Going Somewhere

Today’s prompt is to write a Going Somewhere poem:

This poem gets up before dawn.
It listens for the rustle of a thousand starlings
waking in the hollow, and follows them out into the grey.
This poem feels the splattering of rain on its face
and the tingle of autumn chill on the skin.
It keeps its face tilted into sky
as the leaves twirl and flutter
out of the morning sky.

This poem has somewhere to go.
It’s going where the geese go,
following those ragged lines
sprinkled across the sky.

When you wake at midnight,
you will hear it calling through the darkness,
urging you to adventure,
tempting you to take your risks
and pack your dreams into a bag
to follow where it leads.


“Poets are kind of like—it’s a bad metaphor, but—canaries in a coal mine. They have a sense for things that are in the air. Partly because that’s what they do—they think about things that are going on—but partly because they take their own personal experience and see how that fits in with what they see in the world. A lot of people might think that poetry is very abstract, or that it has to do with having your head in the clouds, but poets, actually, walk on the earth. They’re grounded, feet-first, pointing forward. They’re moving around and paying attention at every moment.” —Don Share
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“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” —Maya Angelou
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“We need poets to change the world.” —Justin Trudeau
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“…Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.”
—from “How to Be a Poet (to remind myself)” by Wendell Berry
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Morning Prayer
by Phillip Newell
In the silence of the morning
your Spirit hovers over the brink of the day
and a new light pieces the darkness of the night.
In the silence of the morning
life begins to stir around me
and I listen for the day’s utterances.
In earth, sea and sky
and in the landscape of my own soul
I listen for utterances of your love, O God.
I listen for utterances of your love.


Gratitude List:
1. The weekend, right on time
2. Language that builds bridges, that invites conversation, that includes spaces for listening
3. Autumn skies
4. How good it feels to be warm after I have been chilled
5. This wall of photos of our ancestors

May we walk in Beauty!

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Love is the Bridge


I am obsessed lately with what happens to the little tree when I photograph it with a kaleidoscope camera app and then run it through my usual filters. I want to spend more time thinking about threes and sixes. I suppose this is two and six: the reflection of the original view, and then that combination shifting into a triple reflection. It’s so satisfying.

Today’s prompt is to write a thing poem. Write a poem about an object.

All the poems are about bridges,
all the words, all the books, the letters.
Sometimes the bridge is so fragile,
and we walk across a word on air:
“Gentle,” we breathe,
and step across that chasm
between the solid dj
onto the swaying eh,
before we find our feet
on the rolling nn in the center,
and onward we skip to t, to l,
each word a bridge, a web
we cast between us
across the airy distance.


“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.”
―Brian Jacques
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“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” ―Winston Churchill (Did he really say that? I like the point, so I am still putting it here.)
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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ―Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
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“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ―Rumi
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What do you do
when the gods of the dreamings
offer you maps for the journey?

How will you answer
when the night-folk cry out:
“Give us the hope of our meanings!”
―Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
―Bob Dylan


Gratitude List:
1. Sachs’ subtly striped tail. He’s a basic elegant charcoal and white cat, with no other markings except for the hint of striping at the end of his tail. A little bit of wildness underneath his staid and stoical veneer.
2. Turning back the tides of helplessness and hopelessness
3. Studying geography. I love geography. I am obsessed with learning the countries of the world. And my youngest has to know his continents and oceans for a quiz this week, so we’re having lots of fun doing geography games right now.
4. A warm shower on a chilly evening.
5. Soup. Before he went to work this morning, Jon Weaver-Kreider put some veggies and sausage in a crock pot, and when we got home we had a fine and tasty stew.

May we walk in Beauty!

Worth a Try

Today’s Prompt is a Two-fer: Write a days of the week/weak poem.

On a November Tuesday
you might wear scarves
and long white skirts
to remember how to vote.

You might take your knitting
and stand in a long line
waiting for your chance
to be a part of history.

You might fidget
when they ask your name,
might feel a tremor when you see
that yours is the only Democrat on the page.

You might recall other Tuesdays
in November, when you believed
in the process, when you knew
that your voice counted, too.

(That’s pretty depressing, and I think it went deeper into the sense of helplessness than I might be feeling at this moment, though I definitely cycle into that place where I lose my belief that my voice matters in this “democracy” anymore.)


“I am not talking about giving our hearts over to despair. I wonder if we can train our hearts, intentionally, like athletes who train for a marathon, to bear the load without crumpling under the weight. I think that’s what the children need from us, for us to bear them, bear the stories, hold them as though they were our own, to be prepared to act at any moment for any one of them within our reach. I think the times call for hearts strong enough to be tender, to bleed without weakening, to rage and protect and pray and hope without numbing out.

“I don’t think it has to be a choice. We don’t have to choose between the closed heart and the broken heart. We can be awake and yet not despair. It’s worth a try.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” —Mae Jemison
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“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” —Frederick Buechner
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Alice Walker—”Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”
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Found on a T-shirt: I am totally happy and not dangerous mostly.
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“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” —Marcus Aurelius


Gratitude List:
1. I voted. I don’t know for sure how much I believe in it anymore, though I am liking some of what I am seeing in the results today, and the poll-folks are friendly, and the photo-art on the walls of the local high school/polling place is really excellent.
2. The sweet justice of a transwoman beating out the incumbent who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Maybe I will start to trust the democratic process again, just a little.
3. Tea. The sudden shift in the weather has me cringing in blankets and hats and scarves. Tea takes the edge off. And it’s one thing I share in common with a particular student who hates my class, so I am grateful for that.
4. Color. I forgot to take Ducktown over the bridge this morning because I have become so used to going left and taking Valley View while the bridge was out. We turned onto Valley View just as the sun cascaded through cloud behind us and hit the forested ridge off by the River. The colors were dazzling.
5. How people take care of each other.

May we walk in Beauty!

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!

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!