Just being.

2013-06-15 08.15.15

The brain appears to pos­sess a spe­cial area which we might call poet­ic mem­o­ry and which records every­thing that charms or touch­es us, that makes our lives beautiful.”

— Milan Kun­dera, The Unbear­able Light­ness of Being

Philip Levine our newest Poet Laureate

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
wait­ing at Ford High­land Park. For work
You know what work is — if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
For­get you. This is about waiting,
shift­ing from one foot to another.
Feel­ing the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blur­ring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glass­es with your fingers,
and of course it’s some­one else’s brother,
nar­row­er across the shoul­ders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wast­ed waiting,
to the knowl­edge that some­where ahead
a man is wait­ing who will say, “No,
we’re not hir­ing today,” for any
rea­son he wants. You love your brother,
now sud­den­ly you can hard­ly stand
the love flood­ing you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home try­ing to
sleep off a mis­er­able night shift
at Cadil­lac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wag­n­er, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done some­thing so sim­ple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jeal­ous or even mean
or inca­pable of cry­ing in
the pres­ence of anoth­er man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

Poem today : Climbing the Chagrin River

We enter
the green river,
heron harbor,
mud-basin lined
with snagheaps, where turtles
sun themselves–we push
through the falling
silky weight
striped warm and cold
bound­ing down
through the black flanks
of wet rocks–we wade
under hemlock
and white pine–climb
stone steps into
the time­less castles
of emer­ald eddies,
swirls, channels
cold as ice tumbling
out of a white flow–
sheer sheets
fly­ing off rocks,
friv­o­lous and lustrous,
skirt­ing the secret pools–
cradles
full of the yel­low hair
of last year’s leaves
where griz­zled fish
hang halfway down,
like tar­nished swords,
while around them
fin­ger­lings sparkle
and descend,
nails of light
in the loose
rac­ing waters.

© Mary Oliver.

Poem Today: Sylvia Plath, The Rival

If the moon smiled, she would resem­ble you.
You leave the same impression
Of some­thing beau­ti­ful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O‑mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,

And your first gift is mak­ing stone out of everything.
I wake to a mau­soleum; you are here,
Tick­ing your fin­gers on the mar­ble table, look­ing for cigarettes,
Spite­ful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say some­thing unanswerable.

The moon, too, abus­es her subjects,
But in the day­time she is ridiculous.
Your dis­sat­is­fac­tions, on the oth­er hand,
Arrive through the mail­slot with lov­ing regularity,
White and blank, expan­sive as car­bon monoxide.

No day is safe from news of you,
Walk­ing about in Africa maybe, but think­ing of me.

— Sylvia Plath

Home for Thanksgiving, W.S. Merwin

I bring myself back from the streets that open like long
Silent laughs, and the others
Spilled into in the way of rivers break­ing up, lit­tered with words,
Crossed by cats and that sort of thing,
From the know­ing wires and the aimed windows,
Well this is nice, on the third floor, in back of the billboard
Which says Now Improved and I know what they mean,
I thread my way in and I sew myself in like money.

Well this is nice with my shoes moored by the bed
And the lights around the bill­board tick­ing on and off like a beacon,
I have brought myself back like many anoth­er crusty
Unbar­bered ves­sel launched with a bottle,
From the bare regions of pure hope where
For a great part of the year it scarce­ly sets at all,
And from the night skies reg­u­lar­ly filled with old movies of my fingers,
Weight­less as shad­ows, grop­ing in the sluices,
And from the visions of veins like arter­ies, and
From the months of plying
Between can and can, vacant as a pint in the morning,
While my sex grew into the only tree, a joy­less evergreen,
And the winds played hell with it at night, com­ing as they did
Over at least one thou­sand miles of emptiness,
Thump­ing as though there were noth­ing but doors, insisting
“Come out,” and of course I would have frozen.

Con­tin­ue reading…

poem today : Naomi Shihab Nye, Negotiations with a Volcano

We will call you “Agua” like the rivers and cool jugs.
We will per­suade the clouds to nes­tle around your neck
so you may sleep late.
We would be hap­py if you slept forever.
We will tend the slopes we plant, singing the songs
our grand­fa­thers taught us before we inher­it­ed their fear.
We will try not to argue among ourselves.
When the wid­ow demands extra flour, we will pro­vide it,
remem­ber­ing the smell of incense on the day of our Lord.

Please think of us as we are, tiny, with skins that burn easily.
Please notice how we have watered the shrubs around our houses
and trans­plant­ed the pep­pers into neat tin cans.
For­give any anger we feel toward the earth,
when the rains do not come, or they come too much,
and swal­low our corn.
It is not easy to be this small and live in your shadow.

Often while we are eat­ing our evening meal
you cross our rooms like a thief,
touch­ing first the radio and then the loom.
Lat­er our dreams begin catch­ing fire around the edges,
they burn like paper, we wake with our hands full of ash.

How can we live like this?
We need to wake and find our shelves intact,
our chil­dren slum­ber­ing in their quilts.
We need dreams the shape of lakes,
with morn­ings in them thick as fish.
Shade us while we cast and hook—
but noth­ing else, noth­ing else.

poem today : Naomi Shihab Nye

Mak­ing a Fist

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life slid­ing out of me,
a drum in the desert, hard­er and hard­er to hear.
I was sev­en, I lay in the car
watch­ing palm trees swirl a sick­en­ing pat­tern past the glass.
My stom­ach was a mel­on split wide inside my skin.

How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been trav­el­ing for days.
With strange con­fi­dence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years lat­er I smile to think of that journey,
the bor­ders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unan­swer­able woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the back­seat behind all my questions,
clench­ing and open­ing one small hand.

poem today : Native Trees, W. S. Merwin

Nei­ther my father nor my moth­er knew
the names of the trees
where I was born
what is that
I asked and my
father and moth­er did not
hear they did not look where I pointed
sur­faces of fur­ni­ture held
the atten­tion of their fingers
and across the room they could watch
walls they had forgotten
where there were no questions
no voic­es and no shade
Were there trees
where they were children
where I had not been
I asked
were there trees in those places
where my father and my moth­er were born
and in that time did

my father and my moth­er see them

and when they said yes it meant

they did not remember

What were they I asked what were they
but both my father and my mother
said they nev­er knewW. S. Mer­win, “Native Trees” from The Rain in the Trees (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988). Copy­right © 1988 by W. S. Mer­win. Reprint­ed with the per­mis­sion of The Wylie Agency, Inc.

Source: The Rain in the Trees (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988)

dali lama : warmth, kindness, compassion

The pur­pose of our life needs to be pos­i­tive. We weren’t born with the pur­pose of caus­ing trou­ble, harm­ing oth­ers. For our life to be of val­ue, I think we must devel­op basic good human qual­i­ties – warmth, kind­ness, com­pas­sion. Then our life becomes mean­ing­ful and more peace­ful – happier.

dali lama