Poems to Lean On

This is a space to share poems that offer fortitude, hope, resilience, humor.  Share a poem, or a link to one, and in two to three lines convey how it inspires, or moves  you.
Submit to poet@humanities.org
The site will remain open to submissions until the end of May 2020 – thereafter consider submitting poems to https://www.poeticshelters.com/

May, 2020

white ceramic mug on white textile
Photo by Dina Nasyrova on Pexels.com

Synapses showcases the many connections shared among students. Experiences encountered at a college campus shape the time spent on-campus and the aftermath of many decisions made during each interaction with people. There is resilience now in the way a student’s role and existence during COVID-19 develops.

Synapses

The student body

further unveiled at night’s fall.

Embraced by the moon’s flow.

At times full, at times it’s shyness weaning from sight!

Seeing each other’s plight

Long hours of study

Harnessed to the repetition of the semester’s clock

Outside the university

Here we are

missing the shared stories of who we are…or were.

We listen for each other’s encouraging pressure to sumise to the grasp of alcohol’s reach, no longer.

Outside the dean and financial repercussions for years to come.

Students meet among the waves of the food that minimally leaps to its goal of lending extra pounds to thighs,bellies, and double chins.

Fall is fast upon us and the synapses continue.

Now in this insatiable occasion for connection,

The circuit repeats endlessly.

As age deters the true meaning of connection and what is means to be students.

Ever changing

day-to-day.

— Mayte Castro

********

Quarantine/Solitude

I feel the loss of being ripped from where I was.

I feel the loss of isolation.

I feel the pain of isolation.

But I see light that shines through my window.

I see the art that I have hanging in my room.

I watch my cat as he sleeps peacefully besides me.

I will cry.

I will cry a lot thinking about what comes next in each day.

I will feel overwhelmed to the point that feels like insanity.

I will again look around my room and see the lights I hung my senior year of high school.

I start to feel like I am in high school again.

I’m regressing.

But I see the sun shine on my cat’s orange fur.

I hear the music coming from my bedroom speaker.

I see the flowers that my mom put in my room.

I’m being forced to slow down and pay attention to my mental health.

I’m learning so much about myself in the solitude of my room.

I start to feel like Rapunzel–I’m waiting for someone to save me from the isolation.

But I am learning it is time to find me.

~Bella Garibaldi

********

About the Shopping Angels volunteer group, their willingness to get and deliver supplies for free to those who can’t is inspiring.

Darren Nordlie

Shopping Angels

Need food and cleaning supplies, but
afraid to leave your home?

Immunocompromised?
Easy prey for corona?
Just call the Shopping Angels,
they will hunt the aisles for what you need,
wearing gloves and mask when they drop

off at your door.
Call and stand back to see you pick them up.
Wave and turn.
Invisible wings on their backs.

~Darren Nordlie

********

May 30, 2020

full moon illustration
Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com
Sharing a poem I wrote about feeling disconnected spiritually during the lockdown.  The poem describes the distancing experienced as a result of the closure of houses of worship.  Since it is the month of Ramadan, the feeling is amplified.  The first verse refers to the initial suspension of large gatherings which impacted my ability to go to my place of worship for Friday congregational prayers.  The second verse describes the subsequent closure of the mosque for the smaller services at different times of the day.  The third verse wonders whether the annual pilgrimage will also be canceled this year.  The fourth verse describes the experience of fasting during this month of Ramadan without the benefit of community.  The fifth and final verse sums up the feeling of alienation.
Salah Dandan
Spiritual Distancing 
When you stopped receiving me, along with countless other suitors at your weekly audience, I thought it was cruel but fleeting.
Then you shuttered your doors to all passers by, revoking permission to call on you at dusk and morrow.
Will you even bar me and my rivals from coming to your house from every deep expanse for the assembly?
While now I thirst during the day seeking to soften our estrangement, I wonder if you have an interest in quenching the flames of my yearning.
And while you may be closer to me than blood flowing through my veins, it’s the distance between you and me that ails me.

~Salah Dandan

********

Home


It’s six in the evening. I’ve brushed
my teeth and taken the bath
I’ve been thinking about for three days;
put off vacuuming again and sorting
and straightening papers and books

When Simon says “they” have run
into supply line limits for making vials,
a demanding and time consuming process,
vials which must be glass for viable storage
of vaccine, “the vaccine” being
the Corona virus vaccine, of course,
But there are so many of us now
so many that need the vaccine
that the timely delivery of the earth’s store
of sand for making glass becomes now
a significant, perhaps fatal, snag
in our mission to save us all,
The all, that is, the too many we are now
pushing other species to extinction
whether bee or coral or pangolin
the too many of us being
why we are in this botch
together, unable to curtail
our own species reproduction
even to survive on earth
our only and last home.
     ~Elaine Smith
********

 

CHILDREN AT PLAY

Sat in an easy chair, stay-in-place compliance,

music throbbing a beat, toe-tapping reliance.

Window wide-open, welcome new sunny day,

bewitching chorus, laughter—children at play.

Watching trikes, bikes, skate board—a parade

circled counterclockwise, rewound time made

a hypnotic charm—merry-go-round cul-de-sac.

A memory of days outside, big-time skate key,

dazzling medal on a ribbon hung for all to see.

Tighten wheels on shoe—need to be just right.

Loose skate, skinned knee, foolish bloody sight.

Up and down sidewalk block—skills, fascination.

Unlock skate, temporarily feet expand vibration.

Recalling times past—old view-master click back.

Watching children, on the sideline of their play,

I follow spinning circle, return to a long ago day.

~April Ryan May

*******

 

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the devastating eruption of Mt. St. Helens. This anniversary is occurring during a worldwide pandemic caused by the Coronavirus. Both events happened with unexpected rapidity and intensity, but just like all other natural disasters, whether regional or global, they dissipate in time but leave in their wake lasting societal change. That’s the theme of this new poem, which was inspired by the line, “Every storm runs out of rain,” which is also the title of the song in which it appears released in 2012 by country musician Gary Allan. This line was subsequently quoted by the late African American poet Maya Angelou, saying in an interview that she wished she would have penned it herself……

–James Fly
College Place, WA – May 18, 2020
Every Storm
Every storm runs out of rain;*
Winds exhaust all hurricanes;
Craters smoke after venting rage;
Fires burn out their roaring flames;
Savage wars end in silent graves;
Tsunamis recede to gentle waves;
Stillness returns after Earth has quaked.
Yet nothing and noone remains the same,
for all storms leave behind lasting change–
devastation and determination
in their wake.
We mourn our loss, celebrate our gain.
–James Fly
********

Broken Landscape

Barbed wire fenced off the West,

transformed the open land,

transformed its inhabitants.

 

Now masks take the place of barbed wire

Transform our communities,

Transform us,

 

and, all around, the threat of death

hangs low in the air,

a drifting ground fog.

 

I sing a broken solo, like a lone coyote

whose plaintive yips pierce

the pre-dawn darkness.

 

I long for my friends –

to sing with them

and raise a carefree chorus.

 

The coyote lifts its fresh-caught rabbit-furred

supplication to the Moon, calling

for its friends to come share the treasure.

 

Will they ever be able

to circle together again?

Or will their path lead them

 

to a hidden trap

that lies in the mist,

waiting, its jaws open?

~

Kathy Haug  (4/29/2020)

********

“Train us, Lord, to fling ourselves upon the impossible, for behind the impossible is your grace and your presence; we cannot fall into emptiness. The future is an enigma, our road is covered by mist, but we want to go on giving ourselves, because you continue hoping amid the night and weeping tears through a thousand human eyes.”

(Prayer by Father Luis Espinal, whose life was brutally taken in Bolivia, for his activism and outspoken journalism for human rights & social justice. Quote found in Gustavo Gutierrez’ On Job: God-Talk And The Suffering Of The Innocent, pgs. 91 & 92)

Mist

That day the sun was white-bright.

It was summer-hot.

A July day.

In the morning, I went for a run

at my daughter’s high school track.

I am running and see that there is a white mist hovering

Over the track.

Not the grounds, the grassy island within, not the stands, not the ticket booth.

A white, cool mist hovering over the track.

As I am running, I can see my knees and my legs penetrating

This community of watery particles….

I am aware of the magic, the run, my deepening breath, my legs slicing through –

I run round and round and round.

Where there is emptiness, space invites

and the mist moves with me.

Bends when I bend

Turns when I turn,

around every curve.

I notice that the earth desires to stay

like a warm wind under the refuge of a shade tree

hesitant to leave.

While the white mist rises with me, my legs, my hair, my breath.

And I thought this is my body and this is yours

Moving forward – flinging ourselves into the impossible human assignment –

Of living and dying all at once; flesh and spirit

Time and timelessness and out of time.

