Poem of the Week, by Sabine Miller


Please help me be a good teacher today. Please help me bring kindness and clarity and joy. Please help me heal and never hurt. This is one version of an ongoing prayer that unreligious me invokes before I walk into the door of every classroom I teach. It is tough, tough going these days, for so many of us. We feel ourselves, our families, our friends to be under direct attack from our own elected employees. We fear the crumbling of a great, flawed, ugly and beautiful democracy. But hopelessness is not an option. When the terror and outrage threaten to paralyze me I think about the decades I have spent teaching. I think about how energy –my own energy, one single scrawny human being’s energy– can change the feel of an entire room. Exhausted, grieving, in despair, it doesn’t matter; stand outside that room and vow to be and to project energy and kindness and connection. The air in the room will change. You can literally feel it. Every moment of every day you can bring people down or you can lift them up –you, one small person– by the energy you project. We choose what we want our lives to mean, and what we want to leave behind. We have the power to write our own stories. Remember that.

Story, by Sabine Miller

Tell me the one
about the sick girl —
not terminally ill, just years in bed
with this mysterious fever —
who hires a man
to murder her — you know,
so the family is spared
the blight of a suicide —
and the man comes
in the night, a strong man,
and nothing is spoken
—he takes the pillow
to her face — tell me
how he is haunted the rest
of his life — did he
or didn’t he
do the right thing — tell me
how he is forgiven,
and marries, and has
2 daughters, and is happy —
no, tell me she doesn’t
die, but is cured and
gives her life to God,
and becomes a hand-holder for
men on death row —
tell me the one where the man
falls in love with the girl
and can’t do it, or
the girl falls in love
with a dog and calls
the man to tell him
not to come, or
how each sees their pain
mirrored in the other’s eyes —
tell me how everyone has already
forgiven every story
they ever told themselves
about living
or not living —
tell me, oh tell me
the one where love wins, again
and again                and again.


Sabine Miller is a writer, visual artist, and qigong practitioner. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Haiku 2013Lilliput ReviewModern HaikuSolitary PloverThe Red Moon AnthologyContemporary Haibun, and Mariposa.

Poem of the Week, by Richard Wilbur

Calligraphy letters, 2011When it came to homework, I was kind of a hands-off mother, a mother whose life –and whose children’s lives– became instantly better when I made the decision to quit checking the portal. (The portal. The portal. The portal of hell.) My children never asked me to look at or edit their papers, so I didn’t, and when it came to math, I couldn’t help them anyway. But my youngest daughter preferred to do her homework, especially essay assignments, at the dining table when I was working. She would write her papers, I would write my stories. This daughter works best with solid blocks of time, earbuds in and playlist on, while her mother at the other end of the table twitches and rocks and grinds her teeth, trying trying trying to get the words out. My sleek iridescent child, my clattering commotion of keys. This poem feels as if it came straight out of my own heart. 


The Writer, by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
my daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
from her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
as if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

the whole house seems to be thinking,
and then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
how we stole in, lifted a sash

and retreated, not to affright it;
and how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
we watched the sleek, wild, dark

and iridescent creature
batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
to the hard floor, or the desk-top,

and wait then, humped and bloody,
for the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
rose when, suddenly sure,

it lifted off from a chair-back, 
beating a smooth course for the right window
and clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
what I wished you before, but harder. 


For more information on Richard Wilbur, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Kim Addonizio

IMG_4266Once I had a friend who shared my love of strong flavors. We would buy things like kimchee and Limburger cheese and pesto that was mostly garlic and sit at the small kitchen table in the 4th-floor walkup I shared with my sister eating it. You two and your stinky food!, my sister would say, and she was right. Intensity is a good thing when it comes to food. And gin, the kind where you can taste all the plants and flowers and life that’s been infused into it: bay and juniper and sage, dry sunshine air. “Whatever’s your most botanical,” is what I say to the bartender when they ask. I don’t care if there’s a heaven and I don’t believe anyone who tells me there are rules for getting into it, because why does it matter? This is the world we live in. This is our hell and our heaven, this world right here, the one with the Limburger and the pesto and the St. George terroir. Which is why I love this poem, by the great Kim Addonizio, a woman who has never been afraid of strong flavors.


For Desire, by Kim Addonizio

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I’m drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world.


For more information on Kim Addonizio, please visit her website.


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Poem of the Week, by Vera Pavlova

IMG_3996This poem keeps drawing me to it, or it to me, and I don’t know why. The last two lines come back to me when I wake up at night, or sometimes when I’ve been walking or hiking for a long time. I don’t know where I found this poem, or where it found me. Sometimes when I read it, the hard times, I feel like a child who doesn’t know what she did wrong, why she’s being yelled at, a child who would do anything to be better and to make it better. Other times I feel a huge relief, a letting-go, as though the you in the poem, in the ending three lines, has finally found me and I don’t have to keep trying anymore. 


[I am], by Vera Pavlova, translated by Steven Seymour

I am 
a nail 
being driven in 
while I try 
to keep 
the carpenter 
will get tired 
or the hammer 
will break 
or the board 
will crack and I 
will roll 
into a cozy nook 
and will find you there 
my love 
my love 


For more information on Vera Pavlova, please click here,
For more information on Steven Seymour, who translated this poem (and who is also, I just found out when I googled him, married to Pavlova), please click here.