Photography · Poetry · Words Written

Everything is Waiting For You – David Whyte

Photo by TJ Parker

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Poetry · Words Written

Selections From Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran

I AM for ever walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam.
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
For ever.

                                *

    Once I filled my hand with mist.
    Then I opened it and lo, the mist was a
worm.
    And I closed and opened my hand again,
and behold there was a bird.
    And again I closed and opened my hand,
and in its hollow stood a man with a sad face,
turned upward.
    And again I closed my hand, and when I
opened it there was naught but mist.
    But I heard a song of exceeding sweetness.

                                *

    When God threw me, a pebble, into this
wondrous lake I disturbed its surface with
countless circles.
    But when I reached the depths I became
very still.

                                *

    We measure time according to the move-
ment of countless suns; and they measure time
by little machines in their little pockets.
    Now tell me, how could we ever meet at the
same place and the same time?

                                *

    My house says to me, “Do not leave me,
for here dwells your past.”
    And the road says to me, “Come and follow
me, for I am your future.”
    And I say to both my house and the road,
“I have no past, nor have I a future. If I stay
here, there is a going in my staying; and if I go
there is a staying in my going. Only love and
death change all things.”

                                *

    How can I lose faith in the justice of life,
when the dreams of those who sleep upon
feathers are not more beautiful than the
dreams of those who sleep upon the earth?

                                *

    Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We
see truth through it, but it divides us from
truth.

                                *

    If your heart is a volcano how shall you
expect flowers to bloom in your hands?

                                *

    How often have I attributed to myself
crimes I have never committed, so that the
other person may feel comfortable in my
presence.

                                *

    When you see a man led to prison, say in
your heart, “Mayhap he is escaping from a
narrower prison.”
    And when you see a man drunken, say in
your heart, “Mayhap he sought escape from
something still more unbeautiful.”

                                *

    Your saying to me, “I do not understand
you,” is praise beyond my worth, and an
insult you do not deserve.

                                *

    How mean am I when life gives me gold
and I give you silver, and yet I deem myself
generous.

                                *

    If the other person laughs at you, you can
pity him; but if you laugh at him you may
never forgive yourself.
    If the other person injures you, you may
forget the injury; but if you injure him you
will always remember.
    In truth the other person is your most
sensitive self given another body.

                                *

    The highest virtue here may be the least in
another world.

                                *

    If indeed you must be candid, be candid
beautifully; otherwise keep silent, for there is
a man in our neighbourhood who is dying.

                                *

    In truth we talk only to ourselves, but some-
times we talk loud enough that others may
hear us.

                                *

    Perhaps the sea’s definition of a shell is the
pearl.
    Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the
diamond.

                                *

    I am the flame and I am the dry brush, and
one part of me consumes the other part.
                                *

    We are all seeking the summit of the holy
mountain; but shall not our road be shorter
if we consider the past a chart and not a guide?

                                *

    When you reach the end of what you should
know, you will be at the beginning of what
you should sense.

                                *

    A traveler am I and a navigator, and every
day I discover a new region within my soul.

                                *

    There lies a green field between the scholar
and the poet; should the scholar cross it, he
becomes a wise man; should the poet cross it,
he becomes a prophet.

                                *

    Once a man sat at my board and ate my
bread and drank my wine and went away
laughing at me.
    Then he came again for bread and wine,
and I spurned him;
    And the angels laughed at me.

                                *

    They deem me mad because I will not sell
my days for gold;
    And I deem them mad because they think
my days have a price.

                                *

    Once I spoke of the sea to a brook, and
the brook thought me but an imaginative
exaggerator;
    And once I spoke of a brook to the sea,
and the sea thought me but a depreciative
defamer.

                                *

    How narrow is the vision that exalts the
busyness of the ant above the singing of the
grasshopper.

                                *

    In truth we talk only to ourselves, but some-
times we talk loud enough that others may
hear us.

                                *

    If the Milky Way were not within me, how
should I have seen it or known it?

                                *

    When I stood a clear mirror before you, you
gazed into me, and saw your image.
    Then you said, “I love you.”
    But in truth you loved yourself in me.

                                *

    In the autumn I gathered all my sorrows and
buried them in my garden.
    And when April returned and spring came
to wed the earth, there grew in my garden
beautiful flowers unlike all other flowers.
    And my neighbours came to behold them,
and they all said to me, “When autumn comes
again, at seeding time, will you not give us of
the seeds of these flowers that we may have
them in our gardens?”