Straight clear highways and shadowy bends in the road.

Shattering disappointments and ecstasy found.

The wrenching brokenness of a human heart and the careful

Mending of my husband’s shirt sleeve.

Loss and loss. The finding of treasure.

The dreams of summer grasses bending in wind – oh tell me where are they going?

The persistence of weeds.

The constant streams of illusion; the efflorescence of truth.

The play of rock and air.

The treasure box hidden.

The treasure box unearthed.

Sunflowers giving birth in yellow for a young girl

in her garden.

The Mist.

The enigmatic road.

The Enigma.

The Light.

The Alchemy (of it all).

Holding the light and the dark in our arms all at once

Flinging the possibility of the impossible through the mist –

This history, this family of human tears

Legs, knees, feet, body and breath

To run traversing the impossible taking the turns

In an open rain-washed sky

Jumping into streams, so many streams

So much light

~Cecily Markham

********

May 13, 2020

driftwood on a beach
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Beach Notes is a meditative poem series composed while self-isolating and walking a local beach. I began to write it as a way to heal from a personal loss. Through the poems I see nature as it is, and strive for hope, and healing for all.
Cat Ruiz Kigerl

Beach Notes

        — (Excerpt)

Tuesday, March 3. 1:03pm

The beach is stormy. I visit the high surf then climb the hill.

A virus creeps into the city across the water. It creates fear in people

across the world. The wind blows hard over the bluff.

Wednesday, March 4. 2:45pm.

On the beach it does not matter

that people do not listen to warnings about the virus.

The tide slowly goes out. An oyster shell is bleached by the sun.

Sunday, March 8. 1:10pm.

The beach, a home at the end of the road for those who find it.

The wind is chilled. The sun is striving to warm.

One must keep looking up.

Monday. March 9. 2:23pm

Many eagles bless the beach, whistling as they greet the sky.

Seals pop up and then are gone.

The city is quieter on the other side. What is here, today?

March 11. 1:49pm.

The beach is filled with life. Many seagulls feed off shore.

Seals bark and play. A pandemic has now been declared.

The sun sends rays onto the water through the cloud.

~Cat Ruiz Kigerl

********

This has been a time of inspiration and hope while we all row through this sea of change.
A friend suggested I send you my poems from these days of isolating events.
April Ryan

NEW NORMAL

During this time…

Television programs create emotions upended,

feeling confused, news that can’t be defended.

Changing channels, comedies rerun past years

must deliver laughs—but bring lonesome tears.

Stay-in-place, time stirs—wish world mended.

During this time…

Drove to the Post Office, need to avoid a late fee,

saw a Robin fat as a chicken atop evergreen tree.

Red light stop, open window—chipper birdsong,

whistled happy notes—flawless, rock star strong.

Trip to buy stamps: adventure, surprising reverie.

During this time…

We have a new wonderland—inside of a mirror,

world turnaround—look calm, but hide real fear.

Happy news, essential workers are Easter Bunny,

Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and bees making honey.

On a future day, bells will be ringing, ALL IS CLEAR.

~April Ryan April 10/2020

********

May 6, 2020

person holding a green plant
Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

Cutting Each Other’s Hair During the Corona Virus

We are two women who got married
seven years ago
but that is not our story of courage.
This story is about
sitting in the yard
in a plastic chair
an old towel around my shoulders,
clippers, scissors with teeth
on a side table
and my wife
with an anxious face
coming toward me
with sharp, small scissors.

If you think
we have no training for this job,
you are wrong.
We watched an old guy
with thinning hair
cut his own
on U Tube.

But now,
my wife lifts the clippers
to the back of my neck.
The goldfinches in the apple tree,
dapper in their bold spring plumage,
chirp encouragement.
Our dog watches
from the sidelines,
face filled with alarm.

The clippers buzz their way
along my neck,
then she grabs handfuls of hair
on top and lets the toothy scissors
munch on each clump.

When we switch, I let the clippers
linger and a bald spot
glares on the back of her head.

After,
when we look in the mirror
my formerly fluffy hair
is flat and the back of your head
is too close to bald,
but we glitter
smiles to each other
as if we just renewed our vows.

—By Dotty Armstrong

*******

I was contemplating my death should I get Covid-19 and I decided to just let the little kid in me rip.  It was a light way to move into a deep space with sincerity and humor.
                 Kathy Cuenin

What if I Should Die Today

What if I should die today

Is there anything I want to say?

It’s hard to imagine being dead

And being somewhere else instead.

 

I’d want to say goodbye to those

I love, even some not so close.

What about those I still want to know?

And really, I’m not even sure I’ll go.

 

There’s  Carmi and Betty, Margaret and Mel

Kathy and Alan, Joyce, and well…

So many more, I’d have a big list.

I’d call everyone up and start like this:

 

“Hello,” I’d say,” I might die today.

I also might not but I still may.

If I stay alive, all this would have passed

But if I don’t, this might be my last.

 

I want you to know you mattered to me,

So much so, you made my heart happy.

I love you and ‘round you my spirits are high.

It’s OK that you know even if I’d don’t die.”

 

I’d want my mom and dad to know

How good they were to raise me so

I could read, run, and play each day

And treasure the life I have today.

 

I want my sibs to sing a song

Even ma and pa should sing along.

And probably a hand to hold

Would be better than a pot of gold.

 

I want to say goodbye in my heart

To the trees with whom I’m sad to part

They listened kindly, my thanks won’t end

They’ve been such special, giant friends.

 

I’d want to thank the moon beams too

For following me around the house like they knew

When I needed a friend.  They kept my secrets well

Traveling so far through the sky as they fell.

 

I’d say goodbye to that moon as well

Who brought me to tears ‘cause its beauty was swell

And the stars, the rivers, the birds and my pansies

The tallest mountains and our sprouting vegis

 

After all the goodbyes I’d rest a spell

To breathe and feel sad and also grateful

For the miracle of life that happened to me

And I’d wonder what’s next and I guess I’ll see.

~Cathy Cuenin

*******

Memories
by Teague Song (age 11)

Memories,
great ones, remembered
good ones, kept
bad ones, forgotten

Sometimes you forget one
let it go,
like a squirrel burying nuts
But then it sprouts

A tree grows
Your imagination
filling in a hole
Your lost memory

********

This poem titled “Six Weeks” and was written as an immediate response to the closure and abrupt ending of everything we saw as our reality. Now, more than six weeks later, my family of two teen boys, one tween girl, my husband and myself, has settled into a quiet calm. We are embracing the ideals in this poem. We are seeing the good coming out of unscheduled days and time to look each other in the eye over shared meals at our table.  We are endlessly passing each other in our hallway, that now feels quite small.  I hope that this poem brings a sense of calm to readers and a balm to help us grieve what we have lost, but also to see how far we have now come.
           Thank you,
           Tonya J. Cunningham
 
Six Weeks
Six weeks spread out before us in
A smooth white
Unlined,
Unscheduled calendar of blank pages.

 

A wound heals
In six weeks.

 

We learn to accept grief and disappointment
In six weeks.

 

The season will change and buds will unfurl into leaves
In six weeks.

 

The sun’s rays will begin to touch us more deeply
In six weeks.

 

Will we talk to each other more?
Hang around each other’s bedroom doors,
Eat together,
Pass each other in the hallway every hour?
Will we ask each other how we are doing?
Will we give each other space to create,
To play games, to be
Ourselves?
Will we accept each other’s quirks and moods and needs?

 

With dogs and friends, great messes and loud voices, more snacks and dishes,
Laundry and the grocery store (hopefully)
Hand sanitizer and toilet paper : )

 

We will be together
In this house
For this gift of
Six weeks.
        ~Tonya J. Cunningham
********

I have attached a poem for your online community. I wrote this poem years ago, and I keep a copy of it in my wallet. During hard times, I pull it out to remind myself to savor life, no matter what!

Poetry is good for everyone, and we need the arts more than ever right now.

      Francine Walls

Emergency Poem

This is the poem for emergencies,

like the spare batteries and extra gas

you pack when you drive into the wilderness.

 

When you discover you are lost,

you can press any word in this poem,

and walk beside calm waters.

 

This poem does not have

water, food, shelter or energy bars

yet courage is hidden in every line.

 

Before you crumple up this poem,

feeling danger south, north, west, east,

remember love’s gift to you:  your next breath.

~Francine E. Walls

*******

Things I Imagine When I Can’t Handle The Real World
I imagine I made friends with that girl or her friend who’s so tall.

I imagine I kissed the girl who never stops dancing.

I imagine all the things he did to me never happened.

