A Poem is an Egg

“A poem is an egg with a horse in it.” –4th grader, FB post
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“If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”

–Rumi
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“There are people who advocate and practice compassionate listening, there are those who embrace voluntary simplicity, who remove the calluses from their hearts and keep them open to feel the pains of others. Seek them out, I urge you, and join them in their compassion.”
–Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalom
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“The moon rose over an open field.” –Paul Simon
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“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” –Fredrick Douglass
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“Love is the strongest force in the universe. We must keep walking in the direction of love, no matter what we hear and see around us. No matter our human failures. No matter what happens, or appears to happen.And if we are thankful for that love, the power magnifies. Forgiveness is a process of love. Love is not bound by religion, belief system, or man-made laws. Our human minds cannot comprehend the immensity of it. We are lit by it, or we would not be here. Some smother the light with fear and acts of fear. Others tend their light and they light the world. Breath feeds the light. Breathe deep today, and continue walking toward that which will enlighten, no matter what burdens you are carrying of shame, grief, or fear. No one can buy their way or push their way ahead of everyone else. We are all in this together.” –Joy Harjo


Gratitude List:
1. Sweater weather
2. What the eyes say
3. Baby steps
4. The deliciousness of sleep
5. That delicate little yellow moth on the outside of the window

May we walk in Beauty!

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The Root of Joy

3:45 a.m.―As I was falling asleep last night, words flooded into my head. Something like this:
Walking backward up the mountain
Pulling the future on a string.

It felt inordinately important that I remember it verbatim, but I was almost asleep, so I thought I might be able to remember it in the morning. I don’t think “future” was quite the right word.  I love the random messages that come from sleep-state and dream-state.

I had actually gone to bed early because the previous night’s dream-state message was about exhaustion. And now, there’s this harvest moon shining in under my eyelids, switching off the sleep switch. I can’t sleep, can’t work, can’t really think straight. This is not a complaint, really. I think the moon needs me to be awake in a semi-sleep state, keeping vigil with the night singers.


“The root of joy is gratefulness. . . . It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ―David Steindl-Rast
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“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” ―Fannie Lou Hamer
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“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
―Desmond Tutu (b. October 7, 1931)
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I walk into a poem and walk out someone else. —Nayyirah Waheed
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“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”
―Arundhati Roy
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“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
―Walt Whitman
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THE JOURNEY
by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again,

painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
enscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes
of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light
fades quickly now,
you are arriving.


Gratitude List:
1. Stories and Songs
2. Public statements of thanks–At a celebration at my school tonight (75 years!), speakers kept making formal statements of thanks to the audience, and it was richer than the old “Thanks for your support” that you hear in so many settings. I can’t describe it, but it felt like a ritual of gratitude.
3. Three crows
4. The moon, the moon, the moon
5. Dreams and aspirations

May we walk in Beauty!

Charming Gardeners


My parents nurture beauty in their gardens and in the lives of people around them.

I love this first quotation by Marcel Proust. Thank you to so many of the charming gardeners who help to tend and nurture my soul. Let’s all take up this work.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
~~Marcel Proust
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Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”
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“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” ~~Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
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“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
~~Joss Whedon
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“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
~~Abraham H. Maslow

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“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.

But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
~~Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit
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I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. ~~Tony Campolo


Gratitude List:
1. Monarchs everywhere–more than I have seen in several years. It is the season of butterflies and moths. How are you experiencing transformation from a creature of earth to a creature of air?
2. All the people who are charming gardeners (as Proust said) of my soul.
3. Cool morning
4. Purring and inquisitiveness from Fred this morning. One day at a time.
5. The start of a new week. Always we begin again.

May we walk in Beauty!

In the Doorway of My Cottage


Here I am, stepping out of my little dream-cottage, into the world again, a little at a time.

When the stress of the everyday gets too stressy, I begin to fantasize about what my little witch-poet’s cottage might look like: thatched roof and cob walls, a nice big window, sunflowers and poppies and blue-eyed chicory in the garden, and a bee skep on a bench. Inside, a fireplace and bookshelves, cabinets to hold stones and papers, birds’ nests on the mantel, a comfortable recliner and a writing desk. (Somehow, in the filtering process to modify this photo, my gnome-friend Solomon Shandy appeared in the photo. He’s in the lower left-hand side of the photo–can you spot him?)


