Poem of the Week, by Emily Dickinson

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

This morning I pulled a little book off my poetry shelves that looked like the kind of book I used to search through as a teenager, full of poems and aphorisms and quotes about how to live. Where this book came from I don’t know, but someone named Sandy had printed their name in decisive blue ink on the inside cover, and then decisively starred certain poems throughout.

None of Sandy’s starred poems were ones I would’ve picked. But then this familiar little poem below happened along, and the faces of all my students this semester rose up in my mind, smiling out of their little Zoom boxes, cradling cats and dogs and babies, roaming around their apartments with laptops in hand, trying to find a quiet place. All of them showing up, soldiering on in the face of all that’s been thrown at us this year. 2020. Geez. This poem is for everyone out there trying so hard to make a hard time softer.

If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking, by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

For more information about Emily Dickinson, please click here.
My website: alisonmcghee.com

Poem of the Week, by Ursula K. Le Guin

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

When we were little we weren’t supposed to swim for an hour after we ate, because if we did, cramps will seize you and you’ll sink to the bottom and drown. Or something like that. And when we got drunk or high we were killing off brain cells that would never be replaced, because you were born with all the brain cells you’ll ever have. Or something like that.

Both false, along with a lot of other things. Sometimes I wonder about the things I believed, and maybe still do, like the idea of a soul that’s unchanging and the essence of who we are.

But what if there is no soul? What if the person you are in the moment is just that, the person you are in the moment, not who came before and who will come after? What if everything you forgot isn’t buried inside you somewhere, it’s just. . . gone? These were the questions floating through my mind on a thousand-mile drive last month. The little girl I used to be rose up in my mind, her serious eyes and wondering heart, calling to me from long ago and faraway.

Leaves, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Years do odd things to identity.
What does it mean to say
I am that child in the photograph
at Kishamish in 1935?
Might as well say I am the shadow
of a leaf of the acacia tree
felled seventy years ago
moving on the page the child reads.
Might as well say I am the words she read
or the words I wrote in other years,
flicker of shade and sunlight
as the wind moves through the leaves. 

For more information on Ursula K. Le Guin, click here.

Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by David Ray

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

“No regrets” is a phrase and a feeling I don’t understand. Regrets, I have plenty. “But every decision and every choice brought you to where you are right now,” a friend argues, in the latest iteration of a conversation we keep having. “How can you possibly have any regrets, Alison?”

How? Because of the look in my son’s eyes that one summer day. Because of the sound of my daughter’s voice on the phone that one winter evening. Because of the words someone once said to me one dark night, and how I let them lodge inside me and didn’t fight back. How can I possibly not have regrets? I tell my friend.

No, I wouldn’t change my life, and yes, I would change my life.

Thanks, Robert Frost
, by David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought…
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

For more information about David Ray, please check out his blog.

Words by Winter: my new podcast

Poem of the Week, by Omar Khayyam

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

On the way back from a long jog yesterday I glimpsed this book in a little free library. The sight of it brought me straight back to childhood. The poet’s name used to mesmerize me, and so did the poem below, which I copied out as a little girl, knowing its power even then.

Re-reading this poem yesterday was hard. Hard because true or false, willfully ignorant or intentionally misleading, what’s said and done in these troubling times matters. Nothing can be canceled out.

Quatrain 74

The Moving Figure writes, and having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

It’s not known for sure whether Persian poet and astronomer Omar Khayyam actually wrote all the poems in the Rubaiyat. Click here for more information.

My website: alisonmcghee.com