Poem of the Week, by Sarah Sadie

Screen Shot 2019-06-30 at 7.23.48 AMTwo lovely Japanese maple trees in a front yard one block south are symmetrically planted amid cement squares filled with small white stones. For eight years I walked past this house every day, so I could admire the way the owners, whom I always pictured as two calm men, swept the leaves and raked the stones into perfect, weed-free squares. Looking at this yard calmed my spirit. A few years ago the house was sold, and since then it has been reclaimed by wildness.

Last week, as I made my way through a morning-long panic attack, I weeded my gardens, cleaned my kitchen, and folded laundry. Laundry has always been meditation to me. Give me your towels, your fitted sheets, your underwear even, and I will make symmetry of it all. Strangely, later that same panicky day, I came across the poem below. From wildness we improvise order.

                                           Folding the Clothes, by Sarah Sadie

Even the most capacious bath towels fold
into squares, and the wash cloths fold
into smaller squares. Pants meet themselves

and quiet down nicely. Underwear
resigns itself, socks domesticate, and the shirts,

well, the shirts get wrinkled.

They’ll have plenty of time to relax
dreaming through hours a rumor of buttons.
Which is not to say shirts meditate, but

there’s almost a Zen to the job, if that weren’t so trendy.
Almost the little sand garden with its rake
and its rock.                                                

Its imagined snake.

For more information about Sarah Sadie, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Tony Hoagland

Alison and DonaldWhen I was nine my father brought me a huge, bright-green, horned bug from our garden: Look! You can bring it in to school for the bug project! When he turned away I placed some tomatoes on top of the bug, and later had to admit in shame that I had ‘accidentally’ crushed it. Alison! What the hell were you thinking? 

Looking back, I see a girl who was afraid of that enormous bug and afraid of her father, a girl who could not admit fear and could not ask for help. And I see a young, gruff man who had found something magic and brought it as a gift to his daughter, sure she would love it. A scared daughter, a bewildered man. Who both, over the years, kept sailing on, finding out the story by pushing into it, until only love and laughter were left.

 

Voyage, by Tony Hoagland

I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.

And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage —

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,
I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it —
The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

 

 

For more information about Tony Hoagland, please read his obituary.

Poem of the Week, by Czeslaw Milosz

IMG_3585Last night I wandered around a downtown park filled with strange, beautiful, confounding, mesmerizing art: dancers, sculptors, glass blowers, painters, musicians, weavers, poets, mask makers. It was nightfall in the city. Skyscrapers glowed around the periphery of the park, light rail trains glided by, and storm clouds gathered and dispersed overhead. At one point I sat on the base of a sculpture and took it all in, the voices and laughter and absorption on the faces of the crowd.

Somehow there was a stillness to the whole scene, and a stillness in me too. No one around me was familiar, but my heart ached because I wanted to give something to them all. A conversation with a friend last week came back to me, in which she said she craved connection above all, and how there was both pain and relief in accepting that it didn’t have to come from romance. This morning I woke up and remembered this poem, by the incomparable Milosz.

 

Love, by Czeslaw Milosz

Love means to look at yourself
the way one looks at distant things
for you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
without knowing it, from various ills–
a bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
so that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

For more information about Czeslaw Milosz, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Margaret Hasse

Steuben, looking northOld friend, it has been decades since that last summer before college, the last time I ever lived at home. But when I return to visit my parents and drive by the street where you once lived, I remember you. I remember rain on a canvas roof, darkness all around, the silent sleeping breath of other friends. I remember how surprised I was that someone wanted to kiss me –me?–and I remember your gentleness. Let me tell you now that you were the one who first showed me how touch could open up a new world. At seventeen I could not have known how the memory of that fleeting sweetness would sustain me in future dark times. This achingly beautiful poem brought back the memory of you.   

 

High School Boyfriend, by Margaret Hasse

You are hometown.
You are all my favorite places
the last summer I grew up.
Every once in a while
I write you
in my head
to ask how Vietnam
and a big name college
came between us.
We tried to stay in touch
through the long distance,
the hum and fleck of phone calls.

It was inevitable
that I should return
to the small prairie town
and find you
pumping gas, driving a truck, measuring lumber,
and we’d exchange
weather talk,
never able to break through words
and time to say simply:
“Are you as happy
as I wanted you to be?”

And still I am stirred
by musky cigarette smoke
on a man’s brown suede jacket.
Never having admitted the tenderness
of your hands, I feel them now
through my skin.
Parking on breezy nights,
in cars, floating passageways,
we are tongue and tongue like warm cucumbers.
I would walk backwards
along far country roads
through late evenings cool as moving water,
heavy as red beer,
to climb into that August.

In the dark lovers’ lanes
you touched my face
and found me here.

 

 

For more information on Margaret Hasse, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Henry Wei Leung

IMG_6537It was Bring Your Parent to Lunch Day at elementary school and I was sitting at a cafeteria table with my daughter. She was born between her brother and sister – there hadn’t and wouldn’t be a stretch of time when it was just the two of us in the house – and she was quietly thrilled at my presence.

School lunch: Italian Dunkers, carrots, milk, applesauce. On the bench next to us was a boy who refused to eat his Dunkers. Spilled his milk. Kicked the table. Wadded up his napkin and threw it. It was maddening. At the end of lunch, he turned to my daughter.

“You are so lucky your mom is here,” he hissed, and for the first time I saw the hurt in his blue eyes. Felt the longing in his heart. 

I don’t know exactly what the poem below is about, but my heart aches when I read it. What rises up in my mind are times I’ve avoided places because people who hurt me would be there. And dreams I keep having in which someone I’m afraid of leans toward me smiling, kindness in their eyes. That long-ago little boy in the cafeteria was hurting. I wish I had recognized it at the time, so I could have found a way through to his pain.

 

Dear Exile, by Henry Wei Leung

Two ways I can cross this street:
one in which you’re at arm’s reach,

another where I turn and trust
the world to roll each ocean

in between us. They unrequite
our names—bittermelon gate,

far shore that sates—and wrought
from us a kind of grace, a kinder rot:

that I am nothing in your world now.
I wish you nothing-wishes, wholeness

as you are. May I find a way through
to your pain, but not to take it from you.

May I never take from you again.
May you tunnel inward, break even—

and become just what you are: miracle
without solace, burned and invisible

firefly heaving a burden of light,
your silences freed but misaligned.

Didn’t we take the poison, we invocation,
we spring debris forgotten by seasons,

we art, we hour of night, lost, veering
to freedom, we windchill not carrying

their cold but only heat’s absence,
we singeing, skinned matchhead—

we signed that archipelago.

So bear me away too.
And unbear me in you. 

 

For more information about Henry Wei Leung, please click here.

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