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

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

2A2AA347-38E5-48DD-91CC-B0844B20877A

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

wood light vacation picnic
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

hands heart love
Photo by ATC Comm Photo 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

tt 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 D

eming

********

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

background beautiful blossom calm waters
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