Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On being left out

Today I was left out of lunch plans by the teachers.  It still hurts just as much as it always has to be left out.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

National Poetry Month: Mary Oliver

There's something about gardens outside of hospitals that brings a sense of peace to the sterile environment you find inside.  This poem captures that feeling.
University Hospital, Boston                                                                                                                       By Mary Oliver
Image from here
The trees on the hospital lawn

are lush and thriving. They too

are getting the best of care,

like you, and the anonymous many,

in the clean rooms high above this city,

where day and night the doctors keep

arriving, where intricate machines

chart with cool devotion

the murmur of the blood,

the slow patching-up of bone,

the despair of the mind.

When I come to visit and we walk out

into the light of a summer day,

we sit under the trees —

buckeyes, a sycamore, and one

black walnut brooding

high over a hedge of lilacs

as old as the red-brick building

behind them, the original

hospital built before the Civil War.

We sit on the lawn together, holding hands

while you tell me: you are better.

How many young men, I wonder,

came here, wheeled on cots off the slow trains

from the red and hideous battlefields

to lie all summer in the small and stuffy chambers

while doctors did what they could, longing

for tools still unimagined, medicines still unfound,

wisdoms still unguessed at, and how many died

staring at the leaves of the trees, blind

to the terrible effort around them to keep them alive?

I look into your eyes

which are sometimes green and sometimes gray,

and sometimes full of humor, but often not,

and tell myself, you are better,

because my life without you would be

a place of parched and broken trees.

Later walking the corridors down to the street,

I turn and step inside an empty room.

Yesterday someone was here with a gasping face.

Now the bed is made all new,

the machines have been rolled away. The silence

continues, deep and neutral,

as I stand there, loving you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

National Poetry Month: Elizabeth Bishop (again)

When I was in college, I took a poetry class with an amazing professor who challenged me to write in different styles.  One of those was to write a sestina which is incredibly hard because you have to keep repeating the same words but in different orders.  This poem puts such great images in my mind, especially that of the Little Marvel Stove.  When I was little, my grandmother had a little toy stove that we used to play with all of the time and this poem always makes me think of that stove.

SestinaBy Elizabeth Bishop
Image from here
September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house.

Friday, April 12, 2013

National Poetry Month: Marge Piercy

My favorite line in this poem is "The work of the world is as common as mud."  This poem makes it clear that even though work is common, it's something that must be done and something that people long for because they are proud of the end results.
Image from here

To Be of Use
By Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

National Poetry Month: Rabindranath Tagore

This poem brings a simplicity that is sometimes overlooked to my relationship with God.  By repeating the image of being face to face with God, it takes away everything else and lets me focus on the importance of my relationship with him.

Face To FaceBy Rabindranath Tagore
Day after day, O lord of my life,
shall I stand before thee face to face.
With folded hands, O lord of all worlds,
shall I stand before thee face to face.

Under thy great sky in solitude and silence,
with humble heart shall I stand before thee face to face.

In this laborious world of thine, tumultuous with toil
and with struggle, among hurrying crowds
shall I stand before thee face to face.

And when my work shall be done in this world,
O King of kings, alone and speechless
shall I stand before thee face to face. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National Poetry Month: Elizabeth Bishop

I really like the way this poem talks about the conversations that are almost always in my head.  I especially like her use of the word "uninnocent" because it captures the way I seem to think about things I know that I shouldn't dwell on but am unable to stop myself from thinking about.

ConversationBy Elizabeth Bishop
The tumult in the heart
keeps asking questions.
And then it stops and undertakes to answer
in the same tone of voice.
No one could tell the difference.

Uninnocent, these conversations start,
and then engage the senses,
only half-meaning to.
And then there is no choice,
and then there is no sense;

until a name
and all its connotation are the same.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

National Poetry Month: WIlliam Butler Yeats

I like the emphasis that this poem gives to reflecting on all of the experiences we've had in life, even if they didn't turn out how we would have liked them to.  I definitely need the reminder to take the time to look back and reflect instead of constantly looking to the future.

When You Are OldBy William Butler Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Monday, April 8, 2013

National Poetry Month: Matsuo Basho

There's something great about short poems because they are so simple, but can say so much.   I especially like the image that this poem gives of the bee staggering because he's so overcome with pollen or the scent of the peony or both.  It seems appropriate for my first day back to school from spring break since I'm sure to be staggering a bit by the end of it!
Image from here

A Bee
By Matsuo Basho

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

National Poetry Month: Robert Frost

Normally I'm not a fan of Robert Frost, but I do like this poem because of its simplicity, sweetness, and rhymes.

The Rose Family By Robert Frost
Image from here
The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose,
And the pear is, and so's
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose -
But were always a rose.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

National Poetry Month: Taylor Mali

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog
By Taylor Mali
First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Friday, April 5, 2013

National Poetry Month: Frank O'Hara

Why I Am Not a Painter
By Frank O'Hara

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

National Poetry Month: Mary Oliver


By Mary Oliver

This morning

two mockingbirds

in the green field

were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons

of their songs

into the air.

I had nothing

better to do

than listen.

I mean this


In Greece,

a long time ago,

an old couple

opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story -
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive -
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them -
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down -
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning -
whatever it was I said

I would be doing - 
I was standing
at tend edge of the field -
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors - 
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

National Poetry Month: Derek Walcott

A City’s Death By Fire
By Derek Walcott
After that hot gospeller has levelled all but the churched sky,
I wrote the tale by tallow of a city’s death by fire;
Under a candle’s eye, that smoked in tears, I
Wanted to tell, in more than wax, of faiths that were snapped like wire.
All day I walked abroad among the rubbled tales,
Shocked at each wall that stood on the street like a liar;
Loud was the bird-rocked sky, and all the clouds were bales
Torn open by looting, and white, in spite of the fire.
By the smoking sea, where Christ walked, I asked, why
Should a man wax tears, when his wooden world fails?
In town, leaves were paper, but the hills were a flock of faiths;
To a boy who walked all day, each leaf was a green breath
Rebuilding a love I thought was dead as nails,
Blessing the death and the baptism by fire.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

National Poetry Month: Mark Doty

The Embrace
By Mark Doty
You weren't well or really ill yet either;
just a little tired, your handsomeness
tinged by grief or anticipation, which brought
to your face a thoughtful, deepening grace.

I didn't for a moment doubt you were dead.
I knew that to be true still, even in the dream.
You'd been out--at work maybe?--
having a good day, almost energetic.

We seemed to be moving from some old house
where we'd lived, boxes everywhere, things
in disarray: that was the story of my dream,
but even asleep I was shocked out of the narrative

by your face, the physical fact of your face:
inches from mine, smooth-shaven, loving, alert.
Why so difficult, remembering the actual look
of you? Without a photograph, without strain?

So when I saw your unguarded, reliable face,
your unmistakable gaze opening all the warmth
and clarity of you--warm brown tea--we held
each other for the time the dream allowed.

Bless you. You came back, so I could see you
once more, plainly, so I could rest against you
without thinking this happiness lessened anything,
without thinking you were alive again. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

National Poetry Month: Portia Nelson

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.