I imagine the first boy I ever kissed and I becoming the new Bonnie and Clyde; we’d be called the Sweetheart killers and we’d take down all the acquitted guilty.

I imagine my first love had asked to kiss me.

I imagine I know who I’ll marry one day.

I imagine soulmates are real.

I imagine I had a soul to sell.

I imagine I took the chances back.

I imagine I’m not constantly erased to make the paper more comfortable.

I imagine there is more to me than invisible scar tissue.

I imagine loving myself enough to stop my childhood from killing me.

I imagine the bathtub had worked, had been possible, had been knives.

I imagine I’d stood up for myself when it mattered, not weeks or months or years later when there was nothing left to stand up to.

I imagine I’d changed my mind before my mind started to change me.

I imagine I have more than the remnants of my father’s trauma and my mother’s love.

I imagine I don’t feel like crying every time I wake up.

I imagine innocence was something I ever had a chance at.

I imagine I hadn’t stolen so many things, hadn’t returned them, hadn’t gotten caught.

I imagine I really had killed him.

I imagine I made good decisions when I had the chance.

I imagine I’d taken my revenge while I still could, instead of sitting back down, instead of crying, instead of saying sorry.

I imagine world after world where everything is different, and then something–a noise; a flicker; a calamity–brings me back to reality and I have to confront what I’m left with:

A girl;

Her past;

And a pen.

~ Hallie Dickinson

********

April 30, 2020

low angle view of pink flowers against blue sky
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Poetry is the first responder. A poem takes your hand, walks with you, inspires a larger vision, and wants for you a larger life.  A poem is a friend, a mentor, a wise counselor, priest, sage, and lasting companion, and its humor the happiness of gods.

During this time of lockdown,  poetry helps interpret challenging feelings and more importantly connects us to a more meaningful way of life this pandemic is demanding of each one of us.

Judith Adams

In days of isolation 

You climb a few steps to your pulpit

in the pigpen of your mind 

your own brand of damnation

your own pattern of hope.

In these times

the planet has a small

chance to breathe, to pause

to heal her wounds

as new winds clean the oceans.

History will document

many were sacrificed,

brought to their knees,

A vulnerable softening

in the faces of achievers

and famous. 

Markets shifted from

acquisition to compassion.

workshops set up where love is minted

and in warehouses love stockpiled.

Everyone will say;

consciousness took a great and mighty leap.

Nobody was left behind,

the historic tide turned mankind

towards beauty and the feast of the invisible. 

~Judith Adams

********

 

Here are two poems I wrote, as a way of processing my feelings and observations during this Coronavirus pandemic.  Happy Poetry Month!
         Cynthia Hernandez
Love in the Time of Coronavirus
Stem the tide.
Stop the bleeding.
Open the curtains.
Let in some light.
We must do what we can
while we’re social retreating,
to uplift each other
and keep hope alive.
So pick up the phone.
Drop a loved one a line.
Take a deep breath.
And let love’s light shine.
We all need each other
more than ever before.
So please do what you can.
I thank and implore you.
Tomorrow will come.
It will be a new day-
made better or worse
by the choices we make.
~Cynthia Hernandez, 2020
********
Este poema es parte de una serie de poemas visuales que llamo,”Frontextos”, y he estado haciendo uno por día desde la cuarentena en San Antonio, TX. Escribir este poema, al igual que los otros, me ha ayudado a documentar la cotidianidad de la cuarentena y mantenerme cuerdo.
Espero que todo este bien y un saludo.
                  Octavio Quintanilla
Los días oscuros 38 jpg
********

April 23, 2020

arrangement bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.co
Well, you asked for a poem, and here’s one that is optimistic and allows us to imagine the good that could come from this horrible situation. Isn’t it interesting how the poet wrote about our time 70 years ago with such precision?
         Larry Asher — Seattle
Keeping Quiet
Pablo Neruda

A callarse

Ahora contaremos doce
y nos quedamos todos quietos.

Por una vez sobre la tierra
no hablemos en ningun idioma,
por un segundo detengamonos,
no movamos tanto los brazos.

Seria un minuto fragante,
sin prisa, sin locomotoras,
todos estariamos juntos
en una inquietud instantanea.

Los pescadores del mar frio
no harian danio a las ballenas
y el trabajador de la sal
miraria sus manos rotas.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,
guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,
victorias sin sobrevivientes,
se pondrian un traje puro
y andarian con sus hermanos
por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

No se confunda lo que quiero
con la inaccion definitiva:
la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte.

Si no pudimos ser unanimes
moviendo tanto nuestras vidas,
tal vez no hacer nada una vez,
tal vez un gran silencio pueda
interrumpir esta tristeza,
este no entendernos jamas
y amenazarnos con la muerte,
tal vez la tierra nos ensenie
cuando todo parece muerto
y luego todo estaba vivo.

Ahora contare hasta doce
y tu te callas y me voy.

Keeping quiet

And 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,
victory 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.

********
Karen Brodine’s poem of the AIDS crisis, “Sickness Slept in Us,” from a poem series titled NO ONE IMMUNE, resonates strongly today. She was a Washington native, feminist and early LGBTQ activist, who died of breast cancer in 1987.
                      Helen Gilbert — Seattle, Washington

 

Sickness Slept in Us

It was a time when sickness slept in us waiting
It was a time when birds dove through slick oil
and came up without feathers
a time when no one was immune

Are you now
or have you ever been
a member of those
who face the days with no natural defense?
who face a slow and certain death?
diagnosed, the new lepers
under wrath of god.

Can they lock us all up?

~ Karen Brodine (1985)

https://www.redletterpress.org/womansitting.html

 

********
Here’s a new poem “Ode to Shadows” inspired by photos of the Shadows of Hiroshima.
       Robert Flor
              ~David True
***********
Written at 3am  — Judith Ames
Panheartening
What is happening to our hearts?

In our hearts?

We wake in the night to think of our loved ones.
We feel the enormity of our love  for each of our dearest.
We call. We forget what had appeared broken.
So too even unto ourselves.
Love reigns as she opens our eyes to the beauty in each of our beloveds.
And in ourselves.
As we know, when we encounter those we don’t even know, what we share:
A longing to touch. To connect.
Moments of thanks, and preparation, should we need it, for goodbyes.
As we slow, to enjoy preparing and eating.
As we plant, in our victory gardens,
little rows of hope.
As we see young fathers walking with their children.
At last.
How long we have waited to rediscover the simple.
To come home.
Seeing our homes and having time to dig deep into dusty corners,
To clean and polish,
Touch our homes with affection,
Until they gleam.
       ~Judith Ames

********

The following poem was prompted by a Zoom workshop with

Redmond Poet Laureate Raul Sanchez.

Kari Tai

Together Apart
reflects the dual nature of our times, the pandemic game of opposites–

the invisible that creates the indivisible.
Virus driving us physically apart, like mercury beads from a broken thermometer,

but we crowd source, cloud source, rising up in the ether.
The speed of adaptability is infectious. Empathy spreads rapidly.
Like walking down a sandy dune, the casual ease of daily life slipping past us,

our footprints leave deep imprints of who and what are important. A tap on the brakes of our monkey minds rocketing to the future,

alerting us to the Zen necessity of the present moment.
Outside, the gifts of spring are exaggerated. Even the prolific weeds a gracious path

to a sense of productivity.
Best of all, everyone is dancing in their living rooms like no one is watching,

a silent disco to which we are all party.

~Kari Tai

********

April 12, 2020

brown short coated dog sitting on brown wooden floor
Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

Thank you for this outlet. I have been enjoying all the poems. Here is one that I wrote this week – week four of quarantining.

         Kristen Orlando

All This Time

I have been watching you watch me

while we watch the birds at the feeder,

the dog sleeping by your feet,

the little boy across the street

tossing the basketball

into the hoop again and again.

I have been watching you watch me

while we watch the sun announce another morning,

while we read the books, the papers, the media.

We move from room to room, tend our days —

expect less from each hour as it leans into the next.

At night I am not sleeping.

I watch you.

I think about the threat

in the air between us.

I want to touch you,

press our bodies together

until you are my only blanket —

until I fall asleep.

In the morning, birdsong.

I smell coffee waiting for me,

a cup to warm my hands.

In the reflection of the window

I watch you watch me,

my whole body a prayer of gratitude.