“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.” –John F. Kennedy


I wear beads on one arm for Beauty,
beads on the other for Kindness.
I need a third arm for Rage.


Some say she was a mermaid or a selkie,
a creature of both land and sea
moving with ease in either element
and graciously bridging the space between.

That is true, of course, but they didn’t know
how on windy days, she rose with wings above the surf,
or how her sudden laugh would often draw her into flame.


Gratitude List:
1. Icarus Oriole–always calling in my treetops of May
2. A LONG afternoon nap, with a warm blanket and a cat on my lap
3. Friends had a fundraiser yard sale today for their nonprofit. We scored the game Mousetrap, and Connect Four, and a novel by Jane Yolen that I had never read.
4. May Day at Wrightsville Elementary. It had to be inside because of the rain. I ran the Color Spin game, and had a blast trying to increase the odds for the littlest kids. The community comes together to make a good time for the kids.
5. Watching ET with the family. Turn on your Heartlight. I’ll be right here.

May we walk in Beauty!

Fools Poem

 

Parable of the Rich Fool, Rembrandt (This one is new to me.)

Tomorrow is April Fools Day, which means it is also the first day of National Poetry Month. It’s a Fool’s Journey, the decision to write a poem every day for a month, even when things are feeling tight and busy. Still, it would be foolish to give up the writing and the striving to write just because my life is busy. So here’s to the new month. I am diving in! I will be creating my own prompts this month. Feel free to join me! You can post your poems in the comments section, if you like, or email me your endeavors at 4goldfinches@gmail.com, if you want to share.

  
Polikushka’s Despair, from Tolstoy’s “Ivan the Fool,” and “King Lear and the Fool in the Storm” by William Dyce

For an April First Poem, write about the Fool. Consider your own fool’s journey, your own madcap dance on the edge of the cliffs, throwing caution to the winds. I once wrote an acrostic poem about the fool, using the words DANCING ON THE CLIFF’S EDGE for the first letter of each line. Fool that I am, I seem to have misplaced it, let it flutter off into the past.

  
The Fool on the Hill in the Bisti Badlands, by John Fowler; The Fool from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck, by  Pamela Colman Smith–the image of the Fool archetype. 

Gratitude List:
1. Things come together. Things get done. Sleep gets slept.
2. This man who is decorating a birthday cake for a boy’s birthday party tomorrow.
3. Rain. Then it stops. (Hoping for a clear day tomorrow–I don’t want a houseful of small boys.)
4. Shining eyes
5. Pablo Neruda

May we walk in Beauty!

A Pleasant Day


It’s a pleasant day for an old man cat, when the sun shines and the catnip is rising through the myrtle.  (Photo by Farmer Jon.)

UNESCO has named March 21 World Poetry Day.  Someone on my Facebook page suggested we mark the day by quoting Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” I read that part of that one to my classes today.

See if you can catch
a wriggling poem from air
to mark the new day.

Gratitude List:
1. Happy cat
2. Clear fresh water
3. Poetry and Poets
4. Wise women
5. A good book

May we walk in Beauty!

If I say Green

newportal
Back to my lime-kiln portal,  but this time with a Monet filter.

Here is a poem:

If I say green to you
when the winds of winter
still carry a chill
over the fields
at the top of the hill,
when indigo pockets of shadows
still harbor small mounds of snow,

will you know what I mean,
how even in these days
of limbo, of in-between,
something rises,
barely seen, a little frill,
a thrill of green
beneath the brown of winter?

(originally posted Feb. 28, 2016)

Gratitude List:
1. People you don’t really know, but you know you like
2. Daffodils
3. Young eagle flying above the highway this morning
4. Observing young women finding their voices
5. Cheese bread with a fried egg for supper: Comfort

May we walk in Beauty!

