A Poem a Day 2018
i thank You God for this most amazing
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 of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of allnothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more
marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it doesn't move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
~Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
Accept me, my lord, accept me for this while.
Let those orphaned days that passed without you be forgotten.
Only spread this little moment wide across your lap,
holding it under your light.
I have wandered in pursuit of voices
that drew me yet led me nowhere.
Now let me sit in peace and listen
to your words in the soul of my silence.
Do not turn away your face from my heart's dark secrets,
but burn them till they are alight with your fire.
I Go Back To The House For A Book
I turn around on the gravel
and go back to the house for a book,
something to read at the doctor's office,
and while I am inside, running the finger
of inquisition along a shelf,
another me that did not bother
to go back to the house for a book
heads out on his own,
rolls down the driveway,
and swings left toward town,
a ghost in his ghost car,
another knot in the string of time,
a good three minutes ahead of me —
a spacing that will now continue
for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I think I see him
a few people in front of me on a line
or getting up from a table
to leave the restaurant just before I do,
slipping into his coat on the way out the door.
But there is no catching him,
no way to slow him down
and put us back in synch,
unless one day he decides to go back
to the house for something,
but I cannot imagine
for the life of me what that might be.
He is out there always before me,
blazing my trail, invisible scout,
hound that pulls me along,
shade I am doomed to follow,
my perfect double,
only bumped an inch into the future,
and not nearly as well-versed as I
in the love poems of Ovid —
I who went back to the house
that fateful winter morning and got the book.
I Am Not I
I am not I.
I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see,
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And whom at other times I forget;
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes walks where I am not,
The one who will remain standing when I die.
~Juan Ramón Jiménez
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
Sonnet 12 by David Tenant
Sonnet 29 by Rufus Wainwright
The Two Bears
After a hard day forage
Two bears sat together in silence
On a beautiful vista
Watching the sun go down
And feeling deeply grateful
Though, after a while
A thought-provoking conversation began
Which turned to the topic of
The one bear said,
“Did you hear about Rustam?
He has become famous
And travels from city to city
In a golden cage;
He performs for hundreds of people
Who laugh and applaud
The other bear thought for
A few seconds
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. you must let it find you.
Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears
Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes
That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?
Oh do you have time
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude–
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
From Red Bird (Beacon Press, 2008)
Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs--
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
for the Uncreated
I have touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there
From Women in Praise of the Sacred (translated by Jane Hirshfield, 1994)
She is working now, in a room
not unlike this one,
the one where I write, or you read.
Her table is covered with paper.
The light of the lamp would be
tempered by a shade, where the bulb's
single harshness might dissolve,
but it is not, she has taken it off.
Her poems? I will never know them,
though they are the ones I most need.
Even the alphabet she writes in
I cannot decipher. Her chair --
Let us imagine whether it is leather
or canvas, vinyl or wicker. Let her
have a chair, her shadeless lamp,
the table. Let one or two she loves
be in the next room. Let the door
be closed, the sleeping ones healthy.
Let her have time, and silence,
enough paper to make mistakes and go on.
From The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins, 1997)
First He Looked Confused
I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog 'God.'
First he looked
then he started smiling, then he even
I kept at it: now he doesn't even
I am wondering if this
might work on
From Love Poems from God (Penguin Random House, 2002)
One Day I Decided
One day I decided to not grow any older
lots of luck I said to myself
(my joking self) then I looked up at the sky
which is wide its blueness it whiteness
low on my left the steamy sun rose moved
I placed my hand against it my whole hand
which is broad from pinky to thumb no my
two hands I bared my teeth to it my teeth
are strong secure on their gold posts I breathed
deeply I held my breath I stood on my toes ah
then I was taller still the clouds sailed
through me around me it's true I'm just
like them summertime water that the sun
sips and spits into this guzzling earth
From Begin Again: Collected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
There is a Light in Me
Whether in daytime or in nighttime
I always carry inside
In the middle of noise and turmoil
I carry silence.
I carry light and silence.
From Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996)
Little Gidding (excerpt)
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
From Little Gidding, 1943.
What the Living Do
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
From What the Living Do by Marie Howe. Copyright 1998
Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.
People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.
Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.
Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.
From Ohio Review (Volume 50, 1993)
Love Does That
All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only
And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.
Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
he looks into the burro's eyes and touches her ears
and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,
because love does
From Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (Penguin Books, 2002)
The Slim Fir Seeds
The nimble ovenbird, the dignity of pears, the simplicity of oars,
the imperishable engines inside slim fir seeds:
all of these make clear
how much we long for the impermanent
to be permanent.
We want the hermit wren to keep her eggs,
even in the storm. We want eternal oceans.
But we are perishable, friends.
We are salty, impermanent kingdoms.
From Talking Into the Ear of the Donkey (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011)
Watching the Moon
Watching the moon
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.
From Women in Praise of the Sacred (translated by Jane Hirshfield, 1994)
With all the smugness of a physician
He stares at me
With glasses and clean-shaven face
Long white coat
Stethoscope wrapped around neck
And large name tag with small name next two big M and D
He searches me
With great confidence
For signs of
Weakness and frailty
Anxiety and insecurity
Disease and infirmity
But I see right through this fake
His quivering voice while answering superiors
His insecurities in the face of peers
His questioning of decisions about patients' well-being
And only I
Watch him belittle himself
In from of my mirror
Before building enough courage
To leave his bedroom
And go to work
~Jordan D. Grumet, M.D.
From Annals of Internal Medicine, 2 July 2002.
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
From Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974).
At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.
Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching–
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.
But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after–if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now–you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.
From The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)
The Art of Disappearing
When they say Don't I know you?
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
If they say We should get together
It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.
When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
~Naomi Shihab Nye
From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)
if i can't do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don't want
it's not the same thing
but it's the best i can
if i can't have
what i want then
my job is to want
what i've got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more
since i can't go
where i need
to go then i must go
where the signs point
though always understanding
when i can't express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal
but that's why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry
a woman can’t survive
by her own breath
she must know
the voices of mountains
she must recognize
the foreverness of blue sky
she must flow
with the elusive
of night wind woman
who will take her into
her own self
look at me
i am not a separate woman
i am a continuance
of blue sky
i am the throat
of the sandia mountains
a night wind woman
with every breath
I said to the wanting-creature inside me
I said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or resting?
There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!
And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don't go off somewhere else!
Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
and stand firm in that which you are.
From Kabir: Ecstatic Poems (Beacon Press, Boston, 2004)
One gray feather in the field,
curved, stiff and strong
holding it (close) I imagine its travels
over mountains and lakes
touching the clouds, feeling the pumping heart
of a determined soul, wired for distance
and repeat reunions
to these very reeds
how I wish I could return this
to aid your journey, to make you complete
now in my chest pocket to reconnect it
to a heart, to your steward
In the Sea of Others
Still, it is next to impossible
to do this alone.
We need the loving truth of others to be well.
Inevitably when one is thrust into life,
into crisis, into transformation
without notice or instruction
some come with us
and are forever changed
while others watch as we are forced out to sea.
It is the power of love
that enables those who come along
and in truth,
a language of experience is unearthed
that cannot be translated
to those who stay behind.
From Wounded Healers: A Book of Poems by People Who Have Had Cancer and Those Who Love and Care for Them, Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., editor. 1994