        ~Kristen Orlando

********
Health Update
              Seattle 3/28/2020
Tired of pacing
I stand in doorways
between rooms—
there are only two—
asking what next?
Earthquake’s sway and shake,
it’s thunderous noise,
crashing tsunami?
No—a pandemic,
silent still, invidious,
not sudden, clamorous,
random hits,
but stealthy, inclusive, sure,
and deadly visits,
softly, damply airborne,
lurking on dear objects,
familiar surfaces.
Nowhere to go but within
to pluck strings of imagination,
dance with the dog,
play with words
till they ring true
and fill the silence.
                ~ Jared Curtis
*******
Staying at home alone with my husband, not working, sensing the impermanence of life, deepens my love. I try not to worry about the future, health is more important than wealth.
                 Leslie Wharton

Stay at Home with Me

Stay at home with me

The best is yet to be

 

Rest in the middle of day

Sleep long nights too

 

Take my hand so tiny

Into your big strong palm

 

Touch me as if touch

Will keep us alive

 

Touch only me now

As if we will live forever

 

This is all we have

You and me this day.

~Leslie Wharton

********

two lonely daffodils
by a rotting stump
social distancing
      ~C.J. Prince
********
I love your idea of “poems to lean on,” so valid in times like these. Thank the gods for my writing, for it’s keeping me company. Thanks for your great service!
             Christine White
The Guilded Shelter
Home structured in place
words from books with golden leaves
coverage of stories bless me
singly sitting in my cabin of flight
where I land, many galaxies at night
coverage of imagination blesses me
gardens of tenderness
green shoots with compost, the everlasting church of the garden
coverage of fresh growth blesses me
red flannel bedding cleanly washed
a glorious featherbed waiting to hold my body
coverage of nighttime dreams bless me
I am the boat in the water of my bathtub
a temple of sea-salts soaking
coverage of wellness blesses me
cooking in the kitchen
transformation served up on plates
coverage of nourishment blesses me
the gilded shelter unlocked
paying attention to my soul
coverage of “its nice to meet me,” blesses me.

~christine lamb white

 

*******

April 8, 2020

brown egg with leaf
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com
I wrote this on the eve of my birthday about the gifts I’ve been able to notice while being alone and how my love for people and awareness of what is nourishing or not is heightened.
                        Linsey Moore

Everyone is invited to my birthday party. It’s happening separately outside in solitude or quiet joy all day. Even a little sip of a breeze at the window gets you in or a reciprocal look into the sky. I’m serving a violet scented cake with chocolate shavings and freshly whipped cream. It’s a magic cake so it tastes like whatever you love though- like cheering for an owl in flight, like kissing your Grandma’s cheek, like braiding your friend’s hair, like holding your sister’s hand, like pretending to be your best friend’s child’s child, like listening to music in the dark, like the sound of the sea on sand, like the possibility of enough healthy food, shelter and insulin for everyone, like a surprise beverage in a tiny beautiful jar, like hearing drums that turn out to be your Dad or the songbird’s nest of your mom’s home-cut hair- like the smell of the sun-warmed grass, like a little dog leaping over a forest log, like discovering four shapes of daffodils grow by the mailbox and where the hummingbird lives.

          ~Linsey Moore
********
I asked my dearest forever friend to read this at my wedding 20 years ago (milestone anniversary is next week!), and it has taken on many different meanings over the time since. Right now, I am struck – down there in the depths – how this pandemic is churning the waves, carving out silence, and feeling like nothing and everything at once.
                      Jay Nahani
Oceans

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                    And nothing
happens! Nothing…Silence…Waves…

    –Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

          ~Juan Ramon Jimenez (translated by Robert Bly)
********
I’m sending along “Allow Me” by Chungmi Kim.
I’m the sort of person who is always envisioning all outcomes, especially the dark and dismal, but this poem reminds me of the importance of the moment and the virtues of patience.
               Sharma Shields

Allow Me

If I must worry about how
I will live in my old age
without wealth
I would be without health now
and how can I live to be
old?
If I must worry about how
I will live in my old age
without love
I would be without dreams now
and how can I go on living
another day?
Allow me to sit in the sun
and listen to the sky.
I will love you gently.
Allow me to stay in my room
and weave my rainbows.
I will love you truly.
Like a colt in the meadow
with no boundary
allow me
to wander around
till I hear the autumn
stealthily
strolling by my door.
I will be waiting
to be with you
then.
       ~ Chungmi Kim, “Allow Me” from Glacier Lily. Copyright © 2004 by Chungmi Kim.
********

“Thanks for staying home.”

To the Younger Generation:

We worried about the wasted hours lost in gaming, posting, scrolling

And aimlessly watching Youtube.

We predicted depression, loss of social skills, anxiety,

And an inability to focus.

We bemoaned the degradation of writing by hand, the lost art of reading cursive,

And of holding conversations face to face.

Little did we know, we were preparing you for war.

War against the unseen virus,

Floating aerosol, unseen,

Deadly coughs and fevers attacking the vulnerable.

We remain locked inside.

Preoccupied by our devices:

Connecting on-line, gaming with friends, learning new things on Youtube,

And conversing over Face Time.

Hunkered down for the duration.

And you are ready, device in hand,

Armed against COVID 19.

Little did we know,

War was coming,

And you were ready.

      ~Hope Nichols – Enterprise Middle School

********

“Mother Winter” is a poem I wrote this past December. It’s a poem about nature, family and home. It is reminding me of the hope I can find within the view outside my own window.

Joann Renee Boswell

Mother Winter

I love this time,

sky dome sleepy,

when Mother pulls

down the atmospheric

blinds, we’re drawn too

into effervescent dusk.

the mountain-sill is lit,

thin line over-saturated

pale pink and clementine.

She does this on purpose

leaves peaking space

(closet door cracked —

Mother likes a sneak)

pulls   f  o  c  u  s

to the perimeter. we come

together, attracted by Light.

this is Her way

of putting the dogs out,

shuttering distractions,

inviting us all inward —

we remember our roots.

lure us home, Mother.

~Joann Renee Boswell

 

********

I’ve been trying to find meaning in this time of isolation. Part of that is removing myself from the fear cycle on the screen and in my head and really paying attention to what’s happening around me in Nature. This is a time of mourning, but also a time of creativity as we try on new ways of being.

                    ~ Ellen Rowland, Lipsi, Greece
 
From Where I Sit
under the carob tree
I can see buffalo grazing openly on the sloped hill
next to brightly colored hive boxes
where the bees are sheltering in.
Is it me, or do there seem to be
more birds and louder cricket song, a generous variety
of butterflies, newbred and brighter wildflowers rioting the 
fields?
I can see a bay of the Aegean sea 
where no fishing boats sputter smoke and oil,
no throw-aways flap their gills on the deck.
The fish are spared from nets. Are they rejoicing in tight unison?
I can see a meadow of edible wild greens
and prickly stalks of warning nettle reaching higher 
by the day, claiming every unused inch of soil,
leaving no room for feet.
Beyond what I can see, there are 
entire microcosms of insects at work gathering,
networks of root systems and fungi informing each other
of the rain clouds building in the sky. 
Drink and bloom, they say. Flourish and burgeon.
The world has not stopped. Only we have.
From the standstill, I listen and marvel.
If the bees can create something as miraculous
as honey at home, what are we capable of?
       ~Ellen Rowland
********

I have been enjoying the “Poems to Lean On” webpage and also shared it with my students. I’ve told my students that our current pandemic has canceled and postponed many things, but it cannot take away Poetry Month! I have a poem I wrote and would like to submit. HAPPY POETRY MONTH: Read it! Write it! Share it!

~Lisa Salisbury

When the Time Comes

When the time comes

To reunite again

In the physical world

Do you want to come out

And play with me?

Do you want to walk

Side by side together along

A long open stretch of beach

Breathing in the salty sea air

While feeling the wind on our faces?

And at the end of our walk

We could hug

Like we usually do

Before we part and return

Back to our homes

Until we meet again
When the time comes

Do you want to come out

And play with me?

Do you want to hike

Side by side together

Up the highest of hilltops

To look out at the islands below

And the beautiful Salish Sea?

We could stand next to each other

With our arms gently

Around each other’s waists

Enjoying the view and the moment

Together

And at the end of our hike

We could hug

Like we usually do

Before we part and return

Back to our homes

Until we meet again
When the time comes

Do you want to come out

And play with me?

Do you want to wander

Side by side together

Through the meadows

And wooded trails

Enjoying the wildflowers

Listening to the birdsong?

We could hold hands and

Swing our arms and skip

Together along a wide path

Just because we could

And at the end of our wanderings

We could hug

Like we usually do

Before we part and return

Back to our homes

Until we meet again
When the time comes

Do you want to come over

And play with me?

Do you want to come over

And sit at my table for tea

Like we’ve done

So many times before?

