Poem of the Week, by Sean Thomas Dougherty

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Mr. Kraft and his family lived in the town of 300 I grew up five miles north of. One day when I was about nine, he and my mother stood talking in his driveway. He nodded to me at one point and said quietly to my mother, “She’s got it.”

She, meaning me. Got it, as in. . . I don’t know what. But those three words have seen me through every rough patch of my entire life. Every awful conversation, every time someone has tried to tear me down, and also in those dark and frequent moments when I think, You’re a failure, Alison. 

I remember how still I stood in Mr. Kraft’s driveway that day, how something lifted from my shoulders, how the world suddenly seemed bigger and kinder. I thought of him again when I read this poem. Wherever you are now, Mr. Kraft, in whatever far-off universe, know how you softened the world for a small girl that day, and how she never forgot your words.

 

Why Bother, by Sean Thomas Dougherty

Because right now there is someone
out there with
a wound in the exact shape
of your words.

 

For more information about Sean Thomas Dougherty, please check out his website.

 
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Poem of the Week, by Yusef Komunyakaa

img_1857Hiking the other day up a steep and narrow trail, my eyes kept searching for where I should step next. And then my feet kept setting themselves down exactly where I wanted them to be. I didn’t have to look at them; they knew what to do. But how? How does this body of mine know how to do all the things it just. . . does? Dance and run and knead dough and type and shuffle a deck of cards and tell me when I’m hungry or cold or full or tired?  How do all those signals make their magic way from eyes to brain to nerves to muscle and bone? Even though I don’t play basketball I felt my own self moving to every line of this beautiful spin of a poem. My body, all our bodies, are wondrous. 

 

Slam, Dunk and Hook, by Yusef Komunyakaa

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury’s
insignia on our sneakers,
we outmaneuvered the footwork
of bad angels. Nothing but a hot
swish of strings like silk
ten feet out. In the roundhouse
labyrinth our bodies
created, we could almost
last forever, poised in midair
like storybook sea monsters.
a high note hung there
a long second. Off
the rim. We’d corkscrew
up & dunk balls that exploded
the skullcap of hope & good
intention. Lanky, all hands
& feet…sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
cheered on the sidelines.
tangled up in a falling,
muscles were a bright motor
double-flashing to the metal hoop
nailed to our oak.
When Sonny Boy’s mama died
he played nonstop all day, so hard
our backboard splintered.
Glistening with sweat,
we rolled the ball off
our fingertips. Trouble
was there slapping a blackjack
against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside,
& glide like a sparrow hawk.
Lay ups. Fast breaks.
We had moves we didn’t know
we had. Our bodies spun
on swivels of bone & faith,
through a lyric slipknot
of joy, & we knew we were
beautiful & dangerous.

For more information about Yusef Komunyakaa, please click here

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Poem of the Week, by Pauletta Hansel

IMG_6101This shard of pottery is from a storage container used by an unknown someone who lived on a hill in Lisbon almost three thousand years ago. I imagine her filling the original container with soup or stew or pickles or water, then scouring it out, day after day.

Sometimes I picture the potter who made it, how they shaped its curves, worked the clay, painted those stripes with care and attention so that the pot would be beautiful. Doesn’t matter where we are or who we are or how poor or how worried or stressed or tired our lives, we make things beautiful because we want to, because we can. Because it’s a gift we can give ourselves. 

 

The Road, by Pauletta Hansel

Where I’m from, everybody had a flower garden,
and I’m not talking about landscaping—
those variegated grasses poking up between
the yellow daylilies that bloom more than once.
Even the rusted-out trailer down in the green bottoms
had snowball bushes that outlived the floods.
Even the bootlegger’s wife grew roses up the porch pillar
still flecked with a little paint, and in the spring
her purple irises rickracked the rutted gravel drive.
Even the grannies changed out of their housedresses
to thin the sprouts of zinnias so come summer
they’d bloom into muumuus of scarlet and coral
down by the road.
Now driving that road that used to take me home,
I think how maybe it’s still true.
Everybody says down here it’s nothing
but burnt-out shake and bakes and skinny girls
looking for a vein, but everywhere I look
there’s mallows and glads, begonias in rubber tire
planters painted to match, cannies red
as the powder my mother would pat high
on her cheekbones when she wanted to be noticed
for more than her cobblers and beans.
Everywhere there’s some sort of beautiful
somebody worked hard at, no matter
how many times they were told
nobody from here even tries.

For more information about Pauletta Hansel, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by Tom Sastry

IMG_2194Before taking the city bus for the first time, I was scared. How much does it cost and what if you don’t have exact change and what are those green cards everyone else seems to be holding and oh crap what about that scanner thingie? Etcetera.

“Help. This is my first time ever on the bus,” I said once onboard. The driver and everyone who heard me looked up and smiled. “Hello!” “Welcome!” “Congratulations!” They showed me how to pay, asked where I was going, showed me how to pull the stop cord.

Giving up and admitting my cluelessness like that changed me, relaxed me. Help. I have no idea what I’m doing. When I read this poem I thought of that long-ago ride bus ride.

 

Hanging out with musicians, still in my suit, by Tom Sastry

He said fucking and that was important:
“We’re all fucking broken.”
He said it gently
like a priest, soothing the smart of sin.

I hadn’t heard about it before
this shared brokenness
and it was new to me, this idea
that being in pieces could bring us together

so my mind worked through all the things he might mean
and
like the fourteen-stone word-association machine that I am
I remembered all the world’s once-complete, now-shattered things

until I couldn’t get it out of my head
that we were broken like jigsaws
fucking broken like fucking jigsaws
and it felt right and wise and true.

 

 

​For more information about Tom Sastry, please click here.

 

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