Sunday, January 25, 2015

Morning Poem by Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not

you have ever dared to pray.

NOTE: Poet Mary Oliver  (b.1935) is an “indefatigable guide to the natural world,” wrote Maxine Kumin in the Women’s Review of Books,“particularly to its lesser-known aspects.” Oliver’s verse focuses on the quiet of occurrences of nature: industrious hummingbirds, egrets, motionless ponds, “lean owls / hunkering with their lamp-eyes.”  She sought to understand the wonder and pain of nature.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

“After Disappointment” by Mark Jarman

To lie in your child’s bed when she is gone 
Is calming as anything I know. To fall 
Asleep, her books arranged above your head, 
Is to admit that you have never been
So tired, so enchanted by the spell 
Of your grown body. To feel small instead 
Of blocking out the light, to feel alone, 
Not knowing what you should or shouldn’t feel, 
Is to find out, no matter what you’ve said 
About the cramped escapes and obstacles 
You plan and face and have to call the world, 
That there remain these places, occupied 
By children, yours if lucky, like the girl 
Who finds you here and lies down by your side.

“Interesting Times” by Mark Jarman

Everything’s happening on the cusp of tragedy, the tip of comedy, the pivot of event.
You want a placid life, find another planet. This one is occupied with the story’s arc:
About to happen, on the verge, horizontal. You want another planet, try the moon.
Try any of the eight, try Planet X. It’s out there somewhere, black with serenity.
How interesting will our times become? How much more interesting can they become?
A crow with something dangling from its beak flaps onto a telephone pole top, daintily,
And croaks its victory to other crows and tries to keep its morsel to itself.
A limp shape, leggy, stunned, drops from the black beak’s scissors like a rag.
We drive past, commenting, and looking upward. A sunny morning, too cold to be nesting,
Unless that is a nest the crow has seized, against the coming spring.
We’ve been at this historical site before, but not in any history we remember.
The present has been cloaked in cloud before, and not on any holy mountaintop.
To know the stars will one day fly apart so far they can’t be seen
Is almost a relief. For the future flies in one direction—toward us.
And the only way to sidestep it—the only way—is headed this way, too.
So, look. That woman’s got a child by the hand. She’s dragging him across the street.
He’s crying and she’s shouting, but we see only dumbshow. Their breath is smoke.
Will she give in and comfort him? Will he concede at last? We do not know.
Their words are smoke. In a minute they’ll be somewhere else entirely.
Everyone in a minute will be somewhere else entirely. As the crow flies.

From Wiki: Wheat Field with Crows depicts a dramatic, cloudy sky filled with crows over a wheat field.  A sense of isolation is heightened by a central path leading nowhere and by the uncertain direction of flight of the crows.   Jules Michelet, one of van Gogh's favorite authors, wrote of the crows: "They interest themselves in everything, and observe everything. The ancients, who lived far more completely than ourselves in and with nature, found it no small profit to follow, in a hundred obscure things where human experience as yet affords no light, the directions of so prudent and sage a bird."

Mark Jarman, “Interesting Times” from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2011 by Mark Jarman. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Little Diary of Getting Old, Part VIII by Carlo Bettochi

And then at night, when old, 
we start having vague pointless
scraps of dreams that lead us
to this place or that, since even
our failing senses insist on
outings: and lost friends reappear, 
sleepwalking through the stupor 
of surrendered existence.
But here too there’s something
that’s not unconscious, as when
the boatman stops his old ferry 
along the banks of the Arno, 
plunges his wooden bailer 
into the bottom of the boat, 
and dumps that stale water,
gone to grime between the staves,
overboard into the river,
where it flows again,
though the boat is held fast
amid the mud and rushes.

(translated by Geoffrey Brock)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Cold Heaven by W.B. Yeats

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting Heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot bloom of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light.  Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

NOTE: The visionary moment in the first half of this poem is powerful and, to me, entirely relatable.