We could talk and share

Looking into each other’s eyes

We could listen, laugh and cry

Together

We could write, paint or draw

We could just sit

Being together

Drinking tea

And at the end of our gathering

We could hug

Like we usually do

Before we part and return

Back to our homes

Until we meet again
When the time comes

We will be together

Side by side

And we will do all of these things

My friends

Just because we can
We will smile and laugh

At the simple joy of it all

Sunshine, wildflowers

Freedom, fresh air and open spaces

And us, the beauty of us

Simple joys to embrace
And when the time comes

Let us not forget

How precious such moments are

        ~Lisa Salisbury

********

April 2, 2020

white tree beside pathway
Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com
Many poems in Holly J Hughes’s new book HOLD FAST offer sustenance to readers. This stellar poem uses metaphor for what we all need to do, what we are doing.
In social distancing solidarity,
                      Mary Ellen Talley
Holdfast
Last week of August: too soon for falling
leaves, fog that rises at dawn, ghosts up
the beach, geese lining up in their ragtag V.
Beyond the sandstone ledge carved
like a torso by the waves, beyond
purple sea stars inching toward tide pools,
ribbons of bull kelp drift with the tide,
ebb and flow, anchored to the sea floor
by a half-inch barnacle called a holdfast.
It knows the principle of hunkering down,
riding out the storm, staying put. All
winter, beneath the sea’s relentless chop
it holds fast, gives over to each storm,
flows with each rising tide. All winter
it lets go what it can, holds fast to the rest.
That’s what we’ll do come November.
Hold fast to what sustains: our friends,
a steaming bowl of soup, this beach.
     — Holly J. Hughes
********

 

[I am] including a poem that I wrote a few years ago that is meant to inspire

during bleak times.

Heidi Seaborn

How the Light Gets In

            ~After Leonard Cohen’s Anthem

These days, we’re broken—

a horse, spirit-whipped, made

to trudge our load,

 

haul someone’s ass around. Our

car breaks down in the fast lane,

in the rain, in the dead of night.

 

Dishes break in anger, bones at impact

hearts in an instant—these days

 

as a constant. Your voice cracks

with light caught in your throat.

 

When day breaks like an egg

bleeding across distance, you

nonetheless rise to birdsong.

 

When there’s a crack

in the windshield, jagged like a pulse,

let it set your horizon.

 

Valerian blossoms out of broken

stone. Thunder cracks open

the sky to lightning—

the darkest storm leaves light.

~Heidi Seaborn

********

THANK YOU FOR ALL THESE WONDERFUL POEMS!! 💟

        Lisa Lawrence

Self Solitude

We’ll look back on this time someday

maybe

see it as a warning

a cue

to retreat from our forward march

for mother earth, her inhabitants, her lungs

how to treat one another, everything…

with potent awareness

with awe

gaze from a distance

we’ll recall how we talked to the sky

the stars, trees and streams

how this time disclosed deep ties

with one another

the ground, the sound, our skin our hands

that being together in leisure is a blessing

that each of us is rare and wonderful

that returning to ourselves

in solitude

reveals our entirety

       — Lisa Nash Lawrence

********

Below is my poem “Hope.” It’s from my book, An Exaltation of Tongues, from MoonPath Press, and inspired by Emily Dickinson’s ‘“Hope” is the Thing with Feathers.’

Sincerely,

Paul Fisher

Hope

Impatient to be born aloft

where thousands fly as one,

starlings roost on branches

the way words rest on tongues.

 

Given silence, night speaks.

Given light, wings beat.

A single quill inks the sky.

A million plumes define the sun.

 

With the din of darkness muted,

fire’s fanfare hushed,

will song assume the form

of catbird, loon or meadowlark?

 

To rise from ash and ride on air

feathers must be strong.

Look where they have fallen.

Imagine where they have flown.

~ Paul Fisher

********

This poem was inspired by the phrase that so many commentators are using now with respect to Covid-19: “We’re all in this together.” Cliche or trite? Maybe, but many such aphorisms become cliches simply because they express universal truths and nothing could be more true now.

James Fly — College Place, Washington

All Together

We’re all in this together
for worse or the better;
We’re all potential vectors
so we have to be protectors,
physically deflecting
while emotionally connecting
until the time we may embrace
heart to heart and face to face.

–James Fly
********

March 28, 2020

marketing office working business
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com
This virus has allowed me to step back and see the world, not as 190+ countries, but one whole. And this poem sprung from my desire to suggest that it may take time to feel that wholeness for ourselves, but we will.
                           Bob Zaslow

Two Moons

When I was young,

I was a crescent moon

searching for a perfect fit

with the crescent moon

in the lake.

But no crescent

fit just right–

Always a piece missing

or a piece too large.

And I thought,

I will never be whole.

But in the fullness of time

our crescents

grew rounder

and rounder still.

Until I became

a full moon.

As did the lake moon.

And for one night,

each of us shined brightly

on the other.

And we were whole.

     — Bob Zaslow

********

Hi, thank you for this service.
Take care.

          Keith Eisner

Message

My son’s mailbox is full.

 

Not the box the mail carrier fills,

but the “box” to leave messages on his phone.

Not that I have an urgent message for him

or, for that matter, anyone.

Only the message I give to everyone these days

as we greet each other

six feet away:

 

Hi/Hi

How/How

are/are

you/you… ?

 

Oh, how bright we are

in our words and stance;

how casual in our tones and smiles,

as if we’ve done this

all our lives.

Yet what we’re truly saying

is no more casual

than what planets,

if they could speak,

would cry to one another,

as they hurtle through

the dark and bottomless space:

 

hello, hello,

fellow planet,

sister vessel of light and sound,

be well… be well… be well.

 

This mailbox is full,

the computerized voice informs me,

and cannot accept any messages at this time,

good bye.

What would I have said

if his mailbox wasn’t full?

Most likely, the usual:

Hi how are you call me

when you get the chance.

 

Now I stare at the phone,

thinking of other things I might say,

things like, When we brought

you into this world, when we

drove you home from the hospital,

none of this,

believe me,

was in our story of your life:

No burning towers, burning

forests, no armies of dispossessed

men and women,

caged children,

endemic injustice,

pandemic sorrow.

 

All true, but who wants

to get such a message

on their phone?

Even—or particularly—from their dad?

 

Instead, I offer this poem,

whose message, from one

planet to another, comes down to:

 

be well

be well,

be well…

— Keith Eisner

*******

Spring

Spring harvests surrounding perceptions

that deeply dwell in earth’s soul then

rebirth into brilliant flower parades,

revealing our desired selves

into millions of happy warm rays.

 

Animals run through the spring rain,

harmless and sweet, with love and joy to share,

providing all they can for their newly hatched,

their lives so precious with gratitude.

 

Wise men appreciate the sad souls encountered,

and offer ideas to carry on a mysterious unfolded

path, where they reach out their hands to be pulled out

of their despairs and told to never give up.

 

Such are the seasons destined to perform yearly,

as fall lets go of the carefree summer and winter freezes

the grounds, spring knows that it’s the season to be

most powerful and again pull through all that survives.
— Katarina Bailot

********

A poem I loved years ago and was recently reminded of when Ed Harkness recited from memory to open his reading in Anacortes. Two poets of parallel powers, a song of protection and refuge for the body beyond our body.

Michael Daley, Anacortes, WA

The Jewel

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

–James Wright

*******

The Crown

The corona, means the crown, so who is going to reign today.

Who’s blood this crown of thorns will slowly siphoned away.

How long is quarantine? Forty days and forty nights?

I want life to return as I knew it, I want to fill in the void.

The emptiness of my sequestered existence.

The voices in my head have become a nuisance.

I tremble with fear. I need a hug. A word of reasurance, I need the truth.

I need common sense. What the hell is happening here?

and all over the world…

If we don’t keep our six feet distance.

We may end up six feet under.

— Martha Flores

********

March 24, 2020

handmade embroidery
Photo by Magdaline Nicole on Pexels.com
This poem tries to echo a theme J. Krishnamurti often spoke to:
The solution to the world’s problems, he wrote,
“lies in the creator of the problem, in the creator
of the mischief, of the hate and enormous misunderstanding
that exists between human beings…the individual,
you and I, not the world as we think of it.
The world…is the relationship we seek to establish
between each other.”
               Robert Nein, Chewelah, Washington

How to Build a Peace Fire

Gather the dry branches of your judgments,

the keen blades of righteous words and thoughts,

the sly poison darts of gossip and innuendo,

all the stuff that made you feel bigger and better.

Pile these together and mix in tightly-rolled pages

of angry letters and emails hatched in your reptile brain.

A pitchy drizzle of self-pity

will make this bonfire crackle

when you torch it with your resentment

of bad drivers and inept bureaucrats,

of every one and every thing

not quite up to your high standards.

Now that it’s roaring, invite

others to throw on more fuel:

hooded sheets, swastika shirts,

combat video games, snuff films,

bloody robes from honor killings.

