W.S. Merwin’s poem of his friend Morris Graves’ painting. Graves studied Buddhism, as did Merwin.
Those who do the hurting — are also hurt.
MORRIS GRAVES’ BLIND BIRD
This is the only way we can understand each other now
this is the only way I can listen to you
with our feet tangled in the white yard bushes
known as the world
this is the way the holders of the blinding pins
came to be unable ever to hear
Hardy told me that he had seen an ancestor of yours
long ago when I was in the dark before I was born here
and I learned later that those with the pins
became unable to hear you when you kept singing
to yourself and your clear voice kept rising
out of the chords and great chorus of your ancestors
now as I listen to you I hear in your voice
the forgotten freedom leaping over the rocks
and flying flying again and the rocks are singing
under you out of the unending silence
where the world goes on beginning
— W.S. Merwin, from his book Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin.
Thanks to Linda C. for sending this poem – so pertinent to our time.
Banner: Morris Graves’ painting “Blind Bird” – from MOMA
I heard that we are all in the same boat,
but it’s not like that.
We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be.
Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee.
For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.
For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness.
While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.
With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working.
Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.
Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.
Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money.
Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.
Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.
Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it.
Others don’t believe this is a big deal.
Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020.
Others say the worst is yet to come.
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm.
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance.
Not just looking, actually seeing.
We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.
- Author unknown [I saw it in a posting by Lexi on “Nextdoor Kihei” – the oldest printing I found was in The Times of India on April 20, 2020]
Wherever you are, this poem likely rings true.
Let us help those whose boats are not as secure as our own.
On this the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and amid the global pandemic, take to heart the words of poet, writer, activist, and farmer Wendell Berry:
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.
Listen to Wendell Berry read this poem, courtesy of the public radio program On Being with Krista Tippett:
If Librarians Were Honest – by Joseph Mills
If librarians were honest,
they wouldn’t smile, or act
welcoming. They would say,
You need to be careful. Here
be monsters. They would say,
These rooms house heathens
and heretics, murderers and
maniacs, the deluded, desperate,
and dissolute. They would say,
These books contain knowledge
of death, desire, and decay,
betrayal, blood, and more blood;
each is a Pandora’s box, so why
would you want to open one.
They would post danger
signs warning that contact
might result in mood swings,
severe changes in vision,
and mind-altering effects.
If librarians were honest
they would admit the stacks
can be more seductive and
shocking than porn. After all,
once you’ve seen a few
breasts, vaginas, and penises,
more is simply more,
a comforting banality,
but the shelves of a library
contain sensational novelties,
a scandalous, permissive mingling
of Malcolm X, Marx, Melville,
Merwin, Millay, Milton, Morrison,
and anyone can check them out,
taking them home or to some corner
where they can be debauched
and impregnated with ideas.
If librarians were honest,
they would say, No one
spends time here without being
changed. Maybe you should
go home. While you still can.
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Thanks, Darlene, for sending this poem to me.
Hope you are learning much from the books you read.
Banner photo: Dollar Gill
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worthy of rescue.“
–By – Martha Postlethwaite
A United Methodist Church pastor, Postlethwaite trained in counseling psychology and spiritual direction. She spent 22 years in theological education and is now lead pastor of The Recovery Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
May this time of reflection and isolation result in a clearing – and a fine, even splendid direction for you. Aloha, Renée
Thanks for sharing this poem, Linda L.
BY ROSS GAY
—after Gwendolyn Brooks
No matter the pull toward brink. No
matter the florid, deep sleep awaits.
There is a time for everything. Look,
just this morning a vulture
nodded his red, grizzled head at me,
and I looked at him, admiring
the sickle of his beak.
Then the wind kicked up, and,
after arranging that good suit of feathers
he up and took off.
Just like that. And to boot,
there are, on this planet alone, something like two
million naturally occurring sweet things,
some with names so generous as to kick
the steel from my knees: agave, persimmon,
stick ball, the purple okra I bought for two bucks
at the market. Think of that. The long night,
the skeleton in the mirror, the man behind me
on the bus taking notes, yeah, yeah.
But look; my niece is running through a field
calling my name. My neighbor sings like an angel
and at the end of my block is a basketball court.
I remember. My color’s green. I’m spring.
—for Walter Aikens
What “naturally occurring sweet things” do you see right now?
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
Joy Harjo, “Eagle Poem” from In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990). At: <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46545/eagle-poem>
Enjoy. Aloha, Renée
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam’s twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,
it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.
by Barbara Ras, from her exquisite 1998 poetry collection Bite Every Sorrow (published by Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Copyright © 1997) <poets.org>.
Banner photo: from my deck – RR
BY JOY HARJO
Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—
Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
From: from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.
Praise it all. Aloha, Renée
“What You Missed that Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.
From: Modlin’s book:
- Winner of the Cowles Poetry Prize
- Southeast Missouri State University Press
Go to “Poetry Unbound” from the On Being Studios to hear Irishman poet Pádraig Ó Tuama read and explicate from his own viewpoint “What You Missed that Day You Were Absent from the 4th Grade.” https://onbeing.org/programs/welcome-to-poetry-unbound/
Enjoy. Aloha, Renée