                                *

    Art is a step from nature toward the
Infinite.

                                *

A work of art is a mist carved into an image.

                                *

    Even the hands that make crowns of thorns
are better than idle hands.

                                *

    You may have heard of the Blessed
Mountain
    It is the highest mountain in our world.
    Should you reach the summit you would
have only one desire, and that is to descend and
be with those who dwell in the deepest valley.
    That is why it is called the Blessed
Mountain.

From Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926). These poems are in the public domain. 

Poetry · Words Written

Kindness – Naomi Shihab Nye

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT · Photography · Poetry · Scotland · Words Written

I Am

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower

Photo by TJ Parker

BY RAINER MARIA RILKE 


Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29


Translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows. From A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings From the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke (Harper Collins and Harper One, 2009). Posted by kind permission of Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows.

Poetry · Words Written

Words are Birds by Francisco X. Alarcon

Words are Birds

Photo by TJ Parker

BY FRANCISCO X. ALARCÓN

words
are birds
that arrive
with books
and spring

they
love
clouds
the wind
and trees

some words
are messengers
that come
from far away
from distant lands

for them
there are
no borders
only stars
moon and sun

some words
are familiar
like canaries
others are exotic
like the quetzal bird

some can stand
the cold
others migrate
with the sun
to the south

some words
die
caged—
they’re difficult
to translate

and others
build nests
have chicks
warm them
feed them

teach them
how to fly
and one day
they go away
in flocks

the letters
on this page
are the prints
they leave
by the sea

Francisco X. Alarcon, “Words are Birds” from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Francisco X. Alarcon. 

Poetry · Words Written

Poem: A New National Anthem

Photo by TJ Parker

BY ADA LIMÓN

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Ada Limón, “A New National Anthem” from The Carrying.  Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón.

Photography · Poetry · Words Written

Praise Song For The Day

Photo by TJ Parker
Praise Song for the Day
BY ELIZABETH ALEXANDER

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration


Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each other’s

eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.



All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues.



Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

repairing the things in need of repair.



Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.



A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.



We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider.



We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

the will of some one and then others, who said

I need to see what’s on the other side.



I know there’s something better down the road.

We need to find a place where we are safe.

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.



Say it plain: that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,



picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of.



Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.



Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

others by first do no harm or take no more

than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?



Love beyond marital, filial, national,

love that casts a widening pool of light,

love with no need to pre-empt grievance.



In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,

any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,



praise song for walking forward in that light.



Copyright © 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. A chapbook edition of Praise Song for the Day will be published on February 6, 2009.

Source: Praise Song for the Day (Graywolf Press, 2009)
Poetry · Words Written

Two Poems by Keith Leonard

OPENING
LECTURE
AT
THE
CONSTELLATION
INSTITUTE


When you draw shapes in the night sky,
it will help if you remember
that your pencil passes through matter
we can’t see, or name, but know exists.
It will help if you imagine the bright spots
as your parents, your past lovers,
or enemies. Perhaps you will draw
a bull out of your string of breakups,
then use three stars to draw a spear.
By your senior year, you should be able
to outline at least one flower
while studying the history
of dictators.  No dippers.
We have enough of those.
The sky is full of reservoirs.
We’ve noticed the sad have a strange desire
to draw things patriotic - the flag
with its flat bars draping the hemisphere,
or a bald eagle with its wide wings
grazing both horizons.  It will help
if you resist the craving to claim
the whole sky.  It’s rude, frankly,
and you will be unpopular.
Most importantly, you’ll miss
what happens when the many
separate shapes intertwine.



ELEGY

In the water left from the waitress’s rag,
I made James’s face:

pinched salt for the scar
below the eyebrow,

a fleck of pepper for a freckle,

bent straw for the bridge of the nose.

The trouble with my over-easy eggs
was their thin skins broke

with the touch of a butter knife.

The trouble with my coffee
was it took the cream and changed.

The trouble with me is I can arrange
three words however I please:

this isn’t it

It isn’t this

Isn’t it this

Isn’t this it

by Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode
Photography · Poetry

I Think a Thousand Thoughts… and Nothing At All

I write poems. I have for a long time. Some of them are not for public cosumption. Some of them are angsty and old and… telling.

I was reading some of them today. Some of my old poems. Perception is weird. Sometimes I like them. Sometimes I don’t. Today I liked this one.

The sun flew in

Photo by TJ Parker

  Through the window

      And a newness sprang forth

From the darkness before

  Why do you suppose

The rose opened up

  Like I opened up

    To new beginnings?