Keep collecting until the pile

bulges with border walls and fences,

acts of racial and ethnic hatred,

the rants of patriots and politicians

who stoke our fears of dangerous Others,

the ones we must exclude to protect

our just and superior ways of life.

When the flames are treetop high,

go away until the pyre collapses.

When you return, kneel and sift the warm ashes

through your fingers. Buried somewhere,

still glowing, are the igniting sparks that leapt

from your flinty mind. Now, stand to throw

pinches of ash to the four compass points

and say a prayer for peace

in your very own heart,

the heart you share

with all the world.

—– by Robert Nein

********

Despite our statewide lockdown, I am thankful I can still jog, solo of course, via the easements through neighboring properties, where the images within this poem greet me. Their quiet beauty and plucky survival ease my raveled cares, mend my hopes. I want to pass this on.

Sincerely,

Laurie Klein

How to Live Like a Backyard Psalmist

Wear shoes with soles like meringue

and pale blue stitching so that

every day, for at least ten minutes,

you feel ten years old.

Befriend what crawls.

Drink rain, hatless, laughing.

Sit on your heels before anything plush

or vaguely kinetic:

hazel-green kneelers of moss

waving their little parcels

of spores, on hair-trigger stems.

Hushed as St. Kevin cradling the egg,

new-laid, in an upturned palm,

tiptoe past a red-winged blackbird’s nest.

Ponder the strange,

the charged, the dangerous:

taffeta rustle of cottonwood skirts,

Orion’s owl, cruising at dusk,

thunderhead rumble. Bone-deep,

scrimshaw each day’s secret.

Now, lighting the sandalwood candle,

gather each strand you recall

and the blue pen, like a needle.

Suture what you can.

—Laurie Klein, Where the Sky Opens

********

Why I picked this one: Because this is where we are.
        Marc Brenman

Quarantine
With whom would you tolerate quarantine?

Like the old question,

What book would you bring to a desert island.

I can’t see you smile

Behind your surgical mask.

Breathe carefully, don’t inhale

The tiny beasts curling,

Reproducing and racing you

over the redline to death’s door.

Do I love you enough

To be your shut in?

We already pass germs between us,

Antibiotics killing, parasites, worms,

Emperor Norton Anti-Virus.

Shed your protective gear

And make love with me.

I’ll read you stories of the Fall, though Spring is hardly here.

Snow drops ventilate the lawn,

Pushing aside leaves.

I breathe fearfully,

Covering my knows; ignorance is ecstasy.

In the pre-apocalyptic darkness,

I no longer dream but instead perform

Autonomously, artificially knowing you,

Calling up your face from my files,

Backed up to a paywall,

Admitted by password

Or need to know,

Your soft user interface

A substitute for love.

Your original face,

The beta virgin of you,

Before the Net trapped us,

Before the last plague,

When we felt our friends fall,

When we were still gay,

And pronouns had not despaired.

—-Marc Brenman

 

********

March 23, 2020

backlit beach beautiful clouds
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Pexels.com

 

I’d like to offer this poem for Poems to Lean On.

Ronda Piszk Broatch

HERE, WITH YOU

How good to be lost with you, soaked in sunset,

two gulls threading the grey air, wood smoke and tugboat,

swaths of water burdened to a sheen. Maybe time

is merely a construct of our making, but I believe

 

in hunger, in being fed. In taking a lifetime

watching crimson spill over foothills, dousing

Puget Sound. I wonder what it’s like to ripen without

fear, to be a near perfect body. I’ve heard it said

 

hot metal dropped in water forms a true sphere, held

in tension’s embrace. How nice to know when death lugs

at my life force, spreads my energy out into

 

so many billions of stars – such sweet amnesia! –

I will still be here with you, two gulls gathering the dark,

stitching closer, two tugboats pressing home.

 

         Ronda Piszk Broatch (published previously on Typishly, 2019)
********

Such dark times — thank you for your work to provide light.

Michael Dylan Welch

An Abundance of Caution
Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your long-awaited book launch.
Hugging your mom on her 96th birthday.
Your daughter’s first drama performance.
The poetry conference at which you were a featured speaker.
Your cruise to wherever.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

All rock and pop concerts.
March Madness basketball games.
Your birthday celebration with friends and family.
Your grandchild’s bar mitzvah.
The non-emergency surgery you had scheduled for months.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your trip to Paris.
Visiting your dying grandma.
Attending your friend’s funeral.
Your ability to focus.
Baseball season.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

School.
Ski season.
High school graduation.
Ballet performances.
Your productivity.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your job.
The symphony, including the cellist you’d been hoping to hear for a year.
Your best friend’s wedding.
Church services.
Your pottery class.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your monthly bowling night.
All tattoo parlor appointments.
Social interaction with any human you’re not related to.
Visiting your sister in palliative care.
Your 20th anniversary surf trip to Baja.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Me time.
Your trip to Fiji, to Japan, to Ireland.
Moving to a new state.
St. Patrick’s Day.
Mother’s Day.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your colonoscopy.
Crossing the Canadian border to check on your mom.
Visiting family on the birth of your first grandson.
Having your wisdom teeth removed.
Your monthly open-mic poetry reading.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Your painting lesson.
Haiku group meetings.
Your barbershop appointment.
Your spring break road trip.
Your family business.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Dinner at your favourite restaurant.
All restaurants bookings.
Your dental cleaning.
Next week’s public lecture.
College classes.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Zoo visits.
Elevator rides up the Space Needle and the Eiffel Tower.
Your side gigs.
The workshop you were going give, the one you were going to take.
All library visits.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Jazz night.
Your usual bus route.
Tourist attraction visits.
Dance club soirees.
Your art show opening.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Day care.
Going out of the house except for groceries and pharmacy runs.
Barbecues and tailgate parties.
Coffee with the girls.
Your therapy appointment.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Hand sanitizer.
Your gym club visits.
Racquetball night.
Orchestra rehearsals.
Toilet paper.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled:

Not one thing, with help from each other, that we cannot recover from.

         Michael Dylan Welch

********

March 20, 2020

flowers meadow white flower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

********

Hope springs eternal. Stay well.
            Jeff Hansen
“The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.”  Robert Louis Stevenson
Proverbs

Time is a river,

the Heart, a lion,

tenderly grooming red paws

when glutted.

 

Justice?

A stumbler, blind as a bat.

Sight?

Lost to Faith, for sure.

 

Faith sees the light,

cured of Knowledge.

 

When Memory cheats,

we’re sworn to love lies.

But, unlike Memory, Truth says:

“It is what it is, man.”

 

“Death comes for all

to sweep the dust we make

 

while, rain or no rain,

the Sun gets up to peek from the hill,

 

his gaze youthful, sweet, winning,

and such delicious optimism!”

       Jeff Hanson

********

March 18, 2020

white ceramic cup on saucer
Photo by Decha Huayyai on Pexels.com

Peace      

            Julie Sevilla Drake

Pandemic

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

********

Knowing the science of energy, reminds us there is power even in the stillness of being.
           Joy Austin

Resistance

pressure builds

energy multiples

friction heats

surfaces bubble

into atmospheric frenzy

even a political rubber-band

laying in a drawer

holds power

energy of potential

possibilities to amalgamate

bind superfluous entities

into a conglomerate 

temporarily

until the resistance builds 

beyond capabilities 

or 

dry rots into

an X-ray of its former self

         J. L. Wright
 ********
Hello Claudia, glad to read your blog and know we are all floundering in some way during this strange time. I am learning new patience.
             Linda Conroy

 Self-Isolation

The shadow of my early days

still likes to slide against my frame,

but in the context of new danger

I know there is no threat the past can make.

My clamor-chaos history rolled away

there’s lightness in me now.

At dawn the soaking of faint sun into the grey

reminds of happenings yet to come.

Chill evening air prompts newer whims,

repair of what I might have brooded on

before transition to the calmer cushion of the night.

I’m no longer hearing worry in the silent book,

tasting doubt in cups of tea.

I hold the slipper-soft of eyelids,

the kindly dark of dreams.

       Linda Conroy

********

A friend posted this and I thought it was perfect for these times. I always love Wendell Berry, but his celebration of the solitary so necessary right now is a wonderful shift in perspective.

 

            Shannon Huffman Polson
Stay HOme

********

March 16, 2020
silhouette of flying birds
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

Poetry is one of the best spaces I know to listen and speak to both fear and hope simultaneously. I wrote this poem a few years ago when a number of my beloveds were in deep agony. I thought of it when I read about Poems to Lean On. I hope it will remind beloved readers that they still have agency in every minute, even in a global pandemic.

