip This Part


Catechism for November
by Tony Hoagland

In the movie theater one night, you whispered,
“It is easier to watch than to live,”
and on the street outside, you thought,
“If this was a book, I would skip this part.”

Remember when you opened the fortune cookie in March?
It said, “Ideology is bad for you.”
Remember when you called Annabelle
“an encyclopedia of self-perpetuating pain?”

On Tuesday you said, “I’m a small wooden boat,
adrift in the space between storms,”
and on Wednesday you said, “I should go back to the park more often.”

Then you killed the spider with the heel of your shoe,
and said, “I can’t take care of all sentient beings!”

But when the girl with pink hair brought her sniffles to class,
you found a Kleenex in your purse for her.

This is how it happens: One at a time,
the minutes come out of the box where they are hidden:
the witty ones with yellow feathers;
the thick gray ones with no horizon.

But once you swore, “I want to see it all, unsentimentally.”
Once your wrote in your green notebook,
“Let me start in the middle, again.”


OK. So what do we do now, folks? If I could, I would skip this part. But that won’t help. So I’m just trying to feel the feelings, one at a time, without giving in to fear or despair. It’s not easy. Which is why it’s important to start again. And again. Right where we are. In the middle of it all.

7 Nov
Posted in: Poems
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“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

3 Nov
Posted in: Poems
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Marred, Lovely, and Flawed

autumn-doorAutumn Quince
by Jane Hirshfield

How sad they are,
the promises we never returned to.
They stay in our mouths,
roughen the tongue, lead lives of their own.
Houses built and unwittingly lived in;
a succession of milk bottles brought to the door
every morning and taken inside.

And which one is real?
The music in the composer’s ear
or the lapsed piece the orchestra plays?
The world is a blurred version of itself–
marred, lovely, and flawed.
It is enough. 

1 Nov
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on How to Know Birds

How to Know Birds

final-tree-jpgokHow to Know Birds
by Gary Snyder

The place you’re in
The time of year
How they move and where in the meadows,
brush, forest,
rocks, reeds, are they hanging out
alone or in a group or little groups?
Size, speed, sorts of flight
Quirks. Tail flicks, wing-shakes, bobbing

Can you see what they’re eating?
Calls and songs?
Finally, if you get a chance, can you see
their colors,
details of plumage–lines, dots, bars
That will tell you the details you need to
come up with a name

You already know this bird. 

28 Oct
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One of Those

old-women-street-style-2014-from-russia-15I Want
by Mary Oliver

I want to be
in partnership
with the universe

like the tiger lily
poking up
its gorgeous head

among the so-called
useless weeds

in the uncultivated fields

that still abide.
But it’s okay
if, after all,

I’m not a lily,
but only grass
in a clutch of curly grass

waving in the wind,
staring sunward: one of those
sweet, abrasive blades.

24 Oct
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Though She Would See

Purchase this image at

A Story
by Jane Hirshfield

A woman tells me
the story of a small wild bird,
beautiful on her window sill, dead three days.
How her daughter came suddenly running,

“It’s moving, Mommy, he’s alive.”
And when she went, it was.
The emerald wing-feathers stirred, the throat
seemed to beat again with pulse.
Closer then, she saw how the 
true life lifted
under the wings. Turned her face
so her daughter would not see, though she would see.

18 Oct
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on It Is Not This Constant Thing

It Is Not This Constant Thing

90bd0093f083f1facacb237e1e7a2a9f_hOn The Current Events
by Jane Hirshfield
(first published in 1988)

The shadow of countries are changing,
like the figures in the dreams of a long sickness.

Argentina, which used to be so full of sunlight
and heroic, whistling pampas cowboys.
Greece, the lovely heifer of curving horns.
Thailand, Palestine, Salvador.

Of course, it is not this constant thing, history,

but ourselves,
like the wooden statue of some sacred figure,
wormed through,

with the bitter aftertaste on the heart
of too much coffee,
any evening,
after too much talk of unimportant things,

when all of it is important:
the cup placed with such a good fit
on its saucer, well and carefully made,
all the still-pieced pieces of our shared consent.