A crowded room

  A silent street

What is the difference

  Always with someone

    Possibly yourself.

A cascade of feelings

  Parading through my mind

Like smoke

  Making shapes

    In a smoke-filled room.

I wonder often

  Awake

And in dreams

  Of the mysteries of myself

    And the world

I think a thousand thoughts

  All at once

And really nothing at all

           Like this.

Poetry · Words Written

Small Craft Talk Warning

All poetry is about hope.
A scarecrow walks into a bar.
An abandoned space station falls to earth.
When probing the monster’s brain,
you’re probably probing your own.
A beautiful woman becomes a ghost.
I hope I never miscalculate the dosage
that led to the infarction
of my lab rabbit again.
All poetry is a form of hope.
Not certain, just actual
like love and other traffic circles.
I cried on that airplane too,
midwest patchwork below
like a board game on which
mighty forces kick apart the avatars.
I always wanted to be the racecar
but usually ended up a thumbtack.
When I was young, sitting in a tree
counted as preparation and later
maybe a little whoopie in the morgue.
So go ahead, thaw the alien, break
the pentagram but watch out for
the institutional hood ornaments.
It’s not a museum, it’s a hive.
The blood may be fake
but the bleeding’s not.

~Dean Young – 1955

Poetry · Words Written

Gratitude by Barbara Crooker

Gratitude

This week, the news of the world is bleak, another war
grinding on, and all these friends down with cancer,
or worse, a little something long term that they won’t die of
for twenty or thirty miserable years—
And here I live in a house of weathered brick, where a man
with silver hair still thinks I’m beautiful. How many times
have I forgotten to give thanks? The late day sun shines
through the pink wisteria with its green and white leaves
as if it were stained glass, there’s an old cherry tree
that one lucky Sunday bloomed with a rainbow:
cardinals, orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, indigo buntings,
and my garden has tiny lettuces just coming up,
so perfect they could make you cry: Green Towers,
Red Sails, Oak Leaf. For this is May, and the whole world
sings, gleams, as if it were basted in butter, and the air’s
sweet enough to send a diabetic into shock—
And at least today, all the parts of my body are working,
the sky’s clear as a china bowl, leaves murmur their leafy chatter,
finches percolate along. I’m doodling around this page,
know sorrow’s somewhere beyond the horizon, but still, I’m riffing
on the warm air, the wingbeats of my lungs that can take this all in,
flush the heart’s red peony, then send it back without effort or thought.
And the trees breathe in what we exhale, clap their green hands
in gratitude, bend to the sky.

First published in Poetry East, then in Line Dance (Word Press, 2008).

Poetry · Words Written

The Creative Drive

Photo by TJ Parker

The Northeast has lost millions of poems,
reducing the canopy. Just a few days ago,
high winds knocked a poem onto a power line

A recent study found that poems increased
the sale price of a home by close to $9,000.
The years, however, have not been kind to poems.

a few blocks from my house.
I had not expected to lose so many at once.
“We’ve created a system that is not healthy

for poems,” said someone. Over the next thirty years,
there won’t be any poems where there are overhead wires.
Some poems may stay as a nuisance,

as a gorgeous marker of time.

~ by Catherine Barnett

10 Word Review · Documentary · Ebertfest 2019 · Film · Instagram · Photography

10 Word Review – Ebertfest: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

Profound. Vital. Emotional. Force. Powerful. Presence. Intelligence. Voice. Spirit. YES.

Essays · LiFe · Poetry · Video · Weston · Words Written

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day

I’m a huge fan of Nina Simone. My favorite song? Feelin’ Good. I like it in all its iterations I guess. Most people probably have forgotten all about Nina’s version and skipped right to Michael Buble. That’s OK. I don’t think she would mind. Nor would she care about the Muse version. I like that one a lot. Who sings it isn’t nearly as important to me as the lyrics.

I started really loving this song when I was 45. I liked it just fine before that, but when I was 45 I came down with a little bout of Leukemia. Music has always been huge in my life, songs associated with people, places, events.  Feelin’ Good got associated with my healing, my being alive.  It was a new dawn, a new day, and I was, after months of treatment, feelin’ good.

Photo by TJ Parker

Here I am, years later, still in love with this song.  Still associating it with the thrill of being alive.  Because, well, I am still thrilled to be alive.