Sandra Yannone – Olympia, WA

The Next Open Space

We think it’s about

our footing, planting

the fleshy parts

solid to ground, taking

it one step at a time,

whatever it is.

I try to remember this

as I comfort my sisters

and brothers

as they migrate

to spaces that feel

closed before reached.

I have been there, outside

in that dark that redefines

dark, without words,

lifting my feet

or voice, impossible.

And, yes, it is

our daily dance

that offers

to turn us toward

the next open space,

teaching us there is

so much more

than what we perceive

breathing under our feet,

the ground rising,

rising all around us

like immaculate glass cities.

Look up, look up, always

look up. Find the bird

inside you

and remember this

about the next

open space:

There is always

more than one.

There is always

more than one.

Sandra Yannone

*******

I chose “Urban Law” by Alison Hawthorne Deming. It is one of my favorite poems. Its imagery is so evocative, and has the effect of elevating a small, modest gesture to life-changing and world-saving proportions. When we feel out of control, it is sometimes the simple acts between people, sometimes even strangers, that can sustain and empower us.

Rabbi Seth Goldstein – Olympia, WA

Urban Law by Allison Hawthorne Deming

********

I wrote this children’s poem to celebrate spring. Daffodils have a lovely way of lifting spirits. I hope this poem does, as well.

Kris Beaver – Kirkland, WA

Daffodils

Don’t you love
the look on daffodils
facing this way and that
smiling out to each living thing
and how even blind earthworms
wiggle awake to come say hello
hoping to catch a glimpse of spring?

Kris Beaver

88
The poem is representative of a personal struggle with demons & ultimately seeing that there is a wealth of character to be gained from them.
                                             Kyle David Congdon
Mendicant

Maybe
all this meditation
is finally paying off?

Maybe
it was just about
riding the shadow of a doubt
through the river Styx;
beyond my Abyss
& being thankful for it.
I look down
on my own
poverty,
rather than seeing
the wealth I was given
what I lacked in love
I made up for
in adversity.
            Kyle David Congdon
********
The poem has a double meaning –  I believe the Willow is one of our most beautiful trees.  So many of our streams are either drying up or becoming polluted, and if I were a tree, unable to move, I think I would weep too.
                                                                      David Mark Jenkins
The Willow
Emerald maiden
of the wind-washed hair,
loving the stream with her tears,
and weeping
as it dries.
        David Mark Jenkins
********

March 14, 2020

River at Kettle Falls

Here’s a poem by Wendell Berry that has been a balm to me in times of great stress and uncertainty.
                                                           Derek Sheffield – Wenatchee, WA
 
The Peace of Wild Things
 
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
         Wendell Berry

 

Also, this suggestion from Brian Doyle: “If you are feeling really sad, go outside and you will feel better after about an hour.” 

 

********

I go to this poem by Tomas Tranströmer for solace so often. Right now it seems like a particularly potent vision of recovery and reconnection.

                                                                Mandy Ellen

Half-Finished Heaven

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

********
As we sail through this uncertainty times, we need to live, love and speak with caution, life is beautiful.   Gracias!
             Raúl Sánchez

Our Lives Suspended Until Further Notice

When I think about dying

I think about previous deaths

some tragic some natural

however there isn’t anything

close to dying while breathing.

 

The air we breathe sustains us

me need clean air to live

to create, to love, to live, to be.

None of us choose to be exposed

yet, here we are living in the epicenter

 

the zoo, dying while breathing—

breathing while dying.

Virulent baseless ideas, paranoia,

lack of understanding

unknown germs, silent, invisible

 

intangible, undetected.

World war without bullets

bombs, gases, but plain air

only we can save ourselves

from ourselves.

Raúl Sánchez

********

In this poem I am describing my mother/the ultimate mother/ and maybe Mother Nature. She nurtured me and then let go but never really let go because she is part of me.

                                                                      Harvey Schwartz – Bellingham, WA

                                                      … and of course, everywhere

Mom’s everywhere, everything, every place. She’s been gone many years. But she’s never gone far. I fathom the fathoms of the depths of the deep, and her not being here. She’s never gone far.

She once was a garden and I was the seed. Couldn’t go very far since I sprouted in her.

When I swim down too far, to the whales, past the carp, she’s swimming right there. Never gone very far, though she’s gone many years, she’s really right here.

She once was a garden and I was a seed. She watered her crop, I felt drowned so I fled. On the tortuous paths that led me alone. I was lost in dark alleys of rocks, slippery stones. But to my surprise, they led me back home.

She was there round the bends and the curves over hills. When I traveled away, she was kind, let me go. She patiently waited as I searched in alone.

She once was a garden and I was a seed. Couldn’t go very far since I sprouted in her.

And the times that I strayed, wandered far from her world, weren’t really that far, even light years from home. Cause she glows in the stars, cause she shines in the moon, cause she’s really the sun on an inner queen’s throne.

She once was a garden and I was the seed. Couldn’t go very far since I sprouted in her.

When I’m lost in a fog, can’t see where to go. A voice I can hear says I need to come home. She hasn’t gone far, though I think that I’ve grown.

My guide’s still a glow, Northern Lights in the sky. For I grew up in her, from a seed to a sprout. Couldn’t go very far. That’s the place that I know. Deep inside where I grew. Deep inside who I am. Deep inside all of me. Deep inside’s never far.

                                  Harvey Schwartz

********

This poem reframes, for me, our enforced ‘sheltering in place’ due to the coronavirus threat. Linda Pastan’s work has helped me navigate four decades or so of my life’s path. Here, unnatural removal from the social aspects of our lives becomes a doorway to magical realms.

Sheila Sondik (poet and printmaker) Bellingham, WA

Agoraphobia by Linda Pastan

********

Social distancing makes it harder to commune and celebrate, but non-infectious nature is always out there for inspiration and solace.

Bill Yake – Olympia, WA

Lew Welch

********

Now seems a good time to seize the moment, salvage each day, hold, twirl, withstand, and halt at nothing.
                                                         Allen Braden – Seattle
VACANT LOT WITH POKEWEED
Tufts, follicles, grubstake
biennial rosettes, a low-
life beach-blond scruff of
couch grass: notwithstanding
the interglinting dregsof wholesale upheaval and
dismemberment, weeds do not
hesitate, the wheeling
rise of the ailanthus halts
at nothing—and look! here’sa pokeweed, sprung up from seed
dropped by some vagrant, that’s
seized a foothold: a magenta-
girdered bower, gazebo twirls
of blossom rounding intoraw-buttoned, garnet-rodded
fruit one more wayfarer
perhaps may salvage from
the season’s frittering,
the annual wreckage.
         Amy Clampitt

********

I am a freshman in college. I reside in the evergreen state but a long way from home. I am from Pretoria, South Africa and have been living in my second home Seattle for seven fruitful years. “Poems to Lean On.” thank you for making a space for all of us and shedding light on the most fundamental human rights. Unity. There is unity in the word community. I recently picked up my pen and paper, all thanks to Mrs. Naomi Shihab Nye. I hope I can be of service to our community as this unrest subsides.

                                                                Najma Abdul-Aziz

W- NUR

My voice let out an agonized cry 

My eyes wept all those tears my heart could not withhold 

My mind absent 

My soul saddened

My spirit in anguish 

My shadow immersed in the meadow, seeing its reflection on the ravine 

Questioning the moon

Why do you make me visible? 

Ask the sun says the moon

The skies and ocean share an exchange

The sun dried the sorrows out of me 

The moon the next night books me among the stars 

And writes to me 

“ shine amongst the stars because you’re no less than”

Najma Abdul-Aziz

********

When I started doing poetry workshops with detained, undocumented youth, I found myself turning to Claribel Alegría more and more. There is fierceness here, which we need, and it orbits what is tender– something that can feel, at times, impossible but crucial to protect. But the poem is, itself, a return. I’ve been carrying Alegría’s book OtredadOtherness around with me in my purse. I carry a big purse.
                                                                   Abby E. Murray – Tacoma Poet Laureate (2019-2021)
La voz del árbol
Cercenaron mi tronco
mis ramas
mis racimos
per aún está intacta
la raíz
y volveré de nuevo
a cobijar al viento
en mi follaje
a bailar con el viento
como antaño
que me sacaba el viento
y yo no se
si su gozo
es más gozo
que el mío.
Volveré
volveré
mi viento amigo
y otra vez viviremos
ese vértigo-vuelo
en el que fuimos dioses
por un mágico instante
y se quedó esulpido
perpetuado
en el cosmos.
/
The Tree’s Voice
They cut my flowers
my branches
my trunk
but the root
is intact
and I will shelter
the wind again
in my foliage
dance with the wind
as before
let the wind shake me
and let me ignore
whether its joy
is greater
or mine.
I’ll return
I’ll return
my wind friend
and again we’ll live
that vertiginous flight
when we were gods
for a magical instant
and were etched
for all time
in the cosmos.
       Claribel Alegría
********

