Poem of the Week, by Tom Hennen

After a lifetime of winter (the Adirondack mountains, Vermont, Minnesota) I can do without -40 windchills, insta-frozen nose hairs, ice and the mummification required to step onto the front steps with shovel in hand, but I could never do without the change of seasons. Spring, summer, fall, winter: I don’t know how life is experienced by people who live in places where nothing much changes, weatherwise. I only know what it feels like to wake up and step outside and smell the air and look at the sky and listen to ice melting or birds singing or wind in the leaves, to see that first maple leaf flutter red to the ground in the fall or that first pussy willow budding in the spring, and how it hurts my heart. Not hurts, exactly, but that’s part of it. Stretches my heart. Fills my heart. Reminds me that time is turning, for all of us —In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were full of light gathered on summer pastures–and how nothing ever really goes away. Every summer is held deep in the heart of every winter.


Sheep in the Winter Night, by Tom Hennen

Inside the barn the sheep were standing, pushed close to one
another. Some were dozing, some had eyes wide open listening
in the dark. Some had no doubt heard of wolves. They looked
weary with all the burdens they had to carry, like being thought
of as stupid and cowardly, disliked by cowboys for the way they
eat grass about an inch into the dirt, the silly look they have
just after shearing, of being one of the symbols of the Christian
religion. In the darkness of the barn their woolly backs were
full of light gathered on summer pastures. Above them their
white breath was suspended, while far off in the pine woods,
night was deep in silence. The owl and rabbit were wondering,
along with the trees, if the air would soon fill with snowflakes,
but the power that moves through the world and makes our
hair stand on end was keeping the answer to itself.


For more information on Tom Hennen, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Ed Skoog

Last night I woke up around 2 and lay in bed picturing the bag of French roast, the French press, the blue teakettle on the black stove, the heavy cream in the fridge, and how great it would be, come morning, to pour the coffee into the speckled enamel mug I stole from my daughter. Then I pictured that daughter, away at cimg_3336ollege, and how when I make coffee for her she sits quietly at the kitchen table, her head slightly bowed, silent, because she’s not a morning person, and how her black hair shines in the lamplight. Then I pictured the other daughter, who lives in Boston and whose room still smells like her, and I resisted the urge to get up and walk across the hall and open the door to her so I could breathe her in. Then I pictured the son who lives in Chicago and I remembered the collection of duct tape + cardboard swords he made when he was a little boy. And the other people I most love –the best friend, the painter, the sisters and brother and parents and friends– gathered together in my mind in the dark. All this is to say that when I read the poem below, it feels exactly like those middle of the night thoughts – that everything that matters is small and specific and enormous at the same time.

     – Ed Skoog

when you go
off to work
when you are
asleep in lamplight
when you take the baby
midway through the movie
or have lost your
phone and ask
me to call it
or one of us
runs up to the store
or when I drink
too much and forget
when deadlines
and you wake
searching the bed
for spreadsheets
when I shower after you
the water still hot

For more information on Ed Skoog, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Kaylin Haught

img_5353Young woman across the street, waving and calling to me as I trudge through the snowdrifts on the way home from my astonishingly wonderful church for the non-churchy, where I go seeking solidarity amongst my equally post-election troubled neighbors and friends: “Mama! Mama!”
Me, calling back: “I’m not your mama!”
YW: “Thank you, mama, come here!”
Me, crossing the street in an Oh, what the hell sort of way: “. . . Yes?”
YW, gesturing to a small car with two enormous rolled rugs sticking out of the trunk and windows): “Please mama, please help.”
Me: “Honey, are you nuts? You’re half my age and twice as solid.”
YW: “Thank you mama, God bless you mama.”
Me, after deciding that the universe has brought me this interesting experience and I might as well roll with it, heaving the first rug out of the trunk/window and dragging it with difficulty and no help across the entryway to her apartment building, then repeating the process with Rug #2, at which point she gestures happily for me to follow her down a hallway with Rug #1: “No way, sister. You’re on your own now.”

YW: “Thank you mama! God bless you mama!”

Whatever the above anecdote –which ended with me heaving both rugs down the hallway, angling them into her apartment, propping them against the wall of her living room and then leaving without unwrapping and arranging them for her, much to her chagrin– has to do with today’s poem of the week, I’m not sure, other than it falls into the categories of Life is interesting and mystifying and Some people have no qualms asking for exactly what they want and My back hurts now and Sometimes I just feel like saying yes.

God Says Yes To Me
– by Kaylin Haught

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
my letters
Sweetcakes God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes

For more information on Kaylin Haught, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Nancy Henry

img_5354Poetry sites are bookmarked on my computer and the first thing I do when I wake up is go from one to the other, reading poems. Four per morning, sometimes more. I hardly ever read any poems I like. Why do you read poems you don’t like? asks the man who knows me best, watching me sigh and roll my eyes. Because I have to read a ton of poems I don’t like in order to find one I do like, which is the truth. Maybe one out of a hundred poems will seize me. Even so, one out of a hundred poems adds up. They add up and up and up, to a beautiful tumble of beautiful poems I will keep reading forever. You know what else adds up? Cruel statements add up, and vicious diatribes add up, and chants of lock her up add up, and rallies of falsehoods and hatred add up. But good deeds add up too, damn it, and so do people who fill a hollow no one else can fill, as in this beautiful poem below. Hail to the unsung and underpaid caregivers, for they are the ones who mend the wounds, smooth the sheets, clean the vomit of humanity from the streets and from our souls.

People Who Take Care
     – Nancy Henry

People who take care of people
Get paid less than anybody
people who take care of people
are not worth much
except to people who are
sick, old, helpless, and poor
people who take care of people
are not important to most other people
are not respected by many other people
come and go without much fuss
unless they don’t show up
when needed
people who make more money
tell them what to do
never get shit on their hands
never mop vomit or wipe tears
don’t stand in danger
of having plates thrown at them
sharing every cold
observing agonies
they cannot tell at home
people who take care of people
have a secret
that sees them through the double shift
that moves with them from room to room
that keeps them on the floor
sometimes they fill a hollow
no one else can fill
sometimes through the shit
and blood and tears
they go to a beautiful place, somewhere
those clean important people
have never been.

For more information on Nancy Henry, please click here.