K and I were sitting here talking the other day about how weird it was that it was going to be 2019.  How it seemed impossible in some way, that it was nearly 2019.  I don’t know why it seemed like such a big deal because, after all, it’d been 2018 for nearly a year, but somehow it did.  Somehow time has taken a leap.  The idea that 2019 was nearly here, and I’m still here, and though I’m older than I used to be, I’m not as old as I’m going to get.  If you’d asked me in 1983 when I graduated from high school what I’d be doing in 2019 I wouldn’t have been able to even imagine it, being so far in the future and all.   And now here we are, so far in the future and all.  Weird.  Not bad.  Just weird.

Friends of ours recently asked us to attend a party.  They asked everyone who was invited to bring a bottle of booze, an appetizer, and quote or song or piece of writing to be read aloud and shared. I think it was meant as a sort of send off to the year passing and a greeting of hope and inspiration heading into the new year.  Cool idea.  Sadly, we couldn’t go, but I was thinking about what I would’ve shared if we had. 

There are a lot of quotes I could’ve shared.  I’m a quote person.  Just see the inspirations page of this blog for proof of that.  The fact that I get nervous and shy at times might spur the use of a quote.  I probably would share a quote like this…  “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ~  W.B. Yeats 

I could’ve shared a poem.  I’m a lover of all things poetic and have been reading and writing poetry since I was a wee sprout, sometime near 1983 I’d say.  I was 17 then, and graduating from high school, so my poems were very broody.   I might’ve shared a poem at the party if I happened upon or could think of one I thought might be inspirational.  Maybe the E.E. Cummings “I thank you God” poem…

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)


how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

 
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
 

 e e cummings 

(in ‘complete poems 1904 – 1962’)

Or maybe something by Pablo Neruda, Charles Bukowski, or The Type, by Sarah Kay.

If I had my wits about me I might’ve thought of something profound or witty or inspirational to say all on my own.  Possible, if I’d had my wits about me.  Sometimes they are vacationing and leave me searching for the right words, the right feeling, the right way to say what I want to.  

Weston is currently crying over K’s shoulder as she eats her morning oatmeal.  It’s the first day of the new year.  He likes oatmeal.  Sometimes all that matters is the hope that you’ll get the last bits of oatmeal left in the bowl.  That someone will remember you like them, and that getting them will make your day.  That those bits are what will bring you joy right at this moment.  And maybe the story of Weston and the oatmeal bowl is the only profound thing worth sharing.   It’s the simple things in life that are worth everything.  Finding moments of joy.  Moments of happiness.  Moments of peace.  We don’t need a lot to make us happy and joyful.  Bits of oatmeal left in the bottom of the bowl will do.  So I’ll say this… go out there and find your bits, whatever they are for you.  See them for what they are, for what they mean to you.  Relish them.

K has finished eating and Weston is now licking the bowl.  His crying has stopped and he’s blissfully enjoying this tiny moment of joy.  I’d say, like Nina, he’s feelin’ good.  A pretty great way to start 2019.

Poetry · Words Written

Poem: How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

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Photo by TJ Parker

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out
grandfather
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

~Hanif Abdurraqib

About This Poem

“I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.” — Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016), his first poetry collection, which was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. He is also the author of the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Poetry · Video · Words Written

Rudy Francisco – Complainers

Exactly this…

Poetry · Words Written

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

Heal the Cracks in the Bell of the World

For the community of Newtown, Connecticut,
where twenty students and six educators lost their
lives to a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary
School, December 14, 2012

Now the bells speak with their tongues of bronze.
Now the bells open their mouths of bronze to say:
Listen to the bells a world away. Listen to the bell in the ruins
of a city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass,
and the copper boiled in the foundry, and the bell born
in the foundry says: I was born of bullets, but now I sing
of a world where bullets melt into bells. Listen to the bell
in a city where cannons from the armies of the Great War
sank into molten metal bubbling like a vat of chocolate,
and the many mouths that once spoke the tongue of smoke
form the one mouth of a bell that says: I was born of cannons,
but now I sing of a world where cannons melt into bells.

Listen to the bells in a town with a flagpole on Main Street,
a rooster weathervane keeping watch atop the Meeting House,
the congregation gathering to sing in times of great silence.
Here the bells rock their heads of bronze as if to say:
Melt the bullets into bells, melt the bullets into bells.
Here the bells raise their heavy heads as if to say:
Melt the cannons into bells, melt the cannons into bells.
Here the bells sing of a world where weapons crumble deep
in the earth, and no one remembers where they were buried.
Now the bells pass the word at midnight in the ancient language
of bronze, from bell to bell, like ships smuggling news of liberation
from island to island, the song rippling through the clouds.

Now the bells chime like the muscle beating in every chest,
heal the cracks in the bell of every face listening to the bells.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the moon.
The chimes heal the cracks in the bell of the world.

~Martin Espada

From the Author:

About This Poem

“As the dedication indicates, on December 14, 2012, a gunman killed twenty students and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I wrote this poem for the National Children’s Day event Within Our Reach, held at the Newtown Congregational Church on June 8, 2013—less than six months after the tragedy. The ‘city where children gathered copper shells like beach glass’ is Tirana, Albania, site of the Bell of Peace; the city ‘where cannons from the armies of the Great War / sank into molten metal’ is Rovereto, Italy, site of the Campana dei Caduti (Bell of the Fallen) or Maria Dolens bell. The ‘town with a flagpole on Main Street’ is, of course, Newtown.”

—Martín Espada

Poetry · Words Written

Ode To Alternatives

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Hey Kevin, I know
I’m always talking,
but look at those
two little boys who
don’t know any better –
they’re using a king
as a pawn, a pawn
as a knight, a queen
as a bishop-and isn’t
not knowing the rules
just beautiful?
Because really,
where’s the joy
in shouldering night
into workday
when we can be carpenters
of unmade things,
flailing our hammers
whichever way we please
in the dark? I’m sorry
I’m talking too much
for this chess game,
but I get nervous.
Are there people out there
who say we’re dangerous?
When the sun echoes
off the thousands
of windshields
locked in the morning commute,
do you sometimes feel
like we’re dressed for a party
we couldn’t ever hope
to be invited to?
Do the idling engines
deafen you?
Kevin, are you sure you want
to trade your knight
for a rook? Why is it
that once we take
our hand off of it,
we can’t take it back?

 

~Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Poetry

Elegy

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Photo by TJ Parker

In the water left from the waitress’s rag,
I made James’s face:

pinched salt for the scar,
below the eyebrow,

a fleck of pepper for a freckle,

bent straw for the bridge of the nose.

The trouble with my over-easy eggs
was their thin skins broke

with the touch of a butter knife.

The trouble with my coffee
was it took the cream and changed.

The trouble with me is that I can arrange
three words however I please:

This isn’t it

It isn’t this

Isn’t it this

Isn’t this it

~ Keith Leonard, Ramshackle Ode

Poetry · Words Written

Forgiveness

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

for Dad

 
I’m writing you
10 years later
& 2,000 miles
Away from

Our silence

My mouth a cave
That had collapsed

I’m writing
While you
You wear the
Hospital gown &

count failures
Such as the body’s

Inability to rise
I see your fingers

Fumbling in the
Pillbox      as if
Earthquakes are in
Your hands
I think it’s time
For us to   abandon
Our cruelties
For us to speak
So     s    o    f    t

We’re barely
Human.

~Christopher Soto

The formatting of this poem didn’t translate when I posted it, for that go here at Poets.org.

Poetry · Words Written

This Page Ripped Out and Rolled into a Ball

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

A rose by any other name   could be Miguel   or Tiffany Could be David or Vashti   Why not Aya   which means beautiful flower  but also verse and miracle   and a bird         that flies away quickly    You see where this is going          That is    you could look at a rose    and call it    You See Where This Is Going   or I Knew This Would Happen    or even   Why Wasn’t I Told I’m told   of a man    who does portraits for money on the beach    He paints them with one arm  the other he left behind in a war   and so he tucks a rose into his cuff   always yellow   and people stare at it   pinned to his shoulder   while he works   Call the rose Panos   because I think that’s his name   or call it     A Chair By The Sea Point from the window   to the garden   and say   Look   a bed of Painter’s Hands   And this is a good place   to remember the rose already has many names   because   language is old and can’t agree with itself   In Albania you say Trëndafil  In Somalia say Kacay
In American poetry  it’s the flower you must never name   And now
you see where this is going   out the window   across water to a rose shaped island   that can’t exist but   you’re counting on to be there   unmapped   unmentioned till now  The green place you imagine hiding   when the world finds out   you’re not who you’ve said

~Brendan Constantine,

Poetry · Words Written

Barter

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

 

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

~Sara Teasdale

Poetry · Words Written

So, Why Learn Spanish?