March 13, 2020

silhouette people on beach at sunset
Photo by Dana Tentis on Pexels.com
In my self isolation, this poem came to me, thinking about our togetherness.
                                                                          Leopoldo Seguel – Seattle

gone is thinking we can be safe

by going it alone in this sticky web

the gooey strands of viral connections

 

we are one body after all

stone cold volcanoes to boiling blood cells

the raging fever consumes us all

 

no vaccine for our togetherness

no magic cure for communal life

we are one body after all

 

I live with you as you live with me

The awakening comes slowly 

As we keep each other safe

 

Let us reach deep, reach out 

Join hands in our hearts

Sing aloud in joyous dance

              Leopoldo Seguel
********
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry is well know. For me it always hits home and soothes me with the notion (fact?) that the natural world goes on without us and around us. It heads its own call. We can choose to draw from it whenever the need arises.
                                                                                                 Tina Schumann

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

********

It was April, National Poetry Month, and one website had a recording of Jimmy Santiago Baca reading his poem “I Am Offering This Poem.” That man has a voice meant for reading poetry. In response, I wrote “Today at the Library.” First published by VoiceCatcher, 2014 Winter edition, nominated for Best of the Net.

                                                                                           Pat Phillips West

I Am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca

********

Dear Claudia — I am sending you and everyone all love in this hard time…

Katrina Roberts – Walla Walla

Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,                                                               have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

By Danusha Laméris

********

With its vision of people gathering, their spontaneous sharing of joy, this poem gave me solace and hope during a rocky time. Now, in this moment of social distancing, the poem also brings nostalgia—people coming together—and a reminder that we are still, essentially, together here.

                                                                          Joannie Stangeland

To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian by Ross Gay

*******
Like crises, in neighborhood or nation, poetry can reveal – immediately and intimately –
the truth of our underlying connection to each other.
                                                                            Bill Kelly – Tacoma

Vulnerability

I was home sick last week

Four spring days in bed.

My wife asked, “What do you need?”

“A gun,” I said.

 

One night, unable to sleep

I saw images on TV news

A powerful earthquake

Destroyed much of Katmandu

 

A boy in a dirty shirt sat

In the Himalayan rain

Staring at a pile of bricks

Covering his family and simple domain.

 

His soaking pain is not punishment –

Nor my warm safety reward –

We share a breathing planet,

Brothers in our human state.

 

Whichever attentive god can hear –

Hindu, Muslim, or Jew –

Help us lean on our connection

And our courage renew.

Bill Kelley

******

Be well. Virus-free

Terry Lawhead

Bixby’s Landing by Robinson Jeffers

*******

Does it really matter that when the poet wrote this,
his wife was still alive and as a matter of fact, would
outlive him by some thirty odd years. Was the poet
cheating us by not writing from actual experience?
I think not because the most miraculous poems bloom
out of our imagination and in that imagination lies
another kind of truth.


Be kind to others, stay safe and keep that pen in hand.
alan chong lau on phinney

Piercing chill —
Stepping on my dead wife’s comb
in the bedroom

by Japanese poet Buson as translated by Haruo Shirane
********

I find this to be an especially good time to pause and consider that our deepest pleasures reside in the simplest things.  Life is a reductive process, but the inevitable reductions in health are more than supplanted by the wonderful, distilling aspects of appreciation and gratitude.

Gail Ramsey Wharton

I Have Had To Learn The Simplest Things Last

How life is a funnel through which 

the largest issues become small.

Days turn into minutes of wonderment.

All the complicated, squandered years

add up to these little moments 

of success through the day. 

A tiny spill of tea on my collar is okay.  

How many times this would have been

a soreness.  The mis-dialed phone call, 

formerly a nuisance, is a strangely sweet encounter.

On a treasured ceramic figure 

of pre-Columbian dancing dogs,

the cracks from a child’s accident

become a part of its perfection.

All that was commonplace before

is  the vital punctuation of each day.

Focus is now heightened

to the miracle of breath.

The taste of water.

           Gail Ramsey Wharton

*******

March 12, 2020

I turn to Denise Levertov’s poem, “Of Being,” one which has mentored me for many years. She carries the “both/and” of present danger along with the beauty of mystery–a call for each of us today and all days.
                                                                                                              Susan Johnson

Of Being

By Denise Levertov

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences —
great suffering, great fear —

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

this mystery:
********
Today, after hearing my children’s schools will close for two weeks and a friend came out of surgery, I went looking for this poem by Physician-Poet Peter Pereira. It feels like an important reminder and a small balm as we navigate these new concepts of social distancing and containment. And the hope for a healing serum for us all.
                                                                                                                Sarah Burns
Take Care
Take care, we say to one another,
On parting, as if the cargo
We carried were fragile
Or dangerous—chipped
Bottle of nitro, crystal
Blue robin’s egg, last ampule
Of the healing serum.
~ Peter Pereira, Saying the World
********

I like (this poem) because it makes me feel grateful for the variety of the natural world (even if I’m stuck inside), and because it has such tenderness and wonder for “all things counter, original, spare, strange.”

Tom Beasley – Seattle

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

********

This poem often comes to mind when newspaper headlines get me down. I’m sure I’m not the only person who will share it.

Bethany Reid

Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski

********

I enclose wonderful words by Emily Dickinson, written in 1860. I used her poem as inspiration for this recent prayer flag printed on silk. The photograph was taken just after the height of a tremendous, seemingly endless thunderstorm with black skies, screeching winds, lightning all about–very scary. Suddenly it ended, with hundreds of White-Faced Ibis flying gallantly into the golden, inclusive sky. It all made me weep, and happy to have survived and witnessed the calming skies, but mostly the majesty and determination of these very ancient and sacred birds.

Charlotte Watts

“This world is just a little place, just the red in the sky,

before the sun rises so let us keep fast old of hands,

that when the birds begin, none of us be missing”

—Emily Dickinson, from a letter, 1860

********

You inspired me to write about what I’ve been feeling/doing as this slow-moving crisis unfolds around us. I’m not certain this is what you had in mind for a “Poem to Lean On,” but it did help to write it and recognize all that is being impacted.
                                                                                                            Patrick Dixon, Olympia

Undertaker

These days

I am an undertaker.

 

I close the casket on travel,

dig holes in the back yard,

toss in plays, poetry readings,

concerts, frivolous trips to the grocery,

the Farmer’s Market.

 

I mourn my favorite restaurants,

distrust the handle that dispenses

gasoline into my car. But though

the price of gas has dropped,

I’m not driving much.

 

I miss my beloved coffee shops,

the friends I’d meet there,

the conversations dipped into

as I wrote in my journal.

I miss relaxing in public.

 

I carry a dread with me these days

like a scythe. It shows in my eyes

whenever someone sneezes or coughs

and I hold my breath as I leave.

 

No one says Bless You anymore.

We just duck and scurry

like the rats we are, at the mercy

of the fleas we carry.

 

I’m even reluctant to hug my own children.

 

The fear has changed my posture,

hands stuffed into pockets,

shoulders hunched, arms tight

as if I can fend off this unseen threat

if I hunker deep enough into my coat,

deep enough into myself.

 

I am an undertaker all right,

scattered pieces of me

strewn everywhere.

All that’s left to do

is carve a headstone.

*******

March 11, 2020

lone tree surrounded by snowcap mountain under blue sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here is a poem that inspires me every time I read it. It was written by Michelle Carranza then an eight grade student at Denny Middle School in Seattle.  Michelle’s fortitude floats upward through the lines. Despite her young age, she knows of what she speaks. The original poem was written in Spanish. Included here as well.

The Tree Inside Me

In the river of memory

the roots of my tree

search for security

yesterday places

familiar faces

friends of the past

my trunk, strong and tall

resists like a lighthouse

thunderstorms of thought

it refuses to fall

even after

wave after wave shove it

between the emptiness of words

and the silence of my body

even then, my branches reach

a far away adventure

among planets and stars

 

El árbol dentro de mi

En el río de los recuerdos

las raíces de mi árbol

buscan la seguridad

de un lugar de siempre

caras familiares

amigos del pasado

el tronco fuerte y alto

resiste como un faro

la tormenta de pensamientos

no se deja caer

aunque las olas

lo empujen y empujen

entre el vacío de las palabras

y el silencio de mi cuerpo

aún así, mis ramas tratan

de alcanzar una aventura

lejana entre planetas y estrellas