Poem of the Week, by Andrea Gibson

My new poems + reflections podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

A friend in college loved the word bittersweet for the way it made him feel, full of a kind of happiness mixed with sorrow. As if he were missing something while it was still happening.

The last time I saw this friend, years ago at a reunion, he used the word again, telling me that even though I was sitting next to him, part of him was already in the future, missing me, and how bittersweet it was.

That’s how I think of fall. There is nothing more beautiful to me than leaves turned flame, than air turned crisp, but it’s an aching kind of beauty.

Autumn, by Andrea Gibson

is the hardest season.
The leaves are all falling
and they’re falling
like they’re falling
in love with the ground.

For more information about Andrea Gibson, please check out their website: https://andreagibson.org/

My website: alisonmcghee.com

Poem of the Week, by Wallace Stevens

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Late night. Eight inches of heavy wet flakes. Sound of shovels up and down the block. The specific silence of air that comes only with snow.

Lifelong northerner that I am, snow is part of my earliest memories. Snow so deep my sisters and I could walk right up onto the roof of the garage and slide down the other side.

When I go to California in January, the way I do now, I think about snow. Dream of it. Miss the way, when you breathe in that cold, cold air, your whole body feels clear. Winter is something I’ve both loved and dreaded (S.A.D.) my whole life. But these days, on this melting planet, winter feels like a treasure always mine in such measure that I was heedless with it.

The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
to regard the frost and the boughs
of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
and have been cold a long time
to behold the junipers shagged with ice,
the spruces rough in the distant glitter
of the January sun; and not to think
of any misery in the sound of the wind,
in the sound of a few leaves,
which is the sound of the land
full of the same wind
that is blowing in the same bare place
for the listener, who listens in the snow,
and, nothing himself, beholds
nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.    

For more information about Wallace Stevens, please click here.


Poem of the Week, by Gregory Djanikian

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

A few days ago we hiked a remote trail north of Yellowstone, a passage between two high ridges that had burned maybe twenty years ago. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Avoid places where ravens have gathered. Dress your kill and remove the meat immediately. Because I’m scared (understatement) of bears, I constantly scanned the ridges and the rushing creek between them.

Half an hour in, the sound of high-pitched screaming rose from behind the ridge line. We stopped and stared at each other. Bears? The wailing was carried on the wind, and we realized it was the wind itself, rising above and between the ridges and slopes littered with charred trunks. An unearthly companion, marking the twists and turns of the trail, the waterfalls, the huge burnt trunks and the little new pines growing in their wake. A reminder –a relief?–of how small my humanness is, how inconsequential in the great scheme of the wilderness.

So Much of the World, by Gregory Djanikian

So much of the world exists
without us

the mountain in its own steepness

the deer sliding
into the trees becoming
a darkness
in the woods’ darkness.

So much of an open field
lies somewhere between the grass
and the dragonfly’s drive and thrum

the seed and seedling,
the earth within.

But so much of it lies in someone
standing alone at the edge of a field
with a life apart

feeling for a moment
the plover’s cry
on the tongue

the curve and plumb
of the apple bough
in limb and bone.

So much of it between
one thing and another,

days of invitation,
then of release and return.

For more information on Gregory Djanikian, please check out his website.

Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Tania Runyan

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

In the university class I’m teaching this fall we gather online, small heads nodding from frames, mics unmuting, videos flicking on and off to show children climbing on laps, housemates in the background, dogs and cats, the sound of traffic. Thank you for doing such a good job in difficult times, I tell them, and I mean it.

The thought of us all trying so hard makes my heart ache the same way it aches at the memory of my young son, shuffling out of his first locker room with his first pair of flip-flops threaded through the wrong toes, knowing something was wrong but not knowing what, insisting he was okay —I’m okay, I’m okay.

I read this poem and wish I could go back in time and put my arms around my little boy. And my students. All of us trying so hard.

Villanelle for My Son, by Tania Runyan

You cried because you dropped a butter knife.
Everything I do is stupid and wrong!
I want to reach into your nine-year-old life,

but my mind, too, is murky and rife
with the morning’s thoughts like ricocheting frogs
that made you drop the butter knife.

You collapse on the couch, your naked strife
abrading your throat like a funeral song.
I want to reach into your nine-year-old life

and gather the joys that scattered like wildlife
the first time you stared at a question too long
and felt your spirit dissolve like butter on knife.

I’ve lurched and careened my way to midlife,
and child, I will not lie to you: even the strong
reach from the middle of their nine-year-old lives

for rescue from the wreckage, the jackknifed
pileups from adulthood’s rushing throng.
You cried because you dropped a butter knife.
I’m desperate to save your nine-year-old life.

For more information on Tania Runyan, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Emma Hine

My new poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Last weekend I showed my daughters around the barn my sisters and I used to play in. The old red barn, where I used to fling the feed in the general direction of my chickens so I could get the hell out of there before Big Red, the rooster, attacked me. We used to build hayforts in here. See that beam? That’s where the rope swing used to be. When you jumped, you had to be careful not to fall through the hay chute.

Now I look at the barn and try to figure out how old those supporting beams are – two hundred fifty years, maybe? Standing there with my daughters, telling them family stories, I could feel the shadow presence of my sisters, the selves we used to be, wandering the woods of our childhood.

Young Relics, by Emma Hine

They broke into houses,
my sisters. The empty ones,
just built, where nobody had yet
tried to sleep. Little mounds
of sawdust still in the corners,
no floorboards loose.
I imagine them being the way
I’ve seen them be with horses,
hands gentle on the walls—after all,
a house must learn to hold a family
with all its quivering systems
of energy and grief. I once saw Sierra
with a colt that wasn’t ready
to be ridden. She stood in the stall
and talked until his heart rate slowed.
All through our neighborhood
new houses were dark and panicking.
Enter sisters.
Bringing comfort where it wasn’t
supposed to be, no key for entry,
no light allowed, just a ritual gift
for the rooms alone to remember:
hands on their painted flanks.
Voices in the eaves.

For more information on Emma Hine, please click here.
Words by Winter: my new podcast