130. Poem Written in 1991

When the Soviet Union Was Disintegrating

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Photo by TJ Parker

The reason why I’m learning Spanish
by reading Neruda one word at a time
looking most of them up in the dictionary
and the reason why I’m reading
Dickinson one poem at a time
and still not understanding
or liking much, and the reason
why I keep thinking about
what might be a story
and the reason why I’m sitting
here writing this, is that I’m trying
to make this thing.
I am shy to name it.
My father didn’t like words like “soul.”
He shaved with Occam’s razor.
Why make up stuff
when there’s enough already?
But I do fiction. I make up.
There is never enough stuff.
So I guess I can call it what I want to.
Anyhow it isn’t made yet.
I am trying one way and another
all words — So it’s made out of words, is it?
No. I think the best ones
must be made out of brave and kind acts,
and belong to people who look after things
with all their heart,
and include the ocean at twilight.
That’s the highest quality
of this thing I am making:
kindness, courage, twilight, and the ocean.
That kind is pure silk.
Mine’s only rayon. Words won’t wash.
It won’t wear long.
But then I haven’t long to wear it.
At my age I should have made it
long ago, it should be me,
clapping and singing at every tatter,
like Willy said. But the “mortal dress,”
man, that’s me. That’s not clothes.
That is me tattered.
That is me mortal.
This thing I am making is my clothing soul.
I’d like it to be immortal armor,
sure, but I haven’t got the makings.
I just have scraps of rayon.
I know I’ll end up naked
in the ground or on the wind.
So, why learn Spanish?
Because of the beauty of the words of poets,
and if I don’t know Spanish
I can’t read them. Because praise
may be the thing I’m making.
And when I’m unmade
I’d like it to be what’s left,
a wisp of cheap cloth,
a color in the earth,
a whisper on the wind. 

Una palabra, un aliento.

ii

So now I’ll turn right round
and unburden an embittered mind
that would rejoice to rejoice
in the second Revolution in Russia
but can’t, because it has got old
and wise and mean and womanly
and says: So. The men
having spent seventy years in the name of something
killing men, women, and children,
torturing, running slave camps,
telling lies and making profits,
have now decided
that that something wasn’t the right one,
so they’ll do something else the same way.

Seventy years for nothing.

And the dream that came before the betrayal,
the justice glimpsed before the murders,
the truth that shone before the lies,
all that is thrown away.
It didn’t matter anyway
because all that matters
is who has the sayso.

Once I sang freedom, freedom,
sweet as a mockingbird.
But I have learned Real Politics.
No freedom for our children
in the world of the sayso.
Only the listening.
The silence all around the sayso.
The never stopping listening.
So I will listen
to women and our children
and powerless men,
my people. And I will honor only
my people, the powerless.

–Ursula K. Le Guin
1991

Spiral

Photography · Poetry · Words Written

Set in Stone

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

A rosary that was my mother’s
tucked in the glove compartment of his car
and a copy of Exile on Main Street
with instructions to play track 6
when he hit some lonesome desert highway.
I love him so much my chest hurts,
thinking of him riding off into his own life,
me the weeping shadow left behind (for now).
I know I’ll see him again but it’s ceremony
we’re talking about after all—
one growing up and one growing older
both wild curses.
A train blows its horn
the light rising beyond the harbor,
a dog barks from a car window
and the nostalgia (always dangerous)
hits me like a left hook.
I’m trapped between the memory
and the moment,
the deal we make
if we make it this long,
the markers of a life,
the small worthwhile pieces
that rattle around in my pockets
waiting to be set somewhere in stone.

 

~Kevin Carey

Poetry · Words Written

Opticks

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Photo by TJ Parker

This is her descending
glance captured
in a hidden photograph

taken when I was
an infant and Mother held me
at arm’s length. I look back

for her, unsurprised
still questioning why she doesn’t return
my gaze. Her eyes

fix on a spot between
her face and my face. For the infant
there is no distinction.

Her disaffection stains the intimate
objects found years later
among her things of everyday:

a thimble embroidered with a single petal.
a slim gold watch-stopped.
Brushes held to

dry in a bamboo roll. A tiny lime
and fuchsia dress sewn by her
hands for my hundredth day.

His wedding band, scarred
a muted gray. In the gap between us
a vacancy swells and bellies

the air where her eyes avert mine
to slide off where? I wish I could see her
engage and ignite

these traces of the ordinary,
the minutely particular
totems of our daily life: holy.

In an old dream, I plot a little boy’s flight.
Like a fighter pilot, I drop
a homing device back in time to spy

into the landscape of my infancy
before she turned her face away-
before my need was extraordinary.

~Eleanor Chai, Standing Water Poems