Words of Amit Ray

Photo by TJ Parker
The true miracle lies in our eagerness to allow, appreciate, and honor the uniqueness and freedom of each sentient being to sing the song of their heart.
AMIT RAY

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)

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

 

aaf8e-31218765_172866693431794_836875180784484352_n
Photo by TJ Parker

“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.” —Mary Anne Radmacher

 

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

This Page Ripped Out and Rolled into a Ball

 

10593153_10152677087275802_6302166269903242026_n
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,

 

3ae71-19622911_146086735950024_4928185792011960320_n
Photo by TJ Parker

“Maybe, maybe not. One thing you learn when you’ve lived as long as I have—people aren’t all good, and people aren’t all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives. Right now, I’m pleased to be in the light.” ~ Unwind, Neal Shusterman

 

Opticks

b5dbb-17076464_1233777850045204_5692856508056862720_n
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

Detail Of The Hayfield

10408610_10152732979945802_8212396642604511864_n
Photo by TJ Parker

I followed myself for a long while, deep into the field.

Two heads full of garbage.

Our scope was larger than I realized,
which only made me that much more responsible.

Yellow, yellow, gold, and ocher.
We stopped. We held the field. We stood very still.

Everyone needs a place.

You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it—
thank you soup, thank you flashlight—

and move on. Who does this? No one.

~Richard Siken

The Way The Light Reflects

IMG_3058
Photo by TJ Parker

THE PAINT doesn’t move the way the light reflects,
so what’s there to be faithful to? I am faithful
to you, darling. I say it to the paint. The bird floats
in the unfinished sky with nothing to hold it.
The man stands, the day shines. His insides and
his outsides kept apart with an imaginary line—
thick and rude and imaginary because there is
no separation, fallacy of the local body, paint
on paint. I have my body and you have yours.
Believe it if you can. Negative space is silly.
When you bang on the wall you have to remember
you’re on both sides of it already but go ahead,
yell at yourself. Some people don’t understand
anything. They see the man but not the light,
they see the field but not the varnish. There is no
light in the paint, so how can you argue with them?
They are probably right anyway. I paint in his face
and I paint it out again. There is a question
I am afraid to ask: to supply the world with what?

~Richard Siken

Gratitude

f0feb-13712261_1038101136243014_497324213_n
Photo by TJ Parker

It softens want
into nothing mean
and lack is not
so dark anymore.
Things can be
a little dim,
less than ideal
and still amaze,
as when there’s been
enough grief
and you aren’t any longer
bowing to it.
One day,
the pain having stopped,
isn’t a moment.
It isn’t brief.
It keeps going.

~Lia Purpura

Prayer

10543652_10153128637040802_8391498658141029699_n
Photo by TJ Parker

Its occasion
could be
a spot of sun,
bar sign, label
on jeans,
carnation, red
light where you
wait and
gratitude hits.
Or a name
the length
of a subway car
that only makes sense
when you say it aloud
in your head
as it passes.

~Lia Purpura

Uncertainty

img_1171
Photo by TJ Parker

It’s not a place,
but I am grateful to be in it,
where endings and known things
complicate,
and I, the judge I know myself to be,
go to review
the very heavy declarations
I so often lay down like law.
It’s not a place at all.
I just practice there, assemble
some beliefs, disturb
others and put the extras
into a pile for mosaics,
one of my big projects
for the future.

~Lia Purpura

The Map

The failure of love might account for most of the suffering in the world.

 

The girl was going over her global studies homework

 

in the air where she drew the map with her finger

 

 

touching the Gobi desert,

 

the Plateau of Tiber in front of her,

 

 

and looking through her transparent map backwards

 

I did suddenly see,

 

how her left is my right, and for a moment I understood.

~ Marie Howe

An Accounting

In this room, hours pass, a slight
corruption of each previous
allotted time block—and probably
confirm failure and humiliation,
which though not ideal, I accept
as historically accurate. I’m sick
of lifestyle music, the thing between
awe and detachment which Hazlitt
defines as adrift. I clear my throat
remind myself, doors are locked,
the ashtray half-full. Unless otherwise
noted, light falls from the television—
accompanies night, any available
other-worldly knowledge. What else?
I’m unhappy even at the edge of rivers,
conversations regarding weather,
any manner of appointment. All comfort
requires another voice. Ditto delusion.
For instance, these shadows imposed
from trees bent by wind and other forms
of predictive behavior, may or may
not contain consciousness. I’m still
working it out. A glass of water grows
warm. I have done terrible and middle
class things for money. This is not
necessarily an acceptable conversation.
Things are good. The serotonin
reuptake inhibitor fades another winter.
If there are things we need, there are
things we need less. I face the mirror
to say it again with feeling. Understand
this is me applying myself.

~ Brett Fletcher Lauer

The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man. ~ Charles Darwin

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Landing on a Cloud

“I am fundamentally an optimist.”

15687_10152719002115802_6021182418323168144_n“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye. ~ Elizabeth Bowen

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Landscape Arch//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days. ~ John Burroughs

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Fall Splendor//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. ~ Andy Warhol

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Anise swallowtail caterpillar//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We acquire the strength we have overcome. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Tule Elk at Arroyo del la Cruz Creek//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

“It is dangerous to leave….”

20140723-100220-36140253.jpg“It is dangerous to leave written that which is badly written.
A chance word, upon paper, may destroy the world. Watch carefully and erase, while the power is still yours, I say to myself, for all that is put down, once it escapes, may rot its way into a thousand minds, the corn become a black smut, and all libraries, of necessity, be burned to the ground as a consequence.

Only one answer: write carelessly so that nothing that is not green will survive.”

— William Carlos Williams (Paterson)

Be like the flower, turn your faces to the sun. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Sierra Club Daily Ray of Hope

Goldfinch and Zinnia//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

“I used to think I was the strangest person…”

IMG_0018“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
― Frida Kahlo

“One day you finally knew…”

Evening stroll
Evening stroll

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
— Mary Oliver