Prayer and Rage

imag2090

What can we give besides our prayers and rage?
And what will that avail?
Send out the story on October winds.
Fling it high, where crows are flying.
Send the message echoing into earth
with every pounding step you take.

Listen.
Let the shells of your ears gather the story.
Reel in the gossamer strands of the tale
and weave them into the veil you wear.
Listen for the stories of those who weep,
those who rage, those who only speak
with the shrug of a shoulder,
with a sigh, with a shudder.

Listen, too, to those who walk right in,
who step into your circle without invitation.
Listen to the voices that are hard to hear.
Offer only the bread that is yours to give.
Be like the old gods, with the raven Wisdom
on one shoulder and Memory on the other,
and Reason perched upon your hat.

Offer what is yours:
your rage,
your prayer,
your watchful quiet heart.

Gratitude List:
1. Rage and prayer
2. Memory and Wisdom
3. Reason
4. Listening deeply. Being listened to deeply.
5. Graphic novels. I know this one is rather out of the context of the others, but the boys and I are really into graphic novels these days: the Amulet series, Zita the Spacegirl, Knights of the Lunch Table, and Mouse Guard. We really love Zita and her poor friend Randy who has a case of the squeaks.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Am Not Alone and Hearts Glowing Fire

hildegard1
This is one of my favorite views of the ruins of Disibodenberg, the abbey where Hildegard was brought as a girl. I ran it through a Mosaic filter on the Dreamscope app.

This is a poem I wrote several years ago. I am in the process of deciding whether there’s an essential wisdom to the poem that warrants revision and inclusion in my next book. Meanwhile, Google Translate and I are having a little fun with it. The stanzas in parentheses happened after I sent them through several languages in Google Translate.

Now I realize
that I must fling myself
into the center of my life
with a fierce intensity
and passionate joy
or risk dissipation.

(I was the center of my life,
and the joy and the pride
or the threat of violence,
I know the voice cast.)

And all while holding the center,
embodying the nature of the tree.
This, too, helps to hold it all together.

(Always occupied the center of the tree.
In addition, all to get together.)

That still small place
cannot exist for me
without the passion that feeds it.
Nor can I maintain the fire
without the quiet and glowing core.

(A small part of this feed
is not available to me without passion.
I am not alone and hearts glowing fire.)

Somehow, “nor can I maintain the fire” became “I am not alone.” I wonder how I can draw parallels between such thoughts. The tense shifts in the first stanza open up some interesting connections, too. Everything has layers of meaning. Does my friend Google Translate help me to elucidate or obfuscate my deeper meanings?

Gratitude List:
1. A day of solitude.  The boys have gone to Diggerland for the day.
2. Coffee, socks, and a hat on a chilly day
3. My new fountain pen. The ink came yesterday, and I just want to write and write and write. I will use it for today’s grading. I am thinking of giving it a name: Kalamu, or Chemchemi, perhaps. (Pen and Fountain, respectively, in Kiswahili.)
4. Crows and blue jays. Messengers.
5. Toast and peanut butter.

May we walk in Beauty!

Abecedarian

house

An Abecedarian Poem
for some young people I know

Always give Love the last word: You
belong here, you have a place here.
Carry that awareness inside,
deep within you, where you cannot
evade its holy truth. You were
formed for this world, for this moment.

Go, yes, into all the world, and
hold out your hands. Share that good news
in every place that you enter.
Jump with both feet into your life,
keeping hold of this, your mantra:
Love will always have the last word.

Maybe you struggle to hold on.
No one seems to understand you,
or it all seems futile.  Be the
person that you have been needing.
Question authority, yes, but
resist the pull of destruction.

Sometimes it will seem that you are
the only one who lives by Love.
Understand this: You’re not alone.
Voice your anxieties and pain.
Walk openly. You cannot be
x’ed out or erased.  You belong.

You have a role to play, full of
zeal. Let love have the final word.

Gratitude List:
1. Morning yoga, which is to say
2. stretching myself into new ways of thinking and being, which is to say
3. growing and transforming, which is to say
4. giving up old forms that no longer serve, which is to say
5. morning has arrived with such shine, such vigor.

